Southern Baptists are similar folks. Wherever you find Southern Baptists – regardless of the location – you tend to find people who love Jesus, the Bible, the local church and fellowshipping with one another. Whether in Argentina or Alabama, Mumbai or Missouri, this rings true.
I have been especially struck by this commonality among Southern Baptists since my election as president of Midwestern Seminary. In recent weeks I have enjoyed interacting with Missouri Baptists all across this state. At the recent gathering of the Missouri Baptist Convention, I enjoyed scores of conversations and met countless new friends. The entire gathering evidenced a pervasive sense of joy, driven by our united gospel work and collective ministry effort.
At the annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention, Pastor John Marshall kindly introduced me to the messengers and afforded me the opportunity to address the crowd. In my brief remarks I mentioned three ambitions I have for Midwestern Seminary, especially as it relates to Missouri Baptists. My words were more than an impromptu statement of aspiration, but words of commitment to our host state that merit repeating.
First, as president of Midwestern Seminary I am absolutely committed to strengthening the partnership between the institution I lead and Missouri Baptists. If the Southern Baptist Convention is Midwestern’s neighborhood, the Missouri Baptist Convention is our backyard. However, we must strengthen this partnership not merely because of geographical proximity, but because of our shared doctrinal and Great Commission commitments.
As a statement of theological belief, both Midwestern Seminary and the Missouri Baptist Convention are committed to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. Furthermore, we proudly attest to the inerrancy of Scripture, the exclusivity of the gospel and to our own Baptist identity. These shared doctrinal and missiological expectations provide the framework for a renewed and deepened ministry partnership between Midwestern Seminary and Missouri Baptists.
A healthy partnership between Missouri Baptists and Midwestern Seminary ought to be natural and organic, but it cannot be assumed. This partnership is a precious and sacred stewardship; a stewardship that as president I hold with sobriety, urgency and gratitude.
Secondly, as president I will lead Midwestern Seminary to advance the Great Commission in every conceivable way. God, in his providence, has placed Midwestern at the intersection of gospel need and missiological opportunity. Located in Kansas City, Midwestern Seminary is strategically positioned to be a launching pad for church planting and broader evangelistic initiatives. Midwestern is currently in conversations across all levels of Baptist life about collaborative efforts to plant churches and share the gospel in the Midwest. These conversations will only intensify and lead to further Great Commission initiatives. Indeed, Southern Baptists are an evangelistic people, and when they look to Kansas City they will find an evangelistic institution in Midwestern Seminary.
Finally, as president of Midwestern Seminary I am absolutely committed to the local church – especially the churches of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Midwestern Seminary does not own Missouri Baptist churches, rather Missouri Baptist churches, and all Southern Baptist churches, own Midwestern Seminary. Therefore, it is our joy, privilege and self-imposed determination to serve the local church.
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary exists to strengthen and serve the local church by training ministers, and especially pastors, for local congregations. Institutional planning, academic emphases, curricular revisions, personnel decisions, and seminary initiatives must all be subjugated to one over-arching question – how will it serve the churches of our denomination?
In the end, Midwestern Seminary’s work will be judged in the courts of Heaven not by the eloquence of classroom lectures, the beauty of our campus or the size of our enrollment. Rather, we will be judged by how devotedly we served the church by training expository preachers, biblically faithful pastors, church planters, missionaries, bi-vocational ministers and other servants of the church.
Missouri Baptists are God’s people; they are Midwestern Seminary’s people, and, I am proud to say, they are now my people. I invite all Missouri Baptists to pray for Midwestern Seminary, to visit campus, and to call upon our graduates – and the entire seminary community. Know that when Missouri Baptists look to Kansas City they will find a seminary committed to a healthy ministry partnership, to advancing the Great Commission, and to serving the local church.