FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is launching an innovative master’s degree that will meet the needs of the International Mission Board’s Macedonia Project, which was introduced at the 2013 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in June.
“We’ve always wondered what the fastest way is to get a college student to the (mission) field in a legitimate fashion, so that they’re the best product possible for us on the field,” IMB President Tom Elliff said, describing the Macedonia Project to Southern Baptists.
The Macedonia Project, Elliff said, is a fusion of theological training and practical missions experience. A special International Service Corps (ISC) program, the project aims to deploy qualified missionary candidates immediately, while allowing them to pursue their theological training through Southern Baptist seminaries while on the field. For this purpose, the IMB has requested that participating seminaries develop an online, 45-hour master’s degree in cross-cultural missions.
Southwestern Seminary is prepared to meet the needs of the Macedonia Project through a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) with a concentration in cross-cultural missions. This program is built upon Southwestern’s new, fully online MTS degree, which includes 36 hours of study in Old Testament, New Testament, systematic theology, church history, Baptist heritage, Christian apologetics, and Bible and moral issues. This fully accredited degree was approved by Southwestern’s trustees this spring.
The 45-hour MTS degree with a concentration in cross-cultural missions will replace Christian apologetics and Bible and moral issues courses with ones in world religions and cross-cultural ethics. It will also add a concentration with nine hours of study in missiology, cross-cultural church planting and evangelism.
“We’re excited that not only can we partner with the IMB in this way but that we are already prepared to go in meeting this need,” Executive Vice President and Provost Craig Blaising said. “This seminary has been the flagship of missions training over the decades, so our ability to partner in this way is exactly in line with not only our mission and vision but also with the historic focus of the school.
“The IMB has asked the seminary to provide the academic, theological and biblical training, that a missionary needs to face challenges of ministry in the world today. Southwestern has that. We have a degree program that does exactly that, one that will exactly complement the practical training that they will be doing in the IMB structure. We feel that it is an exact fit. … So we’re happy to be the first to announce that we’re ready in partnering to do this.”
According to Keith Eitel, dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, Southwestern Seminary is a “first responder” in this attempt to send and train more missionaries to relieve the “disaster of lostness in the world.”
This program, Eitel said, has “two key strengths, one being that it allows a synergistic blend of academic learning and critical analysis of issues to be done simultaneously with on-the-field learning experience. So theory and practice are merged into one organic learning experience.”
The second strength of this program, Eitel says, is that it builds a foundation for further study on the master’s level or, eventually, on the doctoral level. With additional master’s level study, for example, students could eventually enroll in Southwestern’s Ph.D. in World Christian Studies, another pioneering degree aimed at training missionaries and other Christian leaders as they proclaim the message of Christ throughout the world.