SWBTS alumni, friends hear new developments, honor distinguished alumni

More than 600 alumni and guests of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary assembled for lunch and listened to President Paige Patterson report on the seminary’s new developments in archaeology, homemaking, expository preaching, Baptist studies and extension studies in San Antonio and Germany. Distinguished alumni awards were presented to Miss Judy Robertson of Fayetteville, Ark., and Dr. Hayes Wicker, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Naples, Fla.

But Patterson also alerted the lunch audience to a looming crisis in Southern Baptist life. The crisis is a decline in men preparing for pastoral ministry.

“There are currently more students at our six theological seminaries than ever in history,” Patterson said. “But we actually have fewer men preparing for the pastoral ministry than we have ever had.”

Patterson continued: “Folks, it isn’t easy to be a pastor today. If you are in a very large church, you are going to have someone shooting at you most of the time. They shoot with blogs now, and that is probably more effective in some ways and more devastating. The only employee that some people have is their pastor, and they treat him that way. And so it is difficult. Consequently young men are not committing themselves to the ministry.”

He urged alumni “to revive the understanding among Baptist people that we have a responsibility not only to call out the lost to come to Christ, but to call out the called to give their lives for the Lord in His work.”

To help young men understand the call to be a pastor, and to help pastors mentor men in their churches, Patterson said he and Thomas White, vice president of student services and a theology professor at Southwestern, have written a book titled, “Calling Out the Called,” which is available through the seminary’s Admissions Office.

“Baptists have done wonderfully well in planting churches, and a lot of people are going into church planting. But we have many churches that are not going to have a pastor in 15 years when the present pastor is either fired, dies or retires,” Patterson said. “Would you join me in praying for this crucial moment in Southern Baptist life, that God would call out the called, and send those students to us to begin their preparation?”

In his report, Patterson noted that around the country, programs leading to graduate-level degrees in biblical archaeology have been moribund in recent years. However, with the recent addition to the faculty of biblical archaeologist Steven Ortiz, Southwestern Seminary trustees have approved a new program leading to a Master of Arts degree in biblical archaeology.

“We have been praying and working for years to find a replacement for Dr. George Kelm who retired some years before at Southwestern and left us a great archaeological museum,” Patterson said, adding that Southwestern hopes to soon offer a doctoral degree in archaeology.

In addition, Patterson invited alumni and other Southern Baptists to participate in an archaeological dig in Israel at Tel Gezer, co-sponsored by Southwestern Seminary and a consortium including Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, and the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

“The first year of the dig we uncovered the gate that Solomon built to the city. The city was given to Solomon by a pharaoh of Egypt who still controlled it at that time, and Solomon built the fortifications of it, according to the Scriptures,” Patterson said. “No telling what we will find this year.”

Patterson also reported to alumni the receipt of a generous donation in support of the new homemaking program which begins at Southwestern this fall. He said funding is complete to build a specialized classroom-house for conducting classes and labs in food preparation, hospitality and other such Christian homemaking disciplines.

“We believe in the sanctity of the home,” Patterson said. “We believe that the home is God’s first and most important institution.”

Continuing with other news, Patterson said, “There is no school in the country that can equal Southwestern” for the study and teaching of expository preaching. He reported that two expository preaching conferences at Southwestern are growing more and more popular each year under the leadership of expository preaching professors David Allen, Steven Smith and Calvin Pearson.

“Some people don’t like expository preaching because they say it is boring,” Patterson said. “Expository preaching doesn’t have to be boring. Listen, the Bible has the most interesting stuff in the world … We are there to help you make it come to life. So, if you have a student that wants to study preaching, this is the place to go.”

Patterson said he is convinced that Baptist faith and practice is closest to the New Testament model, and Southwestern Seminary is leading Baptists in the discipline of Baptist Studies. In addition to having some of Southern Baptists’ leading scholars teaching classes on the subject, the seminary offers www.BaptistTheology.org, a free website where anyone can access and download material containing some of the best thinking and teaching in Baptist Studies. “We are grateful to God to be Baptists; we are not apologizing for it like some folks do,” he said.

Patterson announced plans to send seminary students to France to plant Baptist churches in the former “Bible belt” of southern France. He said he and Mrs. Patterson were recently in the region around Lyon, France, and were impressed by the “corporate memory” of the pre-Reformation evangelist and revivalist Peter Waldo. Out of Waldo’s preaching and leadership arose the proto-evangelical Waldensians and “one of the great missionary movements prior to the Reformation.”

He reminded the luncheon guests of the revival today in Germany being led by Russian-German Baptists and Anabaptists, which he described as “nothing short of the greatest miracle on the face of the globe happening today.” He introduced the audience to Heinrich Derksen, the president of the Bibelseminar in Bonn, where Southwestern has been operating an extension program for two years. Patterson also introduced Rudy Gonzalez as the new dean of Southwestern’s William R. Marshall Center for Theological Studies in San Antonio, and Denny Autrey, the dean of the J. Dalton Havard School for Theological Studies in Houston.

The seminary’s 2007 Distinguished Alumni Awards were presented to Judy Robertson and Hayes Wicker. Robertson, a 1974 graduate of the seminary’s School of Educational Ministries, is a single woman who ministered for many years with the International Mission Board in Taiwan, and retired from the IMB as associate director of the East Asia region. Patterson said she was chosen for her example as a graduate who “worked in the quiet, behind the lights and the newspapers.”

“I am not deserving of this,” Robertson said. “At Southwestern, I was rooted and grounded in the love of the Lord … I am so thankful for that time at Southwestern because that was when God molded me and taught me.”

Wicker is known across the convention as president of this year’s Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference and as pastor of the 6,500-member First Baptist Church of Naples, Fla. He is a two-time Southwestern graduate, receiving his Master of Divinity and PhD there. “He is a preacher and a prophet of God … God has blessed his ministry beyond anything we can imagine,” said Patterson.

“I want to give the Lord Jesus Christ the glory for everything that He does and continues to do in our ministry,” Wicker said. “I met my wife Janet at Southwestern … Janet and I were privileged to be under passionate, Christ-loving professors who have become our best friends and mentors over the years.”

The luncheon concluded with the election of officers for the seminary’s National Alumni Association. Elected were Paul Kim, pastor of Berkland Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., president; Byron McWilliams, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Odessa, Texas, vice president; and Mike Hughes, the seminary’s vice president for institutional advancement,  secretary-treasurer.

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