Trustees name Center for Church Revitalization in honor of Southwestern Seminary’s seventh president, Kenneth S. Hemphill

| Oct 19, 2021

The Center for Church Revitalization was named in honor of Kenneth S. Hemphill by unanimous vote of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Board of Trustees during its fall meeting, Oct. 19.

The Hemphill Center for Church Revitalization honors the seventh president of Southwestern Seminary and acknowledges the role he has played in assisting the center since its founding in 2019. 

“I can't think of anybody more synonymous with healthy churches, and somebody who embodies more of what we want to see happen through our Center for Church Revitalization than Dr. Ken Hemphill,” President Adam W. Greenway told trustees. He called the center an “institutional priority” and said the seminary will do “everything we can, not just in terms of training students while they are in seminary, but also helping churches across our convention to experience renewal and revitalization.”

Hemphill, who served as president of Southwestern Seminary from 1994-2003, was the national strategist for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis from 2003-2011. He also served as the founding director of the Center for Church Planting and Revitalization at North Greenville University (NGU) in Tigerville, South Carolina. He is currently serving as special assistant to the NGU president and distinguished professor of Christian studies. 

Hemphill said he is “humbled and honored” that the center now bears his name.

“The spiritual renewal and functional revitalization of the local church has been a focus of my life and ministry,” he said. “Southwestern, since its inception, has been a leader in preparing ministers with the biblical and practical skills for local church ministry. The revitalization of the local church begins with spiritual renewal followed by the transformation of the mind which may lead to strategic structural change and greater Great Commission effectiveness.”

Hemphill said Southwestern Seminary’s “world-class faculty” will “help churches move through all three phases of the revitalization process. This visionary focus on church revitalization in the seminary setting will enable Southwestern to partner with local churches, associations, and state conventions in a kingdom-focused strategy that will ‘Touch the World and Impact Eternity,’” citing a slogan associated with the seminary during his presidential tenure.

Established in August 2019, the Hemphill Center provides academic programs, resources, training and equipping events, consulting services, and ministry opportunities to help meet the needs of pastors, church leaders, and the local church. Additionally, the center works in partnership with the national fellowship of state revitalization leaders and the church replanting team for the North American Mission Board. 

The Hemphill Center is led by Kenneth Priest, who was named permanent director in August after serving as interim director since its founding. 

“I could not be more excited about the naming of the Center for Church Revitalization after Dr. Ken Hemphill,” Priest said. “Dr. Hemphill has been on the front end of the need for church revitalization since he first noticed the baptism decline in SBC life in 1995, prompting the release of his work, Revitalizing the Sunday Morning Dinosaur in 1996. His on-going writing, speaking, and consulting work with churches has centered on the great need in Southern Baptist life for spiritual renewal focused on revitalizing churches.”

Priest, who also serves an adjunct professor in church revitalization at Southwestern Seminary, previously served the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention for more than a decade as the director of convention strategies. Priest has served churches in Texas, North Carolina, and Hawaii. He is a 1999 Master of Arts in Christian Education graduate of Southwestern Seminary and is currently working on a Doctor of Education at the school. He earned a Doctor of Educational Ministry degree in Church Revitalization from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

More information about the resources of the Hemphill Center for Church Revitalization can be found here or by emailing