Harriet and Johnny Carter came to Rehoboth Baptist Church in 1956. Upon joining, they found a growing, energetic community with hundreds of worshippers each weekend. And then-pastor Lester Buice was a decade into what would become a 36-year ministry at the church.
A century earlier, Rehoboth, sitting about 10 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta, Georgia, began in August of 1854, when a small group of people met in what is now Tucker, Georgia — immediately the church baptized 21 new members, including two slaves, and four more people joined, one of whom was a slave. From that group, the little mission church grew. By the peak of Buice’s pastorate in the 1970s, Rehoboth included nearly 5,000 members — up from 160 members when he arrived. And then in the 1980s and 1990s, Rehoboth even produced a nationally viewed TV ministry and operated the largest church-based sports ministry in the country.
Around the turn of the century, however, things changed. Rehoboth members called two consecutive pastors who they eventually forced to resign because of the theological and methodological directions toward which those men led. And people left.
Even some of the cornerstone-type members, like John Brown, who joined in 1965 and served for 29 years as chairman of the deacons, considered leaving.
“I prayed about leaving,” he told Southern Seminary Magazine. “When the last interim pastor started, my wife and I decided we were going to stay, but we’d see who they called as pastor. If [the church] wasn’t changed, we were leaving.”
Other long-time families like the Carters — along with hundreds of similar families — watched the church steadily decline.
Harold Mathena has “dabbled” in business throughout his life. For him, business has always been secondary to his desire to serve the Lord as a pastor and evangelist. Business was his means to ministry, not the end itself.
Most people’s dabbling, however, rarely results in a successful business, sold after 22 years for $240 million.
Mathena is not most people.
‘Major new emphasis’
Because of his business acumen and God’s blessings, Mathena has given Southern Seminary a $1 million gift to fund a “major new emphasis” in church revitalization, said the school’s president, R. Albert Mohler Jr.
During his annual report to the Southern Baptist Convention, June 11, 2014, Mohler announced the Mathena Center for Congregational Revitalization, an initiative to train ministers in reviving declining and dying churches.
Paul Chitwood believes church revitalization is as important as church planting.
“Revelation 19:7 says of the Lord’s church, ‘His Bride has made herself ready,’” said Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC). “I believe one of the primary roles of pastors, and the denominational missionaries who serve them, is to ensure the local church is healthy when Christ comes to claim her.”
During a reorganization of the KBC in 2012, Chitwood, a two-time graduate and former faculty member of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, created a church consulting and revitalization team.
“This, our largest team, consists of 21 full-time team members who work with churches toward a goal of revitalization,” Chitwood said. “On this team we have consultants who specialize in everything from children’s ministry to church finances to senior adult ministry.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr. noted the significant impact alumni of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary are having as leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention during the annual alumni and friends luncheon, June 11.
“Here’s the great joy: we get to reflect on how Southern Seminary, by God’s grace and to God’s glory, has made a contribution to all these many lives, to so many churches, reaching so many distant points on the globe in terms of the mission field,” said Mohler, who just completed his 21st academic year as president.
J. Scott Bridger, an evangelical scholar of Islam, will serve as the director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam and the Bill and Connie Jenkins assistant professor of Islamic studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, school officials announced this spring.
“I think Scott Bridger is the singular individual God has prepared to take on the leadership of the Jenkins Center at this time,” seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. said. “His academic preparation, his knowledge of Arabic language and Arabic culture, his deep knowledge of Islam, not only as a structure of thought but as a way of life, his experience in the Middle East, all of these serve him singularly well as the one to take on this responsibility.”
BALTIMORE — “Vast shifts” in American culture present an “unmistakably huge” task to future generations of pastors, missionaries and evangelists, said R. Albert Mohler Jr. in his annual report to the Southern Baptist Convention on the state of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“We can no longer live with the illusion of what sociologists used to call ‘American exceptionalism,’” said Mohler, who this summer begins his 22nd year as president of the Southern Seminary. “America, as it turns out, was not the exception to the trend of secularization; we were just behind Europe. And we are fast catching up.”
He described the “vast shift from the experience of American society over the last 200 years,” citing recent polls that indicate one-third of Americans younger than 30 claim no religious affiliation. And, claiming that no one alive today experienced “a time such as this,” Mohler said that Christians now live “in a time morally when the world is turning on its axis.”
BALTIMORE — Devoted to infusing a comprehensive theology into the life of his congregation and revitalizing churches in the nation’s capital, Mark Dever has earned special recognition from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, presented Dever with the distinguished alumnus of the year award at the seminary’s alumni luncheon during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), June 11, 2014.
In 1994, Dever arrived on Capitol Hill to pastor an elderly congregation that was weary after nearly a half century of decline and weighed down with pouring its limited funds into the maintenance of a city block of real estate.
Faithful ambassadors: Southern Seminary students share gospel in inner city Baltimore during SBC Crossover
BALTIMORE — Delivering faithfully the message of Christ as ambassadors of the gospel anchored the evangelistic efforts of students from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Baltimore, June 5-7.
Southern Seminary students joined other seminaries as part of nearly 2,000 volunteers from 18 states and Canada to serve the Baltimore community and share Christ with its residents during Crossover. The North American Mission Board event takes place each year prior to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in the host city. SBTS students earned modular course credit for Theology and Practice of Evangelism.
In a new development for Crossover, students from all six Southern Baptist seminaries gathered for morning devotionals led by Jim Stitzinger, director of the Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization at Southern Seminary, and other seminary professors. Church planters across the Baltimore area also spoke to the students during those gatherings.
Boyce College, the undergraduate school of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, launched a new logo and website to highlight its convictional leadership and distinctive spiritual atmosphere, June 9.
Founded in 1974 as Boyce Bible School, the program began offering bachelor’s degrees as James P. Boyce College of the Bible in 1998 under the leadership of R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary. Later, the name of the school was changed to Boyce College. Boyce was the founder and first president of Southern Seminary.
Emphasizing the proximity and shared resources with Southern Seminary, the new logo includes the phrase “The College at Southern.” The rebranding comes just as the school prepares to move into the heart of Southern Seminary’s campus in August, when at least 240 new students are expected to arrive for the fall semester.
In the midst of a three-week hospital stay for his son’s life-threatening viral encephalitis, Jamin Bailey received his master of divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary over the phone. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, conferred the degree to the Corydon, Indiana, native, and offered him encouragement and prayer through the difficult trial.