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.
Christianity offers hope and adds intrinsic value to life, while atheism offers despair, according to Dan DeWitt in his new book, Jesus or Nothing. So Christians have a choice: either Jesus, or the belief that nothing matters. DeWitt explores these two premises in the book.
Popular hip-hop artist Flame created a new album, which released with the book earlier this year.
DeWitt, dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate school of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote Jesus or Nothing as an explanation of the rationality of the theistic worldview. DeWitt discusses two premises in his book: “The first proposition is if atheism is true, there’s a loss of objective meaning and intrinsic worth,” he said in a recent interview.
A theistic worldview only makes sense in light of the gospel, he said.
“Theism only takes us so far, and theism can’t make sense out of the fact that we live in a world where children are discarded and where women are raped. And not just moral evil, which is certainly horrific, but natural evil: there are tsunamis in which thousands of people die. Theism has a hard time making sense of that apart from the gospel. So theism best describes reality, the gospel best describes theism.”
DeWitt says he hopes the book helps Christians to love those who reject Jesus.
“The way I would hope Christians use the book would be to grow in their compassion for people who don’t believe,” he said. “I hope that a Christian parent, for example, who maybe has a college student who has walked away from the faith, can empathize a bit more and understand perhaps what had led to their journey. Of course, every story is completely different, but I really do hope that’s accomplished: that believers will read it and be more empathetic and they’ll be quick to listen and slow to speak.”
In conjunction with the book, Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist Flame — Marcus Tyrone Gray, a 2010 Boyce College graduate — and Clear Sight Music productions released a 15-song album that correlates with DeWitt’s book. Each track explores questions about the meaning of life and the gospel. The album features Flame and several other hip-hop artists.
DeWitt and Flame will tour to speak and perform at various camps and conferences through the fall. Featured events include a camp at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, two weeks of Southern Seminary’s D3 camp, June 23-26 and June 30-July 2; several weeks with LIFT Ministries at various camps, including one in the United Kingdom, August 4-8; and an event in the Dominican Republic, Sept. 25-29 at Iglesia Bautista Internacional.
Southern Seminary recently hosted an Alumni Academy focused around Jesus or Nothing, May 22-23. Along with lectures from DeWitt, the conference featured a panel discussion with Greg Gibson, elder at Foothills Church in Maryville, Tennessee and assistant editor of the men’s channel on the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website; Boyce College professor Bryan Baise; Timothy Paul Jones, Southern Seminary’s C. Edwin Gheens Professor of Christian Family Ministry; and Ted Cabal, professor of Christian philosophy and applied apologetics.
DeWitt used the “tale of two stories” to introduce how the gospel offers explanation for our existence, clarity for our confusion, grace for our guilt, meaning for our mortality and answers for our adversaries.
More information about Alumni Academy is available at sbts.edu/events. More information about Jesus or Nothing, both the book and album, is available at jesusornothing.com.