HOUSTON—New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley delivered a word of determination, innovation and growth to SBC messengers in his annual report June 12.
Kelley challenged Southern Baptists to remain faithful and trusting, even in difficult times, such as New Orleans Seminary faced with Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“It doesn’t matter what the news might read,” Kelley said of hard times. “It’s always good, because when the sun sets and the darkness of life falls, we know sunrise is coming. Our God will remain.”
New Orleans Seminary has witnessed God’s faithfulness firsthand, Kelley said, in the now almost eight years since Katrina.
“Last year, we had one of our all-time record enrollments. In many of our programs, enrollment is right back where it was before Hurricane Katrina,” Kelley said. “We had our largest M.Div. enrollment in our history.”
Commencement numbers, academic workshop attendance and Internet enrollment are at all-time highs, Kelley said.
“God is showing us that nothing ever finishes the work of God as long as His people remain faithful in their task and in their calling,” he said.
New Orleans Seminary now offers a completely online master’s degree, Kelley said, as well as options for completing an undergraduate degree fully online. The school also offers a non-residential doctor of philosophy program with a variety of focus areas.
New Orleans Seminary’s expansion of its certificate program is helpful for ministers whose responsibilities or callings have changed over the years, he said. Seminary leaders have divided the school’s curriculum into concise certificate programs on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. From apologetics and children’s ministry to preaching, church planting and missionary service, NOBTS offers focused certificates to fit a variety of callings, Kelley said.
For pastors and other ministers who already have a master’s degree but would like to do additional study to help lead a church out of plateau or decline, Kelley pointed to the seminary’s professional doctoral program. He believes the doctor of ministry and doctor of educational ministry degrees are two of the “most strategically important degrees we offer.”
“We have to be prepared to do the things God wants us to do,” Kelley said, adding, “New Orleans Baptist Seminary is determined to be your partner on that path. We listen to you, we listen to our students and we are shaping what we do in order to fit the context of what God is doing in your life and in your ministry.”
Kelley thanked Southern Baptists for faithfully giving through the Cooperative Program and described how one “sweet Baptist family” recently gave $1.5 million to provide for a several existing and new initiatives, including a new community center on campus to house the seminary’s homeschool program, which has nearly 100 students.
The gift also will fund a new professor of church and community ministries to train students how “to mobilize a congregation to get involved in meeting the needs of the community,” Kelley said.
Updated classroom technology, a new entry point on the east side of the campus and scholarships for bivocational and African American students are among the other projects to be funded by the gift. Two scholarships were named after SBC President Fred Luter: the Fred Luter Scholarship Fund and the Fred Luter Jr. Ph.D. Fellowship.
Considering where New Orleans Seminary was just eight years ago, the story of its recovery and advancement is a testament to God’s faithfulness, Kelley said.
“Don’t quit. … The work is hard. Just get your arms around that. There is no easy church. There is no easy field. The work is hard for everybody. Don’t quit. Don’t be lazy. Don’t be afraid,” Kelley said. “For our Jesus will prevail whatever the circumstances may be.”