By Gary D. Myers
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley addressed the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention for the 20th time in his current role as an entity leader. He took the opportunity to express thanks for the SBC’s Cooperative Program for the $149 million given to NOBTS during his 20-year tenure as president.
“We are so grateful for our partnership,” Kelley said. “We are grateful for what God is doing in the School of Providence and Prayer.”
When the seminary was created in 1917, only a few Southern Baptist churches existed in New Orleans, Kelley said. The city was anything but a Baptist stronghold.
“We were put there to be a lighthouse as well as a schoolhouse,” Kelley said. “From that day when we started with five or six Southern Baptist congregations, there are more than a hundred Southern Baptist congregations in New Orleans now, nearly all of them started by students and faculty of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. New church plants are still going on today.”
The task of New Orleans Seminary is to prepare students to answer the call of God, Kelley said. The curriculum blends classic theological training — biblical studies, theology, church history and preaching — with the practical — interpersonal relationship courses and evangelism training.
“[Every student] must spend at least one semester going out door-to-door in the city of New Orleans sharing Jesus Christ and learning how to bring people to Christ,” Kelley said. “We simply have to get the Gospel out from behind our pulpits into the streets and neighborhoods of our cities and communities.”
Kelley lauded an anonymous donation given to establish the Fred Luter Jr. Scholarship for African-American students, which will provide $150,000 per year for African American students studying in New Orleans and Atlanta.
“We know we have to raise up a generation of leaders who can lead not only in African American churches, but who can bring that African American voice into the affairs of the Southern Baptist Convention.,” Kelley said. “That is a very high priority for us.”
Another anonymous gift in 2014 established the Caskey scholarships for bivocational ministers and those who serve smaller membership churches. The full-tuition scholarships are available for students serving in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. The program places a high value on biblical exposition and evangelism. Students receiving the scholarship are required to engage in at least one Gospel conversation each week. The results have been phenomenal.
“In the past two years, these students have had 7,585 Gospel conversations with people who are lost,” Kelley said. “Four thousand, seven hundred and eighty-seven of them got to the point to ask someone to give their lives to Jesus Christ and 1,061 people were born again.”
New Orleans Seminary was voted into existence by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1917 and held its first classes in 1918 and will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2017 and 2018. As a part of this centennial celebration, the seminary will prioritize evangelism, Kelley said.
“Our goal is for the New Orleans Seminary family to have 100,000 Gospel conversations to celebrate our 100th anniversary,” Kelley said. “We think lifting up Jesus is the best way to celebrate what God is doing at NOBTS.”