BP – Birmingham – A panel discussion on the topic of “Cultural Christianity and the Gospel,” the President’s Report, and presentation of the Alumnus of the Year Award, highlighted Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Alumni & Friends luncheon on June 12 at the Birmingham Jefferson County Convention Center.
During his President’s Report, Allen shared significant news with attendees about the past year at Midwestern Seminary including the extremely positive news of the Mathena Student Center’s completion, the seminary’s significant faculty hires, the transition to a biblical counseling model, the relaunching of Spurgeon College, and school’s record enrollment.
Allen shared how the $13 million, 40,000 square foot Mathena Student Center is a spectacular addition to campus—providing an incredible space for study, fellowship over meals, exercising and holding events. He further explained how the campus dynamic has significantly changed for the good since the building’s completion.
He also highlighted notable new faculty hires over the past year recognizing Andreas Kostenberger, as research professor of New Testament and biblical theology, Jason DeRouchie, as research professor of Old Testament and biblical theology, Dale Johnson, as associate professor of biblical counseling, Andrew King, as assistant dean of Spurgeon College, and Thomas Kidd, as distinguished professor of church history.
Discussing the relaunching of Spurgeon College just over a year ago, Allen told how the college’s ministry footprint is expanding, with students coming to Kansas City to train for positions other than pastors, ministers, and missionaries.
“Yes, we are training pastors and ministers and missionaries through Spurgeon College, but we also will be training men and women who are intending to be serving Christ both vocationally and in the marketplace. So, they will come and get trained in biblical disciplines, theology, church history and similar subjects because we want them to have a strong, Bible-based undergraduate program. But they can also get a degree in business, in communications, and in other programs, which will enable them to serve and proclaim the gospel at home or around the world in the marketplace.”
Along the enrollment front, Allen expressed his gratitude to God for continued growth. He said Midwestern Seminary’s enrollment is on course to reach 3,800-to-3,900 students, which means the school’s enrollment over the past seven years has more than tripled.
Allen also shared that in the year ahead, a significant renovation of the Midwestern Seminary library is in the plans. He said the project is currently in the stage of determining a final proposal for the building’s schematics and design.
As for the project itself, Allen said, “We’re not knocking out walls or expanding the existing library, but it will be recreated, be reimagined, not only to modernize it or make it only a place to house books, but as a place that is welcoming, inviting for students to study, to gather, and to be encouraged and mentored together.”
Following his report, Allen moderated a panel that discussed the topic, “Cultural Christianity and the Gospel.” Panelists included Micah Fries, senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., Collin Hansen, who is an author and the editorial director for The Gospel Coalition, and Dean Inserra, who serves as lead pastor at City Church in Tallahassee, Fla.
The panel broadly addressed the topic of having scores of souls who attend church, even regularly, who never engage or interact in a meaningful way. Thus, the question arises as to the salvation of many who sit in our church’s pews.
Inserra and Fries both agreed that the local church is one of the largest mission fields. However, it’s a difficult one because many of the people being evangelized have gone through “pseudo-salvation” experiences.
Fries further said the church has not been helpful in discussing the issue with its members, saying these people need to get serious about their faith or say they’re backslidden – all in the name of being loving.
But, “It’s not loving to someone to pat them on the back on the way to hell, but we love them. We don’t want to think the worst of them. We don’t want to believe that they may, in fact, not be regenerate,” Fries said.
Part of the problem, Hansen said is that churches don’t want to offend those attending. He explained, “We’re scared to call people out of something to do something hard, which Jesus did. We’ve believed the simple gospel idea, which is true, for so long. But, we’ve never called them to death to self as they embrace life in Christ.”
According to the group, the solution is not easy. It will take recognizing the situation within our local churches and confronting people with their need for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Prior to the formal program, Allen honored Inserra as the recipient of the seminary’s Alumnus of the Year award.
Inserra received a Master of Theological Studies from Midwestern in 2015. He has served as lead pastor of City Church throughout his ministry, being called to start the church, which is in his hometown, when he was the student body president at Leon High School. Inserra has also recently authored The Unsaved Christian through Moody Publishing.
T. Patrick Hudson is assistant professor of communications & history and institutional editor at Midwestern Seminary.