FORT WORTH—Asked by a trustee whether he favored the lateral move from dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to lead the newly announced School of Preaching, David Allen quoted John Wayne in answering confidently, “You better know it.”
“I’m convinced God has given me the lineup of lights in the harbor to know that the Lord wants me to do this,” he told a trustee committee, seizing the opportunity to advance the kingdom of God, further the ministry of Southwestern Seminary, and satisfy the desires of the school’s president and provost.
The new School of Preaching will be launched in August 2016 to offer studies in preaching in classroom, seminar, workshop and conference settings. Allen, as the founding dean, defines text-driven preaching as “expository preaching in its purest form, where the structure, substance and spirit of the text drive the structure, substance and spirit of the sermon.”
Joining him as the school’s faculty to provide more than 217 years of combined experience with expertise ranging from linguistics and rhetoric to history and evangelistic preaching, are Vern Charette, Barry McCarty, Matthew McKellar, Steven Smith, Denny Autrey and Kyle Walker.
Allen, who has served in multiple senior and interim pastorates throughout Texas, says this creates “such a dynamic that when we stand in the classroom to talk about preaching, we are not dealing with this from an ivory tower; we are people coming from the angle of practical experience, and that makes a world of difference in the teaching of preaching.”
Degrees available through the school include the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D), Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.), and Master of Theology (Th.M.). In addition, the school will also offer the certificate of preaching that will supplement the Master of Divinity programs of the School of Theology and Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions.
“We’re coming into the life of the convention at a time when the conservative reformation has accomplished its task, but the next stage is to bring out the meaning of that in the preaching in churches,” stated Craig Blaising, executive vice president and provost. “We have the battle for the inerrant Bible being taught in the seminaries, but now is the issue of preaching the Word. It has to be preached, and this is the place to [learn how to] do it.”
In establishing the seventh academic school at Southwestern, Patterson said Southwestern has followed the “standard university pattern” as opposed to classifying disciplines in departments as most seminaries have ended up doing. Long ago the seminary established schools focused on theology, church music, and education—relabeled as church and family ministries. More recent additions address women’s programs, evangelism and missions, and undergraduates studies at the College at Southwestern.
Since current faculty members are being moved from one school to a new one, Patterson said the launch does not involve the expenditure of a great deal of money. “Everything is already in place,” he said, adding, “It is a historic move but not a costly one.”
“We have had tremendous response to our preaching program,” Patterson said, citing Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, as a current student pursuing a Ph.D. in preaching.
“We are catching that train and riding it as far as it will go.”
A new dean of theology will be recommended to the board by next spring, Patterson said, adding that he will be forever grateful for Allen’s work in that role since 2004, calling it “nothing but near perfection.”
Beyond the classroom experience, Allen said he can imagine what can be done through ministries that flow from the School of Preaching out to the convention and beyond to a broader evangelical world and the 80 international seminaries with which Southwestern partners through its Global Theological Innovation.
“These are the things that are running around in my brain from the excitement of what God can do,” Allen said with exuberance. “He has opened the door.”
Texas trustee Kevin Ueckert, pastor of First Baptist Church of Georgetown, told the TEXAN, “I’m excited about what the seminary can now offer in preaching—there are a lot of pastors who have been preaching quite a while who want to improve, and a lot of younger guys who want to preach better. This gives attention to both segments and highlights what the seminary does best.”
He praised not only Allen’s long career as a champion of text-driven preaching but expressed delight at the election of SBC parliamentarian Barry McCarty as professor of preaching and rhetoric. Before pastoring several churches in Georgia and Texas, McCarty served as president of Cincinnati Christian University and taught preaching and philosophy at Mid-Atlantic Christian University.
Others elected to the faculty include:
–Nathan Burggraff as assistant professor of music theory, having served as music administrator at a church in New York and as an itinerant sacred concert pianist;
–Bennie Caston as associate professor of voice, having served as a music minister at several churches in Georgia, director of choral activities at Truett-McConnell College, and assistant professor of music at Brewton-Parker College;
–Charles Savelle as assistant professor of Bible exposition, having taught adjunctively at Criswell College and Dallas Theological Seminary and directed the equipping center at Waterbrook Bible Fellowship in Wylie; and
–David Toledo, as assistant professor of music ministry, having served as associate pastor of worship and creative arts at First Baptist Church of Keller and an adjunct professor at SWBTS since 2012;
In response to a motion at the annual SBC meeting in June seeking initiatives to repair the moral fabric of America, trustees pointed to conferences offered at the Land Center for Cultural Engagement, the Theological Matters blog site, and teaching of Christian ethics and morality as indicative of Southwestern’s attempt to engage “just about every moral issue facing our land.”
Board members also approved graduates for fall commencement, authorized the sale of a small apartment complex, elected trustees to serve on the seminary’s foundation board, and received news of a clean audit.
Trustees participated in the dedication of the library of former SBC president and longtime Memphis pastor Adrian Rogers, displayed on the second floor of the Roberts Library, and broke ground on the Mathena Hall building, which will house the Roy Fish School of Missions and Evangelism and the College at Southwestern.
The student services committee reported that enrollment had been up 10 percent for the last two years, with prospect cards for new enrollees up 52 percent and those moving from application to enrollment growing by 19 percent. With 400 more students than the previous year, Patterson said “students are coming in with a sense of commitment that is absolutely unbelievable.”
Trustes also received news of several opportunities being offered to churches at no cost, including Heritage of Hymns events led by by SWBTS musicians Bruce McCoy and Don Wytzen and Revive This Nation revival services led by students. The newest Southwestern News magazine features alumni serving average-sized Southern Baptist churches with fewer than 200 members.