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President’s Page


The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. His work is honourable and glorious: and his righteousness endureth for ever. —Psalm 111:2–3 One year ago, I had little idea of all that the Lord was about to do at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Being at Mid-America almost 20 years as President has taught me over and over how the Lord moves in mighty and awesome ways, especially when all the glory is given to the Son, our dear Lord Jesus. THE COLLEGE AT MID-AMERICA After several conversations with some leaders in our community, the Lord placed a real burden on my heart for the need for a Christian college in the great city of Memphis. When you look at the challenges in front of college students today, one of the gravest is the crushing student debt that college can entail. Also, many of our college campuses are openly hostile to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our challenge has been to see if the Lord would enable us to develop a college that combined an accredited, quality education, a Christ-saturated curriculum, and an affordable financial model. My desire is to do all of this without participating in the federal

government student financial plans. We want our students to graduate as debt-free as possible. (See pages 20–24 for more information.) OUR NEW STRUCTURE With the approval by the Board of Trustees to begin The College at MidAmerica we will now be organized differently. We will continue to have one Board of Trustees (our current Board) and one President (our current President). Our doctrinal statement will not change, so we will still be the Mid-America you know and love. The seminary will be led by our current Academic Vice President, Dr. Tim Seal. Dr. Seal will add the title “Dean of the Seminary” to his list of responsibilities. Dr. Bradley Thompson, our current Executive Vice President, will assume the role of “Dean of the College.” These two men will work closely with me on their areas of responsibility. NEW VICE PRESIDENT OF INSTITUTIONAL ADVANCEMENT With our expanded needs we are adding a new executive officer to our team. Nathan Cole has assumed the role of Vice President for Institutional Advancement. Nathan just moved to Memphis from New York City where he has been an executive with a pharmaceutical company.

(See page 9 for an interview with Nathan Cole.) Mr. Cole will be joining Duffy Guyton and our development team to get the word out about what the Lord is doing here at MABTS. UPCOMING CAPITAL CAMPAIGN The Lord has given us a big mission and we want to be faithful to His calling. We will be sharing details of our new campaign which will underwrite the work of the seminary and the new college. We will be expanding our reach and increasing our impact. ONGOING NEEDS As always, would you pray that our Heavenly Father will meet our ongoing budget needs. The end of our fiscal year is a few months away, and I want you to join me in praying for $400,000 above our normal giving to finish out our year strong. And as always, thank You, Lord, in advance, for what You will provide; and thank you, friend, for being a part of the Mid-America family.

Dr. Mike Spradlin, President Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary

2 | Mid-America

COVER FOCUS “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8). That’s the focus of this issue of the Messenger—Christcentered evangelism that is empowered, embodied, and emboldened by the Holy Spirit.



12 16 20


Published by Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary

Discover one church’s three-pronged approach to evangelism that involves every member plus outreach to the entire community.


Michael Spradlin, PHD EDITOR


Deanna Coscia



Eternity Communications

The Northeast Branch celebrates 30 years. Let’s celebrate the milestones and seize the opportunities. P.O. Box 2350 Cordova, Tennessee 38088-2350 901-751-8453 •

MORE NEWS President’s Page


Witness One:Seven Report




Save the Date 15

COLLEGE LAUNCHES Dean of The College at MidAmerica, Dr. Brad Thompson shares the vision for expanded ministry.


This semester, I have enjoyed serving as the Acting Director of the Witness One:Seven program while Dr. Kilpatrick is on sabbatical. The 2016–17 school year has been a fruitful season. In obedience to Christ’s command to take His Good News throughout the world, the seminary requires every student to share the Gospel with an average of one person every seven days. In order to assist students with this requirement, the Witness One:Seven office maintains relationships with a number of ministry sites that share the school’s passion for telling others how they may receive eternal life. Our students partner with these ministries throughout Memphis, Tennessee, and beyond, as they proclaim the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I was reminded recently of the importance of diligently carrying out our Lord’s command to share the hope that we have in Christ. One of the families that attends the church that I pastor enjoyed a visit during the Christmas season from family members who live in Latin America. Our church member’s father, who was not a believer, visited my home, and we shared a meal together. During the course of the evening I had the opportunity to share the Gospel with him, emphasizing that one never knows when one will run out of opportunities to respond to Christ’s gracious invitation. He did not place his faith in Jesus that night, and I was saddened to hear of his passing from a massive heart attack last week. That sadness soon turned to joy when I learned that he had been saved several days before his death. As Dr. Gray Allison is fond of saying, we do not fail when we witness, and we never know how God might use a seemingly fruitless Gospel encounter in the future. 4





61 736

SERMONS PREACHED 1,582 95 1,677 Practical missions reported August 1, 2016–May 5, 2017

PROFESSIONS OF FAITH SINCE 1972 = 164,251 | Mid-America

The inaugural Mid-America Passion Play was presented April 7–9 by the seminary in conjunction with Crossroads Baptist Church. More than 3,000 packed out all three sold-out presentations, and 35 people indicated that they prayed to receive Christ. Directed by Mid-America’s own Dr. James D. Whitmire, the production involved hundreds of volunteers, including orchestra members Dr. Mike Spradlin, MABTS President, and Dr. Brad Thompson, Dean of The College at Mid-America.

Biblical Evangelism


Take a close look with me at John 20:21– 22, which states: As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you! And when He said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” I underlined four intentional, inviting words that are significant to the mission of God in your life. These words reveal that just as Jesus was sent on a mission to redeem humanity, you and I have been sent on a mission to speak of this redemption. It is abundantly clear that the mission of Christ was to be conducted through the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, one must understand that the symbolic moment at the baptism of Jesus was not the descending of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus to empower His public ministry. Instead, the dove (symbolic of the Holy Spirit) descending upon Christ in the Jordan was to reiterate what was already established before the foundation of the earth: that Jesus is the Anointed One. Therefore, what is true of Jesus is true of you. You walk in an anointing

that is not based upon your gift mix, your personality, your talents, or degrees, but upon the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit that is on display throughout the Old Testament and New Testament is at work in you. Notice the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus: The Holy Spirit enabled Mary to carry Jesus in her womb, allowed Jesus to baffle religious leaders in the temple as a child, led Him into the wilderness, strengthened Him under the temptation of Satan, empowered Him to perform miracles, led Him to the cross, and raised Jesus from the dead. All of these realities point to what it meant for Jesus to be sent. CONSEQUENTLY, CHRIST SENDS US. The Holy Spirit is actively at work within the believer’s life, instilling the heartbeat of Heaven into the core of one’s life, resulting in divinely empowered

obedience. The Holy Spirit in the life of the believer will always lead an individual to magnify Jesus. Through progressive sanctification, the Holy Spirit gives believers clarity of Scripture, conviction of sin, comfort in struggles, and the courage to share Jesus. This type of anointing is exactly what happened to the disciples in the upper room when the resurrected Jesus, in His reconfirmation to the disciples, breathed on them the Holy Spirit. They became as bold as lions and walked in a supernatural empowerment. They gladly received the Holy Spirit and now were capable of fulfilling the mission they were about to receive. The empowerment they received in John 20 enabled them to be equipped with everything necessary to fulfill the global strategy of Acts 1:8 which states: You shall be my witnesses when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. The question many have asked is “when did the disciples receive the Holy Spirit? Was it in John 20 in the upper room or was it in Acts 2:4 at Pentecost?” I propose that prior to Pentecost, the disciples were enabled by the Holy Spirit to do the miraculous, but at Pentecost they received the embodiment of the Holy Spirit personally. There is no coincidence that Jesus breathes on the disciples the Holy

MABTS Alumnus Dr. Ed Newton (MARE, 2000) is an author and Lead Pastor of Community Bible Church, San Antonio, Texas.



Spirit in John 20, and in Acts 2:2 the Holy Spirit comes on 120 believers in the upper room like a “mighty rushing wind.” WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN FOR YOU? The moment you call upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:13), your body becomes the temple of the living God, which means your life is no longer your own (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). Therefore, since you are now one with Christ, through the Holy Spirit, you operate within the power that navigated Jesus in His earthly ministry. This Holy Spirit power raised Jesus from the dead, and you are privileged to possess it (Ephesians 1:19–20). See, you didn’t receive a spirit of fear, but of power (2 Timothy 1:7), life changing, explosive Holy Spirit power. This power is what you notice when you read Acts 2! Simon Peter and the other disciples were once fearful for their lives because of the Jewish leaders, and now they are ready to lay down their lives for their Savior. The ability to embrace and engage the wonder of evangelism is not just based on whether we have the Holy Spirit, but also upon whether or not we submit to His leadership. THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT unleashed at Community Bible Church in San Antonio, Texas, where I am privileged to serve as Lead Pastor, has truly been a manifestation of the continuation of the book of Acts in recent days. For


fear of being misinterpreted as boasting, please note my intention to ascribe all praise and glory to the finished work of Jesus, through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We, as a church, have received a challenge from God’s Word to be people who love God supremely and others sacrificially. Thus, we are calling each member to live a life on mission, by recognizing his local concentric circle of influence as his mission field. Through our people seeking to invest and invite their coworkers, friends, classmates, families, teammates, and divinely appointed, circumstantial acquaintances, we have witnessed the supernatural in ways that I have only previously read about in history books. In 2016 alone, we were privileged to watch 1,346 people follow through in believer’s baptism. The “tilt” in our church happened when we were in a doctrine series studying the Holy Spirit, where the two primary principles were simply “not to quench” or “to grieve” Him when you are being asked to submit and surrender to Him. One particular weekend, we were scheduled to baptize 12 people in each of our five services, totaling 60 people over the weekend. As I witnessed this beautiful portrayal of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus modeled through believer’s baptism, I felt compelled by the Holy Spirit in our first service on Saturday evening to open the invitation for people

to be saved and to follow through in believer’s baptism. I also invited those who had been saved but who had not obeyed the command to be baptized to come forward and get baptized in their clothes. Having no idea what would happen next, we waited and trusted God. After five services of doing this, four of which were on Sunday, we were blessed and privileged to witness 288 baptisms in one weekend. That’s right: 228 people walked out of their seats, took their shoes off, and confessed Jesus as a new believer or stated they were a Christ follower that had never been baptized, and did so by entering the baptistery in their church clothes. How were we so privileged to behold such an outpouring? It was through the power of God. There is nothing more exhilarating than to watch a congregation be filled with expectancy and urgency for people that are in need of hope in Jesus Christ. What many have called “revival” is simply the outpouring of obedience to what has already been decreed and determined in Scripture. May you be empowered to issue or receive the challenge to call every member of your church to be on mission, by investing in and inviting people to celebrate life change in Jesus name.

Mid-America Team

MID-AMERICA WELCOMES NEW VICE PRESIDENT OF INSTITUTIONAL ADVANCEMENT “Trust the Lord and tell the people.” —B. Gray Allison We are pleased to announce that Nathan Cole of New York, New York, has accepted the role of leading the Institutional Advancement team of MidAmerica Baptist

Nathan Cole VP, Institutional Advancement

Theological Seminary and The College at Mid-America. Founding President Gray Allison has fondly said through the years if we tell the Lord’s people the needs of the school, then the Lord will raise up friends to fund the ministry of Mid-America. After 17 years of being affiliated with MABTS through Development Council and Board of Trustee roles, Nathan now joins a long tradition of people who have led the work of providing the resources for Mid-America to continue honoring our Lord. With the current needs of the seminary, and the beginning of The College at Mid-America, Nathan begins his work at an exciting time. NATHAN, TELL US YOUR BACKGROUND AND HOW YOU CAME TO KNOW THE LORD JESUS AS YOUR SAVIOR. I was raised in a small town in Alabama. At the age of 8, I asked my parents questions regarding why one of my friends “wanted to be baptized.” The Holy Spirit

changed my heart as my father shared the Gospel with me. I had heard it before, but on that day “it” was different, and I accepted Jesus. I’m thankful to have had godly parents and strong godly mentors throughout my life at key times such as in college in Arkansas, or career stops in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, and New York. WHAT WAS IT LIKE LIVING IN NEW YORK CITY FOR ALMOST A DECADE? New York City is amazing, with the world in one place. Manhattan’s talent and work ethic is incredible, but strong pastors and churches are much needed to impact New York City and America’s northeast urban areas. I’m so thankful Mid-America has had a presence with our Northeast Branch for almost 30 years. WHAT IS YOUR MISSION AT MID-AMERICA? My mission is to help raise up friends so students can graduate with financial freedom to serve God anywhere in the world He calls them to go. Mid-America has an amazing story for me to share as our school has stayed on mission for the Bible, missions, and evangelism for 45 years, academic excellence verified through the most respected accrediting body in America, students’ Kingdom impact faithfully witnessing and planting churches literally to the ends of the earth, and focused stewardship to keep our operational costs extremely low so we can focus more on world missions, as compared to other schools of our size and scope. Let’s remember to pray for Nathan and the team he leads.



Evangelistic Preaching


It would be difficult to overstate the gratitude I have, after 30 years of ministering the Gospel, for the solid foundation in the truth I received through my training at MABTS. The men who taught me modeled genuine faith in our Savior and an uncompromising devotion to the Scriptures. It was during my years at MABTS that God began in me a hunger for God’s Word that has only grown deeper with each year’s passing. Through the study of the Scriptures, I began to know its transforming impact in my own life. I arrived at seminary after only a year as a believer. The focus on missions and personal evangelism left an eternal imprint. The investment in my life through careful instruction still daily shapes and impacts the work I am called to do. BECAUSE OF MY FERVENT BELIEF IN THE GOSPEL as the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16), it became a determined pursuit of mine, very early on in my teaching ministry, to implement two aspects of sharing the Gospel. First, I try my best to present God’s Word in a way that can be clearly understood. If God designed His message so that the smallest child could come, shouldn’t I present it with the same clarity and simplicity? I just want people to understand, because if a person can understand, then faith has a chance. It is impossible to place trust in something you can’t understand. There is rarely a week that goes by that someone does not approach me after a service and shares a personal story with

me of never having heard the Scriptures explained in a way that “makes sense.” My passion for presenting the Scriptures in a clear and understandable way is rooted in my own testimony. At 20 years old, I was headed downhill and making good time, when a friend who shared Christ with me in high school invited me to attend a church service. At the time, I was very cold toward spiritual things, but out of respect for the authenticity of my friend’s faith, I agreed to go. What blew me away, as I skeptically entered the church that day, was how the pastor spoke in such a clear, understandable way; it piqued a curiosity in me. I became so interested that I spent the next few months returning to hear more from the Scriptures, ultimately placing my faith in Christ. I never want to forget the impact that hearing the message taught in an understandable way had on leading me to salvation. Secondly, not only am I passionate about presenting the message in a clear way, but I also want to continually have as its substance the amazing grace offered through Christ. Having studied the Scriptures since my salvation at 21, I find the story of God’s grace the theme of every book. Yet as a boy growing up in church, I sat for years in the pews and never really heard the message of God’s grace clearly explained or emphasized. I am quick to acknowledge that it may have been that I was not listening, but somehow I always came away with the impression of an overarching importance of the dos and don’ts of religion. WHEN I TEACH, I try to explain that God’s message of salvation has never been about “keeping a list.” God’s grace sets us free in trusting that, “While we were still sinners Christ died for us”

(Romans 5:8). He sent His Son because we were incapable of “keeping a list.” I still remember the bondage of feeling completely helpless, knowing I was unable by my own effort to fit into a system that attempted to earn God’s favor. While at MABTS I was taught to never lose sight of one more soul for Jesus. Influenced by the vision and heartbeat of evangelism at the start of my journey with Christ and in ministry, I tried to develop a plan “A” strategy in sharing the Gospel. First, rely fully on the power of God’s truth and share it with clarity. Second, never forget how good the water of God’s grace tastes to a thirsty soul and offer a drink of it as often as you share. I have tested the strategy for over three decades of seeking to reach souls for Christ and am convinced, now more than ever, there is no plan “B.” Thank you, MABTS, for igniting a passion for souls and laying a firm foundation for ministry in His body, the church.

MABTS Alumnus Dr. Jeff Parish, (MDIV, 1989) is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Indian Rocks, Largo, Florida.



Church Evangelism


The Southwest city in which our team planted CrossLife Church, Phoenix, Arizona, is in the top 10 least biblically minded and contains a high percentage of broken families. It is reported that in our community of Anthem, which has a population of about 50,000 within a five-mile radius of our location, over 80 percent of the families have, at some time, experienced divorce. We experienced the result of this level of family brokenness last year when a friend of our daughter took his own life because of his parents’ divorce and his subsequent moving to our neighborhood. The Gospel is the great treasure entrusted to every believer. It is the message of hope, peace, and salvation. This Good News expresses the great love of God for all people across all time. When this message is shared faithfully, the Holy Spirit uses it to transform hearts and lives. Paul’s words concerning this Gospel are still true: it is the power of God unto salvation. There is no shortage of power in the Gospel, nor is there any lack of sinners in need of its salvation. If both of these statements are true, why are the vast majority of churches in the United States plateauing or declining? Are there any practical steps we can take to change this trend? I want to offer you a few simple nuggets the Lord has deposited into my life. He gave these to me as I have worked alongside the people of Beth-el Missionary Baptist Church in Starkville,

Mississippi, for the last 15 years. My thoughts are nothing tested empirically, but they are grounded biblically. All of the thoughts set forth here are offered with the realization that only the Lord can grow His church. In the process of Him growing His church, Jesus has given us some specific responsibilities as His followers that will aid in our churches being healthier. Congregations are healthier when the following emphases are maintained relative to the Gospel.

FIRST, THE GOSPEL MUST BE CLEARLY PRESENTED FROM THE PULPIT. Each Sunday, people with no personal relationship with Christ sit in the same sanctuary as those who believe in the Lord. If they have taken the time to come, those who preach must be prepared to share the Gospel with them. Granted, every Sunday cannot be spent solely focused on the lost person. Pastors, however, must undertake the unique challenge of sharing the Gospel from the pulpit. Gospel-centered preaching shapes the life of the believers and extends redemption to the lost. Healthy churches maintain an evangelistic tone and presentation in the pulpit. At some point in corporate worship, the Gospel must be clearly shared if churches are to be evangelistic.

THE SECOND MEANS OF WEAVING EVANGELISM into the fabric of the congregation is to continually challenge the members to live the Gospel. Believers will encounter more lost people outside the building than inside it. With that being the case, the people must be spurred to live for Christ daily. The redeemed must shine the light of the Gospel in the immediate context of their world. God has blessed each Christian with connections to lost people that the pastor and church staff do not have. Those believers honor Christ when they live lives under the influence of His Lordship. If that assembly is to be healthy, the people must live the Gospel. This is what I call a life and lip witness. The lip witness (communicating the claims of the Christian faith by the words that come from a person’s mouth) is only powerful when it aligns with the life witness (the example set forth by the conduct and habits of the person talking). Both witnesses must be present in the believer’s life. The body must help the members realize their value in the overall mission. If Christians are to circle the world with the Gospel, we must bring the Gospel to bear in our circles of influence. That Gospel message shines powerfully through those who live under the authority of the Gospel daily. Churches need to be confronted with the awesomeness of the opportunity to live as Gospel-driven husbands, wives, parents, children, students, employees, etc.



These students come from more than 80 different countries. There is a great need for the Gospel in this area. So, here is our approach. EACH QUARTER, WE ADOPT ONE PARTICULAR NEIGHBORHOOD. Once the neighborhood is identified, we begin to strategize concerning the needs of the area. The members use the fifth Sunday weekend to conduct the events. Normally, we spend that Saturday cleaning the neighborhood, cutting yards, clearing ditches, and doing any other helpful

Once we have finished the Saturday outreach, we begin preparation for the next day’s events. We return on Sunday for a special treat. A group from our church goes back to the neighborhood to start grilling the Sunday meal. Not only THE FINAL COMPONENT OF have we cleaned up the neighborhood GROWING HEALTHY EVANGELISTIC and done evangelism on Saturday, but we CHURCHES is to consistently provide return to feed any of the people in that churchwide opportunities to share the neighborhood who desire to eat with us. Gospel. As much as the Gospel should be Tables and chairs are set up, normally shared from the pulpit and shown in the under a shady spot, and the people begin believer’s personal life, churches desiring to emerge as they smell the grills going. to be healthy must give their people an Once we feel that a sufficient crowd has opportunity to go out collectively and gathered, our witness. In my outreach leaders experience, pray and sing. most people Then, I am are timid when blessed with the it comes to opportunity this aspect of to share an church life. evangelistic So, how do we message with address this? all of the people A couple who came. of years ago, This quarterly the Lord spoke outreach is to my heart as much a and showed blessing to the me a great way church as it is to get many to the adopted of the people community. The MABTS alumnus Dr. Lee Brand (MDIV, 2008; PHD, 2013; standing in center) is the pastor of Beth-el involved in people in that Missionary Baptist Church in Starkville, Mississippi. this evangelistic neighborhood emphasis. He projects for the people who live there. have the privilege of hearing the Gospel, showed me a way to reach larger groups Simultaneously, we have teams going and we have the great joy of obeying the of people with the Gospel and how to use door-to-door with Gospel tracts and Lord and sharing that Gospel. more of the church members in the effort. flyers. The teams that are cleaning are We live in a day when the church is Our church is located in a rural area, and giving a visible witness of our love for the being marginalized and silenced. Believers our county is roughly 400 square miles. neighborhood. Most of the people on must be mindful that the only way for the In the heart of this county is Starkville, the cleaning teams are not comfortable church to be healthy is for it to remain the county seat. It is also the home of at someone’s front door, but they help faithful to Christ and His Gospel. When Mississippi State University, a school with to validate the love and witness of the this is done, churches will be healthy. an enrollment of roughly 20,000 students. members standing at the stranger’s door. Souls will be saved. Above all, Christ will be glorified! 14 | Mid-America



June 13


June 19–30


July 1


July 3–9


July 10–August 18


August 7–18


August 11



August 21


August 24


October 24

30 YEARS 1997–2017



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Northeast Branch


As a student and later a faculty member of Mid-America, I sat through each Founders’ Days on the main campus listening to Dr. B. Gray Allison tell the story of MidAmerica. Part of that story involved his vision for the Northeastern part of the United States. He described that vast millions living Dr. Mike Haggard in the Northeast had never heard the Gospel nor had a good, Gospel-preaching Baptist church to attend. He told of his many visits to Massachusetts to visit his sister’s family and how he could never find a warm, Jesus-loving church to attend. HE EXPLAINED HOW GOD had placed on his heart a desire to change that. It took many years of prayer, fund-raising, and friend-raising, with many visits to the Northeast in search of buildings and land, all the while negotiating with the New York Board of Regents. Finally, in 1987, the Northeast Branch began offering theological training to four students at Trinity Baptist Church in Niskayuna, New York. By fall 1989, a $1.3 million, 15,400-square-foot campus on 10 acres was dedicated during Founders’ Days with seven new students enrolling for classes. And thus the Northeast Branch story began. Since 2014, I’ve been privileged to

be a part of that story. Many times when I drive on the campus of the Northeast Branch, I think of the many friends, donors, trustees, development council members, MABTS staff, and faculty who were involved in those initial processes, many sacrificially, to get this campus started—and I thank God for each one of them. Now with a 30-year history, I recall the directors, faculty, and staff who have come and gone, each one called of God to come and to train laborers for harvest work, pushing back the spiritual darkness in the Northeast. I thank God for each one of them, too. So what has God accomplished through the Northeast Branch in the past 30 years? We have produced 126 graduates, of whom 68 are pastoring here in the Northeast, and 20 of those are engaged in active church plants. When we began in 1987, our local Baptist association, the Hudson Baptist Association, had three churches. Now they

(DR. B. GRAY ALLISON) DESCRIBED THAT VAST MILLIONS LIVING IN THE NORTHEAST HAD NEVER HEARD THE GOSPEL NOR HAD A GOOD, GOSPELPREACHING BAPTIST CHURCH TO ATTEND. have 27, and graduates of the Northeast Branch pastor half of them. Since 1987, Northeast Branch students have entered into the highways and hedges sharing the light of Christ and have won 4,798 northeasterners to Jesus Christ. GOD HAS DONE (AND IS DOING) amazing things through our graduates and students. I give Him the glory for it all, and I look forward to a bright future laboring in fields white unto harvest in the Northeast.


Messenger | Summer 2017


18 | Mid-America

Northeast Branch


Recently, God called me out of the pastorate in the so-called Bible Belt, into the classroom as a professor in the frigid, snowy, and Gospel-deprived Northeast. I must confess that leaving the South definitely was not on my bucket list. Nevertheless, I was asked to pray about coming on staff at the Northeast Branch of MABTS, and God began to give me a heart for the Northeast. In the Northeast, devout Catholics, nominal Catholics, and self-declared nothings are more plentiful than snow (of which we got over 20 inches on spring break). But don’t get the mistaken notion which I had, that people are opposed to the Gospel. Thus far, I have found people much more hardened to the Gospel in the southern towns I’ve served in than in the Northeast. Truly, the Northeast is white—not just with snow—but white unto harvest. From the nonreligious construction worker to the extremely devout Catholic, most people I have encountered here have not rejected the Lordship of Christ Jesus; they simply have never heard the true Gospel. This fact doesn’t make witnessing more or less difficult, just different. It is different in the same way that Paul’s approach varied from preaching to Jews and Gentile proselytes to preaching to Greek philosophers in Athens (Acts 17). A little more patience in laying a biblical foundation to build on is often required. THE DIFFERENCE in vocabulary presents another challenge. It is much more than the absence of “y’all”

statements from the vocabulary. The “nons” and the nominal Catholics are often completely unaware of the common church terms we use in the South to witness to someone, and the devout Catholics often have a different meaning for the words we use. Of course, the difference in vocabulary only becomes an issue if you can successfully engage someone in conversation. Frequently in the South, a casual comment to a complete stranger can lead to enough personal information being disclosed for you to write a biography about your new acquaintance. Not so in the North. The same question or comment may simply elicit a highly suspicious look. This response, however, is not an insurmountable obstacle. Despite all the challenges, I am excited to be working in the Northeast because God is working in the Northeast. FROM THE VERY FIRST TIME my wife, Elizabeth, and I went out to eat here in the Northeast, people have quickly noticed we were from the South. The assumption is normally that we are visiting someone. Our first waitress made a comment, which I have received several times since: “You moved the wrong way. Most of us are looking for an opportunity to move down south.” This comment highlights another way in which God is working in the Northeast. God is calling people in the Northeast into the ministry in the Northeast. In a field that is white unto harvest with so few workers, it is imperative that the native workers not have to leave the field to receive solid training. The Northeast Branch of MABTS exists for this reason. I am privileged to be a part of that. God is also actively calling believers to the Northeast to serve Him while

continuing their theological training. A couple of our current students have moved from far away to answer this call. It is baffling to think that such an unreached area was once a hotbed of Gospel activity. In fact, part of New York was known as the “burned-over district” due to the widespread revivals during the Second Great Awakening. My prayer is that an awakening will once again sweep across this area and that the men who God allows me to help train will be integral in that movement. With only one semester under my belt, I can still say it is quite rewarding to listen to a student share a soul-winning experience in chapel and hear that he is implementing things he has learned in class. Besides personal witnessing opportunities and the classroom, the Lord is also providing me with some other ministry opportunities. Being called to preach, Dr. Wayne Cornett I naturally have a fire shut up in my bones. It is difficult to go from preaching three times a week for over a decade to preaching sporadically. I am as excited today about an opportunity to preach the Word of God as I was when I first started seminary 15 years ago, even when it means driving several hours. One of my favorite opportunities to preach is through a local rescue mission. I can preach to as many lost people in one night there as I could in an entire year in the small towns in which I have pastored. Here in the Northeast, the snow and lostness abound, but the grace of God and opportunities to impact His Kingdom also abound. Please join me in praying for another awakening in the Northeast.



20 | Mid-America


Dr. Thompson: Thank you. I’ve been teaching at Mid-America for almost 20 years, and it’s an honor to serve in this capacity. I’m excited about what the Lord will do through The College at MidAmerica in the coming years. YOU EARNED A DOCTORATE AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY WHICH HAS THE FIRST AND LARGEST IVY LEAGUE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES. HOW HAS YOUR TIME AT COLUMBIA PREPARED YOU FOR THE TASK OF DEAN OF THE COLLEGE?

Dr. Thompson: Columbia has a rich environment of research and inquiry which prepares its graduates to lead at the highest level of academic preparation. I want to instill a culture of critical thinking and Christian worldview so our graduates will be able to lead effectively in the profession God has for them. WHY IS MID-AMERICA STARTING A COLLEGE?

Dr. Thompson: From its beginning 45 years ago, Mid-America has offered undergraduate education. In the last 10 years or so, we began to notice that our students were coming to us less prepared to engage in graduate-level education, in part due to trends in higher education and a decreased emphasis on Bible training in churches. To answer this need for better educational experience at the

undergraduate level, in 2011, the school expanded its programming to include the Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies. This program has been very successful, and we are now ready to build upon that success to offer more degrees for students. WHAT WILL STUDENTS STUDY AT THE COLLEGE?

Dr. Thompson: Each of the four degree programs has a general education and Bible/ theology component, comprising their first two years of study. Students will choose a major and minor course of study which completes the second half of their degree. WHAT NEW DEGREES WILL BE OFFERED?

Dr. Thompson: In the fall 2017 semester, we will offer the Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies and the Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Counseling. In the spring 2018 semester, we will begin offering the Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership and the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. All of these degrees will be offered residentially and online. We have more degrees to be offered in the future. WHAT WILL THESE FIRST FOUR DEGREES OFFERED BY THE COLLEGE AT MID-AMERICA PREPARE GRADUATES TO DO?

Dr. Thompson: We are interested in students being and doing. Historically, the emphasis of higher education has been on character development and instruction in wisdom. Martin Luther warned us when

he said, “I greatly fear that schools for higher learning are wide gates to hell if they do not Dr. Brad Thompson diligently teach the Holy Scripture and impress them on the young folk.” Nearly 500 years later, his warning has become a reality. Higher education in America has become predominantly secularized, even within Christian colleges and universities. We want to train our students for vocation, but more importantly as believers in a risen Lord, our goal is for them to take their place as effective Christian leaders in their chosen professions who serve with integrity, intelligence, and compassion. Students studying Christian Studies are equipped for effective Christian ministry in local churches, missions, or denominational service. Those studying Biblical Counseling are prepared for a variety of counseling possibilities, including counseling in a local church. The Organizational Leadership program equips students to build an understanding of basic management functions, organizational behavior, organizational design and structure, leadership communication skills, policy development, project management, legal issues, and information technology management. Students in the Business LEARN MORE ABOUT THE COLLEGE AT MID-AMERICA ON PAGE 23 AND BACK COVER.



Administration program are prepared for a variety of positions in business, government service, and relief and development organizations. They will also be able to work as Administrative Pastors with a solid biblical background and a good basic understanding of business. ARE SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE?

Dr. Thompson: We have 31 different scholarships available for students, but more importantly we are inaugurating our GO! Program for all undergraduate students. The current cost of tuition at the college is approximately $21,000 annually. Students enrolled in the GO! Program pay only $4,000 per semester in tuition. Donors pay the balance of the cost of their education.

saddle our graduates with debt. Currently, there are 44 million students across the country who participate in student loan programs of which 4.2 million are in default, an increase of almost 17 percent last year. Collectively, they owe $1.3 trillion in debt, and beginning in July, the Department of the Treasury announced that the rate for new student loans will increase by 20 percent. Last year’s graduating class owes an average of $37,000 per student, and their average loan payback amount is $351 per month. We have no wish to follow a failed model. We are a donor-driven, not tuition-driven, institution and have relied upon the generous gifts of alumni and friends for over 45 years to keep our tuition costs low so students can graduate


Dr. Thompson: The GO! Program is the college’s way of connecting the classroom to the community and ultimately the world. Students who enroll in the program spend an average of one hour a week at an approved site, helping those in the Memphis community. Online students participate in their own community at a site approved by the school. ARE STUDENTS REQUIRED TO ENROLL IN THE GO! PROGRAM?

Dr. Thompson: No, they may choose not to participate, but they will not receive a tuition reduction. DOES THE COLLEGE AT MID-AMERICA PARTICIPATE IN STUDENT LOAN PROGRAMS?

Dr. Thompson: No, our last desire is to 22


Called into Gospel ministry at age 17, Dr. Bradley Thompson earned a BA in Biblical Studies from Criswell College, an MDiv from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, a PhD from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and an EdD from Columbia University. Dr. Thompson and his wife Susan have four adult children.

without mortgaging their futures. We want to keep tuition low so students can “pay as they go,” and we as an institution want to continue to “pay as we grow.” The school is completely debt-free, and we want our students to experience that same freedom. CAN STUDENTS DIVIDE THEIR TUITION INTO MONTHLY PAYMENTS?

Dr. Thompson: Yes, we participate in Nelnet, a tuition repayment service which allows students to divide their tuition costs into five equal payments per semester. DOES THE COLLEGE PROVIDE DORMITORIES FOR STUDENTS?

Dr. Thompson: Yes, we have men’s and women’s dorms as part of The Village at Mid-America. Students can check with our Campus Life office for current rates. WHAT SHOULD SOMEONE WHO IS INTERESTED IN ENROLLING AT THE COLLEGE AT MID-AMERICA DO?

Dr. Thompson: I would start by contacting our Admissions office either in person or through our website ( They are prepared to give potential students all the information needed about our application process into the college. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME. WE’RE EXCITED FOR THE START OF THE COLLEGE AT MID-AMERICA IN THE FALL.

Dr. Thompson: It’s been my pleasure. I’m excited as we begin, and I’m looking forward to seeing new students in the fall. | Mid-America

Alumni Profile Our generous donors pay 70% of the cost, so each student pays only


$8,000 per year

and service as a mentor.” Apocalypse of John. In 2010, he Bandy says this commitment and published his dissertation as “The dedication to students, for which he Prophetic Lawsuit in the Book of was honored, was modeled for him by Revelation” in Sheffield Phoenix Press’s faculty at MABTS. “They took time to New Testament Monograph Series. He invest in me personally as I hammered has also contributed to God, Marriage, out my theology or struggled with issues and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical in ministry,” he said. “They took me Foundation, The Cradle, the Cross, Mid-America alum Dr. Alan S. Bandy witnessing and showed me their love for and the Crown: A Comprehensive was recently honored with the Promising people and passion for the gospel. I have Introduction to the New Testament, Teacher Award at Oklahoma Baptist sought to reproduce all of these traits in and Invitation to Biblical Interpretation University, where he is an Assistant my life, ministry and teaching.” (Kregel, 2011). Professor of New Testament. BANDY HAS BEEN ACTIVELY In terms of academic, as well as Bandy credits his time at MidACADEMIChe remembers CHRIST-CENTERED. AFFORDABLE. MINISTRY-FOCUSED. involved in church ministry since 1992, personal, influences, America for helping prepare him for EXCELLENCE. BIBLICAL ONLY $8,000 DEVELOPING SERVANT holding positions including senior pastor, “marveling at the vastness of God and the teaching, saying that at MABTS, “I was FULLYofACCREDITED. WORLDVIEW. PER YEAR. LEADERSHIP. associate pastor, and student pastor in complexity theology with rapturous able to get up close to my professors both churches in North Carolina, Tennessee delight while listening to Dr. John in and outside of the classroom. They and Kentucky. He has led OBU students Mahoney lecture,” and credits Dr. Kirk were men who lived their calling, and on Global Outreach trips to the work Kilpatrick for instilling him with a passion they were role models to me for teaching BACHELOR OF ARTS IN BACHELOR among OF ARTSpeople IN groups inBACHELOR OF SCIENCE INteach in BACHELOR SCIENCEthe IN the Amazon “to such a way OF to facilitate excellence that emphasizes the supremacy CHRISTIAN STUDIES BIBLICAL COUNSELING ORGANIZATIONAL BUSINESS jungle. Bandy recalled the Mid-America presence of God in theADMINISTRATION classroom.” He of Christ.” LEADERSHIP alma materfor as he described his desire to traces his heart for missions, in part, Equips students for Prepares students Equips students for to a BANDY GRADUATED FROM takecounseling students on international tripsunderstanding “so his study under Dr. Howard Bickers,in effective Christian a variety of Provides variety of positions Mid-America with a DEGREE? in ministry in local possibilities, including of management business, that they will go ‘to all the world for Jesus’ and notes that Dr. Stevegovernment Miller impacted YEAR? and went on to complete his churches, missions, or counseling in a local functions, organizational service, and relief sake.’” him to “pursue scholarship in the PhD at Southeastern Baptist Theological denominational service, church, as well as structure, leadership and development He also expressed his passion for his original languages and with attention Seminary. joining the faculty at as well asBefore positions positions students for skills, project organizations. students to be “amazed and captivated to the discipline of archeology,” while Oklahoma Baptist in 2009, Bandyattending served students for attending seminary or management, legal Beginning Spring 2018, by the Word of God and the God acknowledging a number of other as assistant director of PhD studiesother for graduate training. seminary or other issues, and IT SACSCOC of the Word.” “I want them to think teachers whopending were also influential in his Southeastern Baptist Theological, as graduate training. management. approval. through the text for themselves as I was maturation as a student and teacher. assistant professor of Christian Studies Beginning Spring 2018, encouraged to do while at MABTS,” he “I know enough by now to know that at Louisiana College, and as an adjunct pending SACSCOC said. “I learned how to read the Bible any award I may earn is only because so professor at Liberty University Online. approval. at MABTS, and I learned how to think many men and women have impacted me During the presentation of Bandy’s about its implications for all areas of along the way,” Bandy said. “I believe that award, which honors outstanding ASSOCIATE OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION AND ASSOCIATE OF DIVINITY DEGREES ALSO AVAILABLE. life. I want to produce a generation of this award is a recognition of the great teaching potential, OBU President David brilliant young minds who are submitted teachers who taught me how to think, Whitlock described him as an exemplary to the authority of Scripture, who are study, love, and teach.” teacher, involved not only on campus but knowledgeable of the entire canon, and Bandy and his wife, Necoe, have five in the lives of his students. who are skilled at interpreting the text children. “His classes are rigorous and filled to accurately.” capacity,” Whitlock said. “His personal BANDY’S AREA OF EXPERTISE concern and commitment reach far includes the New Testament and beyond the classroom. His students seek Greek, with a specialization in The him out for assistance, encouragement, 2095 APPLING ROAD | CORDOVA, TENNESSEE 38016 | 901-751-8453





P.O. Box 2350 • Cordova, Tennessee 38088-2350 901-751-8453 •


Mid-America Messenger-Summer 2017  

The official magazine of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Memphis, TN

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