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Mohler shares vision, $70 million expansion plan at seminary luncheon
--By Bryan Cribb
     ATLANTA, June 16--Addressing more than 460 alumni, seminary friends, faculty and students, President R. Albert Mohler Jr. shared his vision for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, including an ambitious 10-year, $70 million building and renovation plan. "This is a remarkable time in the life of this institution," said Mohler, who gave his remarks at the June 16 Southern Seminary luncheon held in conjunction with the 1999 Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta.
     "We have sought over the last several years to make abundantly clear our absolute commitment to be the finest and most faithful seminary serving the church of the Lord Jesus Christ," Mohler said, noting that it is now time to build for the future of the SBC's flagship seminary. Scheduled for completion in 2009 -- the seminary's sesquicentennial -- the capital improvements plan includes the construction and renovation of more than 400 student housing units; 107 faculty offices; a 40,000-square-foot facility for the burgeoning Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth; a state-of-the-art learning and performance center; and a conference center. Renovations also will be made to the seminary's Alumni Chapel and to the Carver Building, which serves as the campus for the James P. Boyce College of the Bible.
     "The bricks and mortar are never the most important part of an institution's life. But, as we are stewards, we realize that this precious campus is more than symbolic. It is more than sentimental. It is one very clear indication of how serious we are about the task the Lord has entrusted to us," Mohler said. This task, said Mohler, focuses on reaching the world for Christ. "We are committed to be a Great Commission institution -- producing Great Commission pastors who are evangelists, ministers of the gospel and missionaries to the furthest reaches of the globe." Tremendous growth in the student population, including some 700 new students during the 1998-1999 school year, necessitated the expansion, Mohler said. "Clearly we would not be proposing all of this building and all of this expansion if we did not expect solid growth on the campus," he said.
     Following his address, Mohler was presented a plaque for his leadership in establishing the first Center for Church Planting in cooperation with the North American Mission Board. John Yarborough, NAMB's vice president for evangelism and a Southern Seminary alumnus, made the presentation, noting that he asked NAMB President Robert E. "Bob" Reccord for the honor of presenting the plaque at his alma mater. NAMB has established church-planting centers at all six Southern Baptist seminaries in the last year.  Southern Seminary, according to Yarborough, was not only the "first [seminary] to jump on" but it "now has the largest center of all of the Nehemiah Centers." Yarborough added that Southern's leadership in the Nehemiah Project is due "to the visionary leadership that Al Mohler's brought to our seminary and the passion he has souls." Mohler called the project one of the most significant missiological movements ever among Southern Baptists. "The greatest growth in the SBC in years to come ... is going to be in churches that today do not exist," he said.
     Both the expansion plan and Southern's Center for Church Planting help fulfill the seminary's recently revised mission statement which Mohler shared with the luncheon audience.
The statement reads: "Under the Lordship of the Lord Jesus Christ, the mission of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is to be totally committed to the Bible as the Word of God and to be a servant to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention by training, educating and preparing ministers of the gospel for more faithful service."
      "This statement encapsulates where we are and where we stand," Mohler explained, saying that theological education must begin with Christ and focus on the Scriptures. "If we do not hold the Bible as the sure and certain Word of God, then we have no business in theological education in the first place." Southern Seminary, according to Mohler, is well on its way to fulfilling this mission because it has what is necessary - "remarkable students," a campus which facilitates learning and quality professors. "I can promise you that the faculty of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is the envy of the Baptist and evangelical world," Mohler said.
In a testimony before Mohler's address, master of divinity student Clark Logan echoed Mohler's appraisal of Southern's professors. "What I found when I got there was a staff and an administration that was committed to the Word of God," said Logan, a native of Water Valley, Miss.
     Yet even with such an expanding campus and world-renowned professors, without dedicated students the seminary would be "all dressed up with no where to go," Mohler said. He complemented Southern students for their commitment to expository preaching and growing churches. Students, professors and buildings, though, are merely tools in the hands of God, Mohler said. Citing Ecclesiastes 3, he reiterated that these plans, goals and efforts cannot be accomplished without divine help. "Whatever we do in our own strength, by our own plans, according to our own desires -- no matter how lofty we think they are -- will eventually account for nothing. But whatever God does will last forever."

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