NASHVILLE – A capacity crowd of 700 New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College alumni and friends gathered during the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting to fellowship and celebrate what is happening at the seminary.
NOBTS and Leavell College President Jamie Dew utilized the June 16 luncheon to share his vision for the school. He started by sharing what he had learned about the “School of Providence and Prayer” when he first arrived at NOBTS.
"As an outsider, I knew that's what we were called, but I could not give an account as to why," Dew said. "It's been two years now; I don't need anyone to explain it to me anymore. I've seen it with my own eyes. I've watched every day as God has shown up and been faithful to us."
Dew said the brokenness and lostness throughout the world should guide all the efforts of the seminary and the churches the graduates serve. Dew pointed to a “haunting” statement by International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood--every day, 155,000 people die without Christ.
“It puts everything that we do at the seminary in perspective,” Dew said. “When you see that need, it causes me to approach every single thing we do with a great vision and a greater passion – that is to bring the light of Jesus Christ into that darkness.”
"We are either going to do that or die trying," Dew said.
Dew said that NOBTS and Leavell College are uniquely equipped to training ministers for the urban setting, for missions, for mercy ministries, for evangelism, and for church planting. The opportunity for NOBTS is vast, Dew said.
“Southern Baptists need NOBTS and Leavell College to be distinctly herself,” Dew said.
To close his time with alumni, Dew challenged them to give, send students, and to pray. He introduced two new giving opportunities for alumni and friends. The first was the new Alumni Association. The Alumni Association offers discounts, library access and other benefits and is designed to foster community. The association dues ($50 per year or $600 for a lifetime membership) support the school’s annual fund known as the Providence Fund. The second new giving opportunity is the Providence Society. Members of the Providence Society support to Providence Fund through monthly giving.
Dew closed his time with a call to prayer—not for growth or expanded programs, but that the seminary family would honor God and be a part of His mission.
The alumni also heard encouraging updates from other seminary and alumni leaders.
Stephanie Lyon, women’s life coordinator, shared about the new Prepare Her initiative at NOBTS and Leavell College. Prepare Her focuses on academic training, spiritual formation, skill development, and fellowship.
"We want women to know that you have a place at the table here," Lyon said. "We are passionate about seeing women who are theologically grounded and who are servants in their churches, their cities, and in the nations. We believe that women are indispensable to the kingdom advancement of the gospel."
The initiative includes new degrees, majors, and specializations in ministry women at all academic levels (undergraduate through doctoral), Lyon said. The new Thrive certificate program is designed to prepare women whose husbands are in ministry and is available to on-campus women as well as those at a distance. In addition to many new women's life activities, the seminary also launched a scholarly society for women. The NOBTS Society for Women in Scholarship is designed to foster research among graduate and doctoral students and NOBTS alumnae.
One of the key aspects of making women students feel welcome on campus has been "Together," a new women's life imitative. Together is open to all campus women—students, staff, faculty wives, and faculty. Through fun events, worship, and Bible students, campus women are developing a support system that will continue to support kingdom growth long after the women leave campus, Lyon said.
Another exciting new initiative at Leavell College is the House System. The House System, launched in 2020, includes three houses named after important historical figures—Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Lottie Moon. According to Cody Moore, who served as the Moon House president during the past school year, the House System is not only creating a vibrant community, it is encouraging spiritual growth.
“House involvement brings together the best elements of what a Christian college experience can be—the pursuit of academic excellence, real community, missions, ministry, and loving your neighbor all while having tons of fun,” Moore said. “I absolutely loved my time serving within the House System. I had so much fun, but more importantly, I was often pushed and encouraged in my faith.”
George Ross, church planting professor and NAMB Send Missionary, shared about the immediate impact of the new church planting center on the seminary campus. Ross said the center has already hosted hundreds of church planters and missions and is being used as a training base for future missionaries and church planters.
Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and former SBC president, spoke about the joys and challenges of being a pastor—especially pastoring in a unique place like New Orleans. Luter concluded that NOBTS and Leavell College are uniquely positioned to prepare pastors to serve anywhere God calls.