Bridging the Gap Between the Local Church and the Seminary

May 08, 2003 02:12 PM EDT

NEW ORLEANS— The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, in partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources, launched the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry website to bring the theology taught in Baptist Seminaries to the local church, April 18.

"Theology should energize the ministries of our churches," said Stan Norman, associate professor of theology at New Orleans Seminary and director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry (BCTM).

Norman, author of “More Than Just a Name: Preserving Our Baptist Identity,” is the driving force behind the Center.

"The BCTM is devoted to making theology live within the practice of ministry," he continued.

"What we do flows out of what we believe," seminary president Chuck Kelley said. "The Southern Baptist Convention was formed to enhance the ability of Baptist churches to do world missions and evangelism. That priority emerged out of our theological conviction that Christ alone can save the human soul."

"Our seminary is passionately committed to keeping Southern Baptist's aware of Baptist doctrinal heritage, for in so doing, we keep attention on fulfilling the Great Commission."

Norman explained that the heritage received by the Southern Baptists has always been focused on the local church.

"You see our (Southern Baptists) theology is best seen, not in a book, but in our churches," Norman said. "Baptist efforts and energy have not been in writing about theology, but actually embedding theology in our churches,” he continued, emphasizing the need to bridge the gap between seminary teaching and the local church.

"I don't want to discount the importance of writing, but I don't want to do theology simply for the purpose of writing," said Norman, who has over 10 years of pastoral experience. "I want the Baptist Center to facilitate taking theology all the way to the church."

BCTM's online journal, the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry, will be published bi-annually and address key issues in Baptist theology and polity. The first issue covers a range of topics including evangelism, divorce and Cooperative Program issues. Norman hopes that through emphasis on such distinctive Baptist theology, the local church may invigorate their ministry and missions as they shape their beliefs.

Norman said he invites college and seminary professors from other Southern Baptist Colleges to join in the effort.

"I want this to be a network of all our denominational resources ... drawing them all together for this collaborative effort of doing theology for the church," Norman said. "I want us to address issues that really matter and can really change the local church."

By Pauline J.