New seminary, big vision, generous heart

The Bible Seminary is a work in progress. To be sure, it's more than an idealistic glimmer in a pastor's eye — there's a plan of action, a sponsoring church, money in the bank, leadership in place, bylaws written. There's a helpful website at http://thebibleseminary.org. The project is moving forward.

But the Bible Seminary isn't yet an operating school. The brainchild of Grace Fellowship United Methodist Church in Katy, Texas, it's been incorporated as a separate nonprofit organization, but the first for-credit classes aren't scheduled until autumn 2012. The seminary's leaders are praying for an entering class of 25.

In Trust recently talked to Brian Crouse, a member of the board of directors of the new seminary. Our burning question: Why are you starting a new seminary?

Tell us about the Bible Seminary.

The dream of this came from the leadership of our church, Grace Fellowship United Methodist Church. About 14 years ago, the idea to start a "growth institute" started to surface. That evolved into a vision for a Bible institute, and then a Bible seminary. We started to put together a seminary task force in January 2008, and that task force started a two-year process to write a set of bylaws for a seminary. In spring 2010, the Bible Seminary was officially incorporated, and in May 2011, the board had its first annual meeting and had approved the hiring of a new executive vice president, Dr. Lynn Lewis.

Where does your financial support come from?

We did a one-time capital campaign among members of the church. About 260 donors came from that capital campaign, and about $820,000 was pledged. God has really shown up, and I think at this point just under a million dollars has actually been given.

Grace Fellowship is a United Methodist church with about 3,500 regular attenders, but the seminary is an independent 501(c)(3), and is not planned to be a United Methodist seminary. But part of our long-range objective is that we'll be approved by the United Methodist University Senate so that we can prepare United Methodist pastors.

Why start a seminary?

First, to give glory to God in advancing his kingdom.

Second, to equip pastors. We feel a distinct call to provide a program that has a distinct culture, operating on seven very particular core values (which are found at www.thebibleseminary.org/tbs/index.php/en/about-us/core-values). Our program focuses on a comprehensive, three-year study of all 66 books of the Bible. We feel a commitment to connect students, faculty, and staff in a community of leaders. Paul Helbig, our church's teaching pastor, describes this as "eyeball-to-eyeball discipleship" with students. This is something that many schools are working on, but I think that starting from scratch, we will have some advantages in that endeavor.

Third, Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States, but it's the only megacity without a residential seminary program. There are about seven major seminaries or extension sites of seminaries — for example, Houston Graduate School of Theology and extension sites of Dallas Theological Seminary, Perkins School of Theology, and Fuller Theological Seminary — but there's not a single residential full-time seminary.

A great analogy for the reason we're starting the seminary is what we're calling "exponential kingdom math." A local church is "kingdom addition," because that's where souls are added to the kingdom. Church planting is "kingdom multiplication," because the number of souls added to the kingdom is multiplied when new churches are established. But a seminary is "exponential kingdom math," because in a seminary you're training pastors, church planters, and missionaries who will go out to plant and grow and add and multiply.

We covet the prayers of our peers and fellow harvesters.

To see a three-and-a-half minute video on the Bible Seminary's core values and "kingdom math," click here.

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Article from: Autumn 2011

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