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Graham School at SBTS marks 10th anniversary
October 18, 2004
By Jeff Robinson
Eleven years ago, R. Albert Mohler Jr. knew what one of his priorities must be as the newly-elected president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: the school needed to offer sound biblical training in the areas of evangelism and church growth.
One year after Mohler's inauguration as the seminary's ninth presidentóduring which he set forth his vision for a school of missions and evangelismóthe Billy Graham School of Evangelism, Missions and Church Growth held its first classes.
The Graham School began with 42 students and six professors. As the school marks its 10th anniversary, it boasts more than 700 students and some 1,000 graduates working in churches and on mission fields across the globe.
"I can think of no more opportune moment than this to imagine, what in the space of 10 short years, God has done through the Billy Graham School," Mohler said. "It is now a fixture. What a great blessing it is to see something move from a concept to an institution, to a fixture of evangelical conversation. This is the Lord's doing."
Mark Terry, professor of Christian missions and evangelism, was a member of the Graham School's founding faculty. At an Oct. 4 banquet marking a decade of service by the Graham School, Terry recalled the Graham School's early days.
"I can remember that first year when we got an applicant who contacted the department of admissions and asked for admission to the Billy Graham School, we'd rejoice," Terry said. "We were counting them one by one. Now they bring over stacks of folders with students applying for admission.
"We planted and we watered, but God gave the increase and the Billy Graham School has grown, I believe, because of a passion for missions and evangelism at home and around the world."
Graham School Dean Thom Rainer has witnessed the school's expansion to include numerous degree programs and continuous groundbreaking research. Mohler hired the Alabama pastor as the school's founding dean in early 1994. Rainer has written a number of books on biblical church growth including "The Unchurched Next Door" and "Surprising Insights from the Unchurched."
During the banquet, Rainer set forth five areas that are critical to the continued success and growth of the school:
* A commitment to teaching biblical church growth and to biblical theological education,
* Being viewed as the International Mission Board's showcase seminary.
* Developing innovative delivery systems for education and programs.
* Developing new constituencies.
* Shoring up evangelism within the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Rainer calls the growing work of the Graham School a "team effort."
"These last 10 years have been incredible," he said. "It is hard to believe that a little over 10 1/2 years ago I first set foot on this campus and began to organize a school that would become the Billy Graham School.
"There is no way that this dream that has been mine would have become a reality unless it had been the dream of so many other professors. From the onset, God has blessed us with men who have incredible gifts. These men who serve alongside me today, I am convinced, are the best that there is in Great Commission studies anywhere in the world. It has definitely been a team effort. Above all, I believe this has been to God's glory."