New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College announced the appointment of Blake Newsom, senior pastor of Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama, as the next director of the Caskey Center for Church Excellence.
Newsom will begin the role as a co-director March 1 and will serve alongside Mark Tolbert, the current director, through the current academic year. Tolbert, who led the Center since its inception in 2014, will retire from his full-time role at the seminary in July. Tolbert will continue to teach on a limited basis as a ministry-based faculty member. See Tolbert’s retirement announcement here.
“Blake is a perfect fit for our campus for our students and especially for the Caskey program,” said Jamie Dew, president of NOBTS and Leavell College. “Blake has vast experience in pastoral ministries, churches of different kinds and shapes and he has a heart for pastors and helping to train them up.”
“He will be a tremendous asset both to our school and to those pastors, so I'm thrilled and excited to have him coming,” Dew said.
The Caskey Center launched in 2014 through an anonymous gift in honor of the late Rev. Steve Caskey, who pastored smaller membership churches in Louisiana. The center provides resources and training for pastors and ministry staff members bivocational and smaller membership church ministers through scholarships, conferences and research. One of the most notable way the Caskey Center helps pastors is through a full-tuition scholarship program for undergraduate and graduate students at NOBTS and Leavell College.
To qualify for the scholarship, students must be serving as a paid or bivocational pastor or staff member in a smaller membership church in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Particular preference is given to those serving as lead or senior pastor — full-time or bivocational.
The anonymous Caskey donor currently funds 275 full-tuition scholarships each year.
Evangelism has been a major thrust of the scholarship program. Students are required to engage in gospel conversations every week. Since the launch of the Caskey scholarship in 2014, students have shared the gospel more than 50,000 times, leading to more than 6,000 professions of faith.
Newsom, who has pastored Dauphin Way for the past five years, was elected to the NOBTS faculty in 2012 after completing his doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree at the school. Throughout his time at Dauphin Way, Newsom remained an NOBTS faculty member, teaching a limited number of courses per year.
Since his days in the doctoral program, Newsom has understood that training and encouraging pastors was part of his ministry calling. His desire to invest in other pastors grew during his five-year stint as the senior pastor at Dauphin Way.
“I feel like my job as I see it, is to be the champion for pastors,” Newsom said. “One of the things that has happened since I've been a Dauphin Way is that God just really developed and grew even more my desire to pour into pastors.”
Through his senior pastor role, Newsom poured into the other pastors on his staff and even ministered to several retired pastors in his congregation. Newsom sees this act of investing in pastors as a primary task for the Caskey Center.
“I see the Caskey Center as an opportunity to equip and encourage pastors,” Newsom said. “I think Dr. Tolbert has done an incredible job of beginning that work. My role is just to take the baton, to not drop it, and to move it forward to advance the cause as best I can.”
NOBTS Provost Norris Grubbs noted the Newsom’s pastoral disposition makes him a perfect fit to lead the Caskey Center.
“Blake has a pastor's heart, and he is going to excel in this role,” Grubbs said. “The Caskey Center has been such a blessing to pastors in our area, and we are excited about his leadership.”
Newsom commended Tolbert's tireless efforts to develop the Caskey Center and equip pastors.
“Dr. Tolbert was the right leader to launch the Caskey Center and to get it going,” Newsom said. “To see what he has done with it is pretty amazing.”
The focus on evangelism is another thing the excites Newsom about the Caskey Center. Newsom said the center creates a sense of accountability for students, reminding them to share their faith regularly.
“I want to encourage and equip pastors to share the gospel message not just to fulfill their pastoral obligation,” Newsom said. “This is not something that we do only after we finish our sermon for the week. It is a priority to go out and share the gospel with lost people.
Newsom believes that the church as a whole needs to recommit to intentional gospel outreach during this unique moment in history. He believes people are searching for meaning and answers.
“We're in this cultural moment, where I think everyone is looking for answers,” Newsom said. “People are scared and anxious, and we have the good news of the gospel. We've got the message of Jesus that changes lives. We have a message that provides peace, hope, love, and joy.”
Newsom said it is difficult to leave Dauphin Way, where he served a two-year interim before accepting the call as senior pastor. However, Newsom said he sensed God’s leading as soon as he was contacted by the seminary.Newsom and his wife Brooke have three children.