Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College, expressed heart-felt love for the NOBTS family in his remarks at the seminary’s alumni luncheon, June 15 in Anaheim, and said he believed God’s hand is on the seminary.
“I’m so overwhelmed with God’s grace,” Dew said. “I’m completely in love with the NOBTS family.”
Dew told alumni he hoped they would see why he is excited about the seminary’s future and would see that the seminary remains faithful in its stewardship of its mission.
Marking three years as president, Dew recounted that his greatest fear when he stepped into the job was that no one would “join” him in his vision for the seminary. That fear was unfounded, Dew explained, and praised long-time faculty members for faithfully living out the principles now incorporated into the seminary’s mission statement of “preparing servants to walk with Christ, proclaim His truth, and fulfill His mission.”
Addressing long-time faculty, Dew said, “You have not only carried the baton thus far, you have actually shaped our future now as we have taken inventory of who you’ve been and what you’ve been and what you’ve done well.”
Dew then praised newer faculty members who have joined during his tenure for their commitment to the task entrusted to the seminary by Southern Baptists.
“I love our people. It gives me hope. It gives me confidence,” Dew said. “When I think about what God is doing here, I see favor. And I have hope in the middle of all the chaos, in middle of all the storms we have to navigate, I stand here today with hope.”
Dew acknowledged that institutes of theological education face only cultural “headwinds from this point forward,” but that Christ’s kingdom will stand.
“Come what may, Christ will be honored. His people will be strong,” Dew said. “And we’ll be faithful in our work.”
Dew told the alumni that while he appreciates their prayers for wisdom and protection, he urged them to pray differently for their alma mater’s leadership in the trials that are sure to come.
“I sense that God has his hand on our institution, so pray that we will be faithful,” dew said. “Pray that we will stand where Christ tells us to stand. Pray that we will love the way that He loved. Pray that we will utilize every single resource that God gives us … that through us the Kingdom will come. Pray that we will be good stewards of what God’s given us to steward.”
At the conclusion of his remarks, Dew recognized a retiring administrator and faculty member in a surprise presentation.
Steve Lemke, provost and chief academic officer for the seminary for 21 years, drew a standing ovation when called to the stage where Dew presented him a “Towel and Basin” plaque and thanked him for his years as a “faithful brother, servant and steward.” Lemke served 25 years as a professor of philosophy and ethics.
Dew turned to Lemke and said, “You have been a prince, a first-class gentleman, a faithful Christian and a dear friend to me.”
Chuck Kelley, president emeritus, came to the stage to publicly thank Lemke for his work and offered a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing. Kelley had selected Lemke as provost in his first year as president.
Three new faculty members were introduced during the dinner: Blake Newsom, director of the Caskey Center for Church Excellence; Greg Mathias, director of the Global Mission Center; and Greg Wilton, Dean of Leavell College.
Mark Tolbert, retiring as Caskey Center director, reminded alumni that the center’s purpose is to equip and encourage ministers serving in small-membership churches.
Since the Caskey Center’s founding eight years ago, 876 NOBTS and Leavell College students have received full-tuition scholarships. From Caskey students’ 56,000 gospel conversations, 6900 have come to faith in Christ.
Though retiring as director, Tolbert said his new role was that of “head cheerleader.” Tolbert urged alumni to remain willing “to go anywhere and to anything” for God’s kingdom.
Blake Newsom, who follows Tolbert as director, praised Tolbert for his leadership in the critical early years since Caskey Center’s founding, saying, “He ran his race well.”
Greg Mathias, director of the newly launched NOBTS Global Mission Center, said New Orleans’ many diverse people groups makes the city the right place for engaging the nations while receiving a theological education.
Mathias said his vision is to “normalize” going on mission and leading students to ask, “Why not me? Why not somewhere else?”
Greg Wilton, the new Dean of Leavell College, said he “credits” NOBTS for instilling God’s mission on his heart. Wilton grew up in New Orleans as his father Don Wilton, First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, South Carolina pastor, attended NOBTS.
Wilton follows Thomas Strong who was recently named vice president of spiritual formation and student services.
Wilton, a former IMB missionary, said students who prepare at NOBTS and Leavell College are prepared to take the gospel anywhere.“We’re up to the challenge,” Wilton told alumni. “So send us your students.”