In the report below, I’d like to provide an overview of what God has been doing through Reformed Baptist Seminary with a special focus on the past year.
Students & Graduates
RBS began in May 2005 with nine students. Over the next few years the seminary experienced significant growth. In 2010 the enrollment peaked at nearly 70 students. But due to certain factors, enrollment decreased over the past year. Presently, our enrollment stands at 48 with at least two students in the application process. Though in some ways the decrease in enrollment is disappointing, in other ways it may be viewed positively. First, the increase in enrollment fees, which prompted some students to drop out, has served to sift out the less dedicated from the more dedicated students. As a result, those students who have remained in the program are, as a whole, completing more coursework per semester. Second, the decrease in enrollment is also due partly to the increase in students graduating. Since RBS’s inception, a total of 17 students have graduated and two students should graduate by the end of the summer bringing the total to 19. Of the 15, ten will have graduated within the last year. Those are “loses” for which we can be thankful.
Even more students have graduated from our "International" program. RBS conferred the Certificate of Theological Studies on 23 Dominican pastors and students in 2007 and another 23 Colombian pastors and students in 2010. In addition, La Academia Ministerial de la Gracia (Grace Ministerial Academy), which was founded by some of our Dominican graduates, took the Marrow curriculum, augmented it with some instruction in Greek and exegesis, and began offering a eight to nine-month intensive training program to select pastors and ministerial aspirants from various parts of Latin America. Students who complete the courses and requirements offered through AMG receive a Diploma of Theological Studies from RBS. Over the last three years (2009-2011), 51 students have graduated from the program.
Current Financial Status
The table below provides the current status of our income and expenses and compares this with our projected budget for fiscal 2011.
All in all, I believe RBS is in good financial health. Of the 48 students enrolled, 15 have yet to pay their enrollment fee for the fall semester. Of those 15, eight have assured us of their plans to pay and remain enrolled. And, as noted above, students are in the enrollment process and at least two others have indicated plans to apply soon. God willing, RBS should finish the fiscal year in the black.
RBS Website, Blog & Virtual Campus
This past spring, the seminary’s website got a much needed overhaul. The new website is powered by Squarespace and features a user-friendly content management system. The site was designed and built by Dr. Gonzales’ son, Robert III. Robert continues to help the seminary with website related issues and with administrating virtual campus. He did, however, accept a fulltime job with Bob Jones University in May, which has reduced his availability to serve RBS. As a result, the seminary overseers are pursuing more administrative assistance for Dr. Gonzales. The plan is to update the blog and virtual campus over the next year.
Theological Modules in the U.S.A.
In August of 2011, Grace Baptist Church in Taylors hosted a theological module on the Doctrine of Christ taught by Pastor Greg Nichols. Seven students attended the module as well as several auditors. In January, RBS partnered with Midwest Center for Theological Studies (MCTS) to offer a module on Polemics taught by Dr. James White. Three RBS students participated in the module either in person or through “live-streaming.” Due to unique providences, we had to cancel a summer module on the Doctrine of the Church.
In the coming year, Dr. Gonzales is scheduled to give 44 lectures on OT Introduction for MCTS, and Pastor Bob Selph along with three other lecturers (Tom Ascol, Gary Hendrix, Donny Martin) will teach a module on Pastoral Theology. Lord willing, the seminary will also offer at least one module in the summer of 2012.
The "Marrow of Theology" in Colombia
In February of this year, the seminary overseers agreed to appoint Pastor Robert Briggs as chairman of RBS International, a committee of pastor friends assigned with the task of processing requests, organizing modules, and raising funds for the Marrow of Theology program abroad. The overseers simultaneously approved a request from Guillermo Gomez to offer another round of the Marrow program in Bogota, Colombia. Pastor Francisco Orozco taught the first module in May on the Doctrine of the Word. In July Pastor Juan Jose Perez lectured to about 70 pastors and pastoral candidates on hermeneutics with a special emphasis on exegesis. He offered the following assessment at the end of his report:
Our impression: I believe that this trip was a blessing from God. Many times a man leaves with the idea that he’s going to teach others; but in reality he returns as the one having been taught. The love and hospitality of the brothers there was amazing. With respect to the module, the enthusiasm was notable. On some occasions the students studied until midnight. During the classes they were very attentive, and there was much discussion. I was gratified to see pastors break down a passage of Scripture and capture to see that—despite the difficulty of the exegetical method—they captured the passage’s primary sense and began to apply it.
The next module will address the Doctrine of God and will be taught by Dr. Sam Waldron the end of October. Pastor Briggs will be working with the other committee members on raising the needed funds for the remaining eleven modules.
Phrase II of the "Marrow of Theology"
RBS chose 2 Timothy 2:2 as the verse of Scripture that best epitomizes its vision: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” A careful reading of this verse reveals the idea of successive phases of teaching. What Timothy had learned from Paul he was responsible to pass on to faithful men. But that’s not where the mission ends. Once those faithful men are trained in sound doctrine, they must then become the teachers of others. And so the baton of theological education is passed on from one generation to another.
In the summer of 2007, I participated in the graduation of 23 Dominican pastors from a 26-credit version of the Marrow program. Several students graduated with honors, and three of those honor-students, Luis Arocha, Oskar Arocha Jr., and Juan Perez, have joined with Pastor Oscar Arocha to start La Academia Ministerial de la Gracia (Grace Ministerial Academy) as a ministry of Iglesia Bautista de Gracia (Grace Baptist Church) in Santiago, the Dominican Republic. These men have continued their seminary training through RBS, earning a Master of Theological Studies in 2010 and currently working towards a Master of Divinity degree. Moreover, they have taken what they learned through the Marrow of Theology program and are not only grounding the members of their church in sound doctrine but are passing it on to other faithful pastors and ministerial aspirants.
In particular, AMG carefully screens applicants from various parts of Latin America who express an interest in relocating to the DR in order to attend the academy and enroll in the Marrow program. Seven students successfully completed the program in 2009 and twelve in 2010. In June 2011, I was privileged to award eleven students the Diploma of Theological Studies and another eighteen students (men and women) the Certificate of Theological Studies. Some of the countries these students represent include Panama, Colombia, Equador, Peru, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. Those outside the DR have returned to their homelands where they are serving as pastors, pastoral assistants, seminary instructors, and gifted laymen. Praise the Lord!
Support the Effort to Prepare Gospel Laborers
We believe Christ has given local churches the stewardship not only to pray for and send out laborers into the gospel harvest. He's also charged them with the responsibility of equipping such laborers with the theological and ministerial training requisite for such ministry labors (2 Tim 2:2). RBS is a chuch-based ministerial academy that partners with local churches to provide sound theological training. Would you consider adding RBS to your giving or missions' budget for the coming year?
In addition to our regular distance-learning and stateside modular program, there are at least three "special" projects associated with RBS International that you could support.
(1) Round 2 of the "Marrow" program in Colombia
As noted above, RBS commenced a second round of the Marrow program in Bogota, Colombia. The cost for each module averages $3,000, which includes the rental of a conference center, transportation, food and lodging. The pastors and students in Colombia cover approximately 1/3 of the expense. RBS International is endeavoring to raise the funds to cover the remaining $2,000 per module. Grace Baptist Church of Papillion, Nebraska has donated $6,000 to cover the first three modules in 2011. If you'd like to support one or more of the remaining 11 modules, please contact the RBSI chairman, Pastor Robert Briggs (email@example.com)
(2) Round 4 of the "Marrow" through AMG in the Dominican Republic
The professors of AMG hope to train another batch of Latin American pastors and pastoral candidates in 2011-2012. Their need for external support is $27,000. The church in Papillion has already pledged $22,000. Another $2,000 has been pledged or received. That leaves them with the remaining need of $3,000.
They’re also making a special request on behalf of a pastor who’s been influential in Pentecostal circles and who frequently preaches on TV. Apparently, the Lord has been working in this man’s heart and with his doctrine. He and his wife have sold a small store, a car and have left all behind as they see the importance of him being better trained in the truth before continuing teaching others and speaking of the gospel in the media. The brother’s monthly budget with his family is $1,000 per month. Between his wife's salary and a monthly contribution from a donor they themselves have $600 covered. AMG is looking for donors to cover the other $400 per month. If you'd like to support the training efforts of our sister institution, AMG, you may contact Dr. Gonzales (firstname.lastname@example.org), Pastor Luis Arocha (email@example.com), or Pastor Lou Sloger (firstname.lastname@example.org).
(3) Advanced Training 2012 Summer Module in the Dominican Republic
The professors of AMG have requested ongoing modular instruction to enhance the training they've already received. September 6 through 9 RBS is offering the second part of a module on Church History. Funds have been received so that the entire set of Church History notes can be translated into Spanish.
AMG has also requested that Dr. Gonzales spend the summer of 2012 in the Dominican Republic providing advanced training in Old Testament studies for the professors of AMG as well as other pastors and students who are available lectures. The goal is twofold: First, Dr. Gonzales would provide the professors of AMG with advanced training thereby expanding their usefulness. Second, Dr. Gonzales would enroll in an intense study of Spanish, building on the Spanish he already knows and equipping himself for greater usefulness in Latin America.
Since his conversion, Dr. Gonzales has had a missionary burden for Latin America. He's spent a summer in Costa Rica and Mexico and taught several modules in the Dominican Republic and Colombia. He desires not only to continue promoting the cause of theological education in Latin America but also to teach biblical studies in Spanish. If you're interested in helping financially, you may contact Dr. Gonzales or his pastor Bob Selph (email@example.com).
Thank you for considering these needs. And thanks to all those churches and individuals who have supported RBS over the last several years. Our hope and prayer is that God may be pleased to cause our efforts to bear lasting fruit for the advance of his Kingdom.
Bob Gonzales, Dean
Reformed Baptist Seminary