“To All the World” Begins Across the Street
Walking down this street was starting to make me feel extremely uncomfortable.
Here I was, new to Memphis, dropped off in an inner-city neighborhood that I had heard about on the news—and not in a positive way. People were looking at me like, “What are you doing here?”
Yet I suddenly felt a peace, a bullet-proof boldness that propelled me to walk right up to the nearest person, who happened to be a young woman in her early teens, hand her a Gospel tract, and ask, “Can I tell you about Jesus?”
Her answer was astonishing, “Who is Jesus?”
What?! You’ve got to be kidding. I’m in downtown Memphis, the buckle of the Bible belt, “a church on every corner,” and I’m talking to a person who’s never heard of Jesus? Yet she genuinely did not know—never heard of Him.
That’s when I realized, as a new Mid-America student doing my weekly practical missions project, you don’t have to cross the sea to find a mission field—though that’s urgently needed—you only need to cross the street. There are plenty of people right in our communities who have little or no knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Fifty years old and running, Mid-America’s practical missions program is one of the many distinctives which has set the school apart from its inception. None of the other six Southern Baptist seminaries have such a hands-on, every-student, every-semester program or requirement for their students to be involved in practical missions and evangelism.
Dr. John Charping, Chairman of the Missions Department and Associate Professor of Missions and Theology, says, “Mid-America is focused on equipping servant leaders. Everything is theory until it is put into practice. Mid-America’s practical missions programs provide the opportunity and accountability to build practical ministry skill sets by serving Christ’s interests in others [Philippians 2:19–21].”
Serving. It’s the heartbeat of the ministry, and Mid-America’s practical missions program embraces all seven of our core values:
Bible—Helps fulfills the Great Commission.
Missions—Reaches the unreached who are numerous in the Mid-South.
Evangelism—Equips students for one-on-one, personal soul-winning.
Discipleship—Begins with the Gospel presentation, but extends to making fully mature disciples of Christ. For students, it also closes the discipleship circle—equipping disciple-making disciples.
Community—Creates a strong sense of community among those who serve side-by-side in Gospel ministry.
Leadership—Equips students to lead churches and individuals in their ministries to make missions and evangelism a priority.
Service—Enlists participants in Gospel-centered service at every level: serving churches, serving the community, serving students, and serving God.
With more than 168,000 professions of faith witnessed by our students since our founding in 1972, Mid-America has seen an average of 65 salvations each week, 52 weeks a year, for 50 years. This astounding statistic is just the tip of the iceberg. More than 660,000 persons have been witnessed to by our students and hundreds of thousands of hours invested in preaching sermons and other ministry.
These numbers represent what God has done through our students while enrolled at Mid-America. Additionally, our thousands of alumni go out “to all the world for Jesus’ sake” with a lifelong passion for soul-winning, leading untold thousands more to Christ.
The benefits of the practical missions program are vast. Students get hands-on, real-world training and experience in personal evangelism. For some, it’s their first experience in presenting the Gospel. For all, it’s a contagious Gospel fever that impacts their ministry for a lifetime.
Serving the Community
Only God knows the eternal imprint that Mid-America’s practical missions program has had on the city of Memphis and the greater Mid-South area during the past 50 years. Seeds planted, lives changed, goodwill produced, families impacted—the ripple effects have made Memphis a different community now and for generations to come.
Serving the Church
Many of Mid-America’s practical missions ministries are conducted through local churches, but all efforts inure back to the church, where follow-up occurs—from baptism to on-going teaching and disciple-making. Our students often serve as leaders for individual churches’ own missions and evangelism programs, multiplying Mid-America’s influence and impact even more.
Practical missions infuse the very DNA of Mid-America, marking a passion ignited by our founder, Dr. B. Gray Allison, whose soul-winning exploits challenged generations. Fifty years later, Mid-America President Dr. Michael Spradlin and the faculty still carry the torch for personal evangelism. It’s one of the hallmarks of Mid-America that not only sets us apart, but provides evidence of God’s mighty hand on the school which steadfastly continues, in the words of our Alma Mater, to “Lift high the Cross, His love proclaim, Mid-America bear His name!”