By Cynthia A. Lovely
Have you ever attended a new event and experienced a certain mood or atmosphere as soon as you entered the location?
Visiting a Preview Day at the Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary is a prime example of this experience: a sense of peace, stability, and truth of Scripture surround you when you first step into the building.
Add to that the immediate welcome at the door by a kind student, along with a cheerful salutation and the warmth and friendliness of the staff during the registration process. This reflects the Southern Baptist background which carries over the sweet and gracious roots of southern hospitality, crossing over state borders and now evident in the Northeast campus in Schenectady, New York.
The Preview Day for the fall 2018 and spring 2019 semesters was held on April 18th, starting with registration and a short time for guests to mix and mingle. Visitors were invited to a chapel service to experience first- hand what a typical Wednesday at Seminary would be like. The service started at 11:00 AM with a warm welcome by Dr. Michael Haggard, the current Director. He explained how the Wednesday chapel services were the highlight of the week, often featuring special speakers.
The emphasis of the mid-week service is on sharing testimonies, which he proceeded to show by example, opening it up for students and faculty. Testimonies by a faculty member, Dr. McClain, and one of the students were both heartfelt and sincere. Haggard explained that the focus of the services and the heart of the seminary is for evangelism; training students to share the Word and their personal testimony within their own circles of influence.
Putting this principle into practice, there is a “Witness 1:7” program which challenges the students to share their faith with at least one person, every seven days. “Our students share their faith in small groups, coffee shops, shopping centers, on the street, at rescue missions, rest homes and at church. This requirement enables students to become comfortable with sharing their faith, anytime, anywhere,” said Haggard. The concept brings a faint echo from the Book of Acts where the apostles preached the Gospel to their world, “anytime, anywhere.” The Director is an example to the students, sharing his faith through volunteering at the Capital City Rescue Mission and Schenectady Mission.
Haggard introduced the special speaker, alumni of the school, John Mulligan, Pastor at neighboring Open Arms Church. Mulligan, a native New Yorker, gave his testimony and spoke about his hunger to learn more of the Bible. When he first became a Christian, he felt inadequate in scriptural knowledge. He researched several options to gain solid training which eventually brought him to Mid America Baptist Theological Seminary. Willing to make the sacrifice and commitment, he left his job in New York City and moved his family to upstate New York to further his Christian education. With the simple desire to learn and grow in his Christian walk, he graduated in 1993 and became the pastor at Open Arms Fellowship shortly after graduation.
“Open Arms Church was planted on our campus,” Haggard said. “The church used to meet on Sundays in our chapel. John became the pastor when the church was only two years old. Through the years, the church outgrew our chapel and ultimately purchased land, built a new sanctuary and moved down the street from the Northeast Branch. John’s training here played a key role in his success as pastor of the Open Arms Church.”
Mulligan’s presentation on Preview Day emphasized the importance of solid training in scripture to be accurate and effective in our witness. (I Tim 4:6-11) He used the example of a “spotter” in physical training to showcase the spiritual need of good mentors for “support, discipline and protection.” The inspiring message concluded with a break for lunch and fellowship.
The next session offered the chance to sit in on one of the classes. Dr. McClain taught New Testament Theology followed by a Question & Answer period with Dr. Haggard and concluding with a tour of the facility. During the Q&A session, there was some discussion about auditing classes. Haggard explained, “A person can audit any seminary course for $50.00 per course. A student does not have to purchase the books or take tests, but gains the benefit of seminary training.”
For those desiring to further their biblical knowledge and strengthen their witness, Mid America offers many options and an appealing level of flexibility, along with an exceptional, highly qualified faculty. The Master of Arts program is an excellent choice for anyone on church staff or in leadership positions such as an elder, deacon, or Bible teacher. Students enrolled at the Seminary may work towards a Master of Arts in Christian Education or Master of Arts in Theology. The Christian Education program trains students as a minister of education, youth or children, a church administrator, teacher, or administrator of a Christian school. This two year degree program is 60 semester hours.
The Master of Divinity degree is best for students desiring a Pastoral or Assistant Pastor position. The program is designed to train students as pastors, church leaders, missionaries, and in counseling and evangelism. This MDIV degree is 90 hours of coursework and enables a student to continue their studies for a Doctor of Ministry or Philosophy degree.
Regular classes at Mid-America run Tuesday through Thursday from 9:00 AM to 3:45 PM with night classes offered on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30 PM to 9:15 PM. Another flexible option: all the undergraduate and graduate programs are offered online. Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary is a wonderful educational facility in an excellent location in the Capital District. The seminary is located at 2810 Curry Road, Schenectady, New York, with easy access to I-890 and the tri-city area. The beautiful campus is set back from the road on spacious, well-kept grounds with ample room for parking.
One of the major benefits of the seminary is that students have the opportunity to further their Christian Education and remain in the same communities they live and serve in, while continuing their studies. Whether you are involved in church work, desire to pastor a new work, need more training in evangelism or simply want to audit a class to increase your knowledge of God’s Word, don’t hesitate to check out the website and contact their friendly and professional staff at 518-355-4000 for more information. (https://www.mabtsne.edu/)