Agriculture class creates synergy between SEBTS, Bayer

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For six weeks this semester, students at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary had the opportunity to add a class in agricultural principles for the developing world into the rotation of traditional Biblical theology and church history classes. 

As part of a new initiative, professionals from Bayer CropScience – an internationally recognized company – donated their time and knowledge to teach local believers and seminary students the basics of agriculture. The professionals offered knowledge about a variety of subjects so that members of local churches and students in Southeastern’s International Church Planting program could be trained and certified to work in developing countries around the world.

Herb Young, a marketing production manager at Bayer, first began to pursue the idea of agriculture classes at Southeastern after conversations with several students. As part of a small group at The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., Young realized there was a need among the seminary-student members of his group for training in “platform” vocations. The students, who would be well-equipped to share the gospel once on the ground in countries around the world, knew they would likely struggle to be allowed into their chosen countries without a solid reason.

After being approached by three separate students, asking for his expertise on the subject of agriculture, Young recognized the opening the Lord was giving him to make an impact among the nations. “It was a clear message that the Lord would like me to pursue this,” he said.

Young spoke with colleagues Phil Gibson, Nick Hammon, Paul Hewitt and Randy Myers and together they developed a syllabus and schedule for the six-week long class. They approached Scott Hildreth of Southeastern’s Center for Great Commission Studies about the idea of hosting the class at Southeastern’s campus. It would be specifically targeted for Southeastern’s ICP students but also open to interested parties of local churches.

“The students wanted further training to help them develop a platform as they go overseas,” Hildreth said. “Herb had experience in China helping some guys with agriculture there, helping them transition from teaching English as a Second Language to agricultural classes, so he thought he could help them with some kind of training that will give them a reason to be where they’ll live.”

The course was specifically designed to provide a non-seminary credential (certificate) from an internationally-recognized company that may help provide entry qualifications in some closed countries.  

After approaching Bayer with the concept of the class at Southeastern, the company sanctioned the training and decided to offer certification for each student that went through the training.

“Bayer has a strategic concern for the projected 9.2 billion global population estimates for 2050. In the next 40 years, food production is projected to need to increase by 70% in order to satisfy increased numbers and increased standards of living,” Young said. “Through seed technology and crop protection, Bayer has a strong conviction to be a part of the solution for this coming global dilemma.”

It is this concern for a global need for increased knowledge of crops and agriculture that led Bayer to support the Southeastern class, Young said.

“It’s a great synergy,” Hildreth said. “Southeastern has a need. We need someone to help further train our students in non-Biblical ways to help them contribute to society so they’ll be welcomed into other countries. Then, here are these guys who are believers but who work in secular environments who are excited to contribute to the work of the kingdom.”

Hewitt, who taught on soil fertility, said, “We are humbled to help in this very small way to contribute anything that might enable the spread of the gospel.”

Plans for future similar classes are already in the works. In addition to agricultural classes, Hildreth said they are also working on classes on developing a business platform and practicing rural medicine. Anything that might be used to enable students to the message of Christ is a possibility for a platform, Hildreth said.

“Take these ideas around the world and use it for the sake of the gospel,” he said.

Fr more information about the classes, contact Greg Mathias at the CGCS at [email protected].

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