Grace Bible Theological Seminary
The following interview was conducted by Ryan Butler who travelled to Conway, Arkansas to observe and learn of the seminary’s purpose, doctrinal position and course availability. The interview was with Daniel Thursby, Jr. who is the Director of Administration.
Question: Please recount a brief history of how God providentially worked to bring about Grace Bible Theological Seminary.
Answer: About ten years ago, we started a three-hour class for young men who had a desire to enter into the ministry. We studied church history, systematic theology, the basics of expository preaching. At that time, I did not expect for the class to grow into a seminary. Yet, the Lord continued to send more young preachers to our church as well as men from other churches with a desire to be equipped for ministry. Though this growth the Lord provided the opportunity for us to offer additional classes and to host pastors and teachers as guest lecturers. This led us to develop degree programs and then the gift of a dedicated seminary facility in 2019. We never set out to start a seminary. The Lord just kept providing for the work that we were trying to be faithful too. This is still our mindset today.
Question: What is the relationship of GBTS to Grace Bible Church in Conway, AR?
Answer: GBTS is an organized ministry of Grace Bible Church in Conway. It is directly overseen by the pastors of the church. The relationship functions much like Spurgeon’s Pastors college did with the Metropolitan Tabernacle. The nature of the seminary being a ministry of our local church leads us to develop our courses of study in a way that is focused on local churches.
Question: What is the purpose of GBTS?
Answer: The mission of GBTS is to train the next generation of pastors, church planters and missionaries through doctrinal education and pastoral experience within the context of the local church. The seminary is not an end in and of itself but a means to the end of local church ministry. We want our work to contribute to faithful doctrinal preaching, church planting and missions in local churches. So, our seminary goals are aligned with local church ministries, not academic achievements. Though we do seek to instill thorough academic standards.
Question: What are your doctrinal and confessional distinctives?
Answer: The 2nd London Baptist Confession of 1689 serves as our confessional standard. However, we have fellowship and much in common with those from the broader reformed tradition and want to benefit from those who may not hold to the 1689 confession. A good example of this is when we hosted Dr. Joel Beeke to teach on the Puritans. He is not a Baptist, but we can and should learn much form him, especially on the topic of the Puritans.
Question: How does your understanding of the biblical priority and authority of Christ's local churches affect your educating and equipping men for ministry?
Question: Another way to ask this question is “What is the place or role of the seminary?” This is a crucial question and one that I’ll need to answer in some length. The Bible places priority on the local church in raising up its leaders. It is the local church who has the authority to appoint her own pastors and deacons, commission and send her missionaries and to establish sister churches through church planting. Paul commands Titus to appoint elders (pastors, overseers), in the churches throughout Crete. (Titus 1:5) Paul also instructs Timothy to take what he has learned from Paul and to entrust the doctrine to faithful men who will then teach it to other faithful men. (2 Timothy 2:2)
When I look at the landscape of modern theological education, one thing is clear. Churches, and pastors by extension, have outsourced the responsibility of pastoral training to the academy. In church history, seminaries were started by local churches or a local association of churches for the education and training of pastors. I say this not to be critical of traditional seminaries, the Lord continues to use many of them for the proclamation of Christian doctrine. However, there is a need for Churches to reclaim their responsibility. I am encouraged to see this reclamation happening in various ways. Our seminary is one form of this reclamation.
A question I often get is, “How is GBTS any different than the traditional model? Aren’t you trying to get churches to outsource training to GBTS?” We do not believe that we can make a pastor. The Lord calls a man to service in the ministry and the local church affirms him. The seminary’s role is to assist in equipping. The primary means of a student’s formation will happen in the life of the church as it does with all Christians. We have followed a model that enables students to stay committed to their local church and to continue to be mentored by their pastors. The formation a student receives from their church is built into the overall course of preparation. We do not view our role as subverting that of the local church but enabling local churches to keep their men who have a desire for the ministry and to raise them up within.
There is much more that could be set on this topic, but I’ll need to leave it at that.
Question: What courses of study are available?
Answer: Master of Theological Studies – 2-3 year program
Diploma of Theological Studies – Equivalent to the MTS but for students without a Bachelors Degree Master of Divinity – 4-5 Year program
Diploma of Divinity – Equivalent to the M.Div but for students without a Bachelors degree.
Question: Tell us about the format of your classes.
Answer: We offer weekly classes in the evenings that can be attended live or through video conference for our distance students. We also offer two intensive courses per year which take place over three or four days. For instance, this summer we will have a class on Biblical Counseling on July 9-11. All of the lectures will take place during those days and students will complete pre and post work for course credit.
Question: Do you offer any distance options?
Answer: Yes, all degree programs can be completed at a distance. Again, our goal is to keep students in their local churches.
Question: Are you accredited?
Answer: We are currently only affiliate members with the Association of Reformed Theological Seminaries. We intend on pursuing full accreditation with ARTS as soon as we meet the requirements.
Question: Tell us about your faculty.
Answer: All of our instructors are first and foremost Pastors. Their teaching ministry in the seminary is an extension of their pastoral ministry. This means that the classroom instruction is steeped in ministry to Christ’s church. We work with pastors locally and at a distance to teach our regular courses and invite well known Pastors and teachers for our intensive courses.
Some of our regular teaching faculty include: Dr. Jeffrey Johnson (Pastor of GBC Conway), Dr. John Snyder (Pastor Christ Church New Albany, MS), Keith Phillips (Worship Pastor, Bible Church of Little Rock)
Visiting Lecturers include: Dr. Tom Nettles, Keith Throop, Dr. Voddie Baucham, Greg Nichols, Dr. Joel Beeke, Dr. Bob Gonzales.
You can view our website for a full list of current instructors and visiting lecturers.
Question: Tell us about your facility.
Answer: God graciously provided a donated facility to us in 2019. The building houses our seminary and church offices, library, lecture hall, classroom and bookstore. Pictures can be seen on our website.
Question: What is the cost?
Answer: Currently our cost is $100/credit and $220 for semester fees which include Logos Bible Software. If a student’s church is willing to support him $100/course we will give an $100 discount per course. We are able to offer classes at an affordable price because of the generosity of donors and churches who support the work. Keeping our program affordable is one of our top priorities.
Question: The SGBF exists in part to promote fellowship between Sovereign Grace Baptist Churches, to assist these churches, to support missionaries, and to plant churches for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and the advancement of His kingdom. How can GBTS distinctly benefit the SGBF in these goals?
Answer: The goals of SGBF and GBTS are directly aligned. Multiple Reformed or Sovereign Grace Baptist churches are already affiliated with GBTS in some way. We love to support or partner with like-minded churches as the Lord provides the opportunity. Our definition of success is not based on the number of graduates we have but the quality of the ministries that our graduates have. Lord willing, we will be used as a tool in His hand to develop men who will have faithful ministries. This means that we will be able to connect faithful men to faithful churches. It is in this way that I see GBTS and SGBF distinctly benefitting one another. In the very near future we will be looking for faithful churches who need pastors, or who are looking to support missionaries and church planters.
Question: What is your physical address? Mailing address? Phone? and websight?
Daniel Thursby Jr
Director of Administration |Grace Bible Theological Seminary
Address: 1076 Harkrider St
Conway, Arkansas 72032