Tuesday, September 9, 2014

GPTS Launches Streamlined New Web Site

Greenville Seminary is pleased to announce the launch of a completely redesigned web site after many months of design, review, and technical implementation by our talented web team.

The new web site maintains our long-standing web address at gpts.edu, but sports a fresh, clean look reflecting both our institution's "old school" philosophy and our vision for the future. The site has been streamlined and simplified, making navigation more intuitive and user-friendly.

The seminary owes a deep debt of gratitude to our web technician Christopher Campbell, a distance-learning student in Platte City, Missouri, who works professionally in this field. Mr. Campbell skillfully activated static designs created by our innovative graphic artist Rob Dykes, a graduate of GPTS now ministering in Wales. The project was supervised by Development Director Garry Moes, and reviewed by other staff and faculty members.

"I am excited ... and I hope people enjoy it," said Mr. Campbell on the eve of the launch. "This is by far the largest web design project I have ever done. It was both challenging and rewarding, especially rewarding knowing that it is for the building up of God's Kingdom through a seminary I have come to love."

The site is designed to meet the needs of students, prospective students, faculty, supporters, churches and members of the public wishing to take advantage of a wide variety of on-site and off-site resources, such as our unique Church Directory for Travelers, a guide to like-minded churches in North America and globally. Also available are such special resources as President Joseph A. Pipa, Jr.'s Westminster Standards Reading Calendar and the Faculty Statement on Creation. In addition, the site maintains opportunities for online admission applications; online donations; viewing/downloading our Academic Catalog; accessing audio/video resources; registering for classes, conferences and special events; viewing faculty biographies and course descriptions; reading the Reformed Confessions; even shopping in ways that support the seminary financially, and much more.

The Home Page is cleverly rendered in two parts: the top half featuring a menu bar and rotating banner where special events will be advertised; the bottom About section introducing the seminary, providing Quick Links to key pages on the site, and including a video describing the seminary and its mission. A "site map" is included to serve as an overall table of contents. The site also includes a secure, password-protected special area for enrolled students to access course materials, class lecture recordings, library resources, and other student-only content.

We invite you to explore the new web site thoroughly and let us know what you think. One of our beloved supporters in Sweden, Joanne Holm, has done so, and tells us she likes what she sees: "Your new website, I've spent some time going through the pages. It's fresh and clean-looking, easy to navigate. I like the open spaces — no cramming. About websites these days, the fad of using light grey text is, for me, irritating. It's difficult reading for old eyes. But happily, you've retained a black text — so nice on a light green background too. And cleverly, the headings, though light-coloured, are in extra large text. It's an attractive site, comfortable reading. Also, so glad you keep both the Conferences and Audio Sermons — golden nuggets of learning — and of course, the Podcasts. Kudos to Greenville Seminary!"

Here is a sampling of pages:

Preaching at the Park

Steve Cliff (see arrow) preaching at Falls Park on the Reedy River in Greenville

GPTS Divinity students are given many opportunities — in classes, in chapel, in churches — to get practical experience in preaching. Two current students named Steve (and a handful of fellow students) are finding other creative ways — through "open air" preaching and outdoor evangelism.

Visit beautiful downtown Greenville's Falls Park on any given night, and you might encounter Steve Cliff, a GPTS student from New Zealand, presenting the gospel to park visitors. You won't find many other street preachers expounding on the Westminster Standards, but Steve is often heard challenging passers-by with doctrines from the Confession or asking and answering the Shorter Catechism's famous first question, "What is the chief end of man?"

You'll also find Steve McCullough, a student from Jonesboro, Ga., preaching or evangelizing in one-on-one discussions with downtown visitors. Mr. McCullough has sought out street evangelism training opportunities such as offered by Pendleton Street Baptist Church, a Reformed downtown church which annually does outreach during Greenville's Fall Festival. Outdoor evangelism is a particular passion, and he looks for opportunities to put it into action on the street, in the park or on college campuses. "Steve M. is out open airing downtown every Friday lunchtime with GPTS alumni and pastor of Greenville Presbyterian Church Rob McCurley," says Mr. Cliff. "Steve M. is also consistently out on a Friday night open airing with us as well."

Laura Cliff, Steve Cliff's American wife ("our manager"), along with GPTS students Michael Spangler and Caleb Nelson also frequently join the Steves in outdoor outreach. Michael, who also teaches part-time at GPTS, preaches to the crowds; while Caleb, a recent M.A. grad now pursuing his M.Div. degree, engages people one-on-one. Other students joining them have been Tim Marinelli of Virginia; Canadian student Adam Harris; former prison inmate Lowell Ivey; Tim Rice, a recent student who also engages in outdoor evangelism in his nearby hometown of Anderson, S.C.; and a foreign refugee student (name withheld).

Steve and Laura Cliff
Mr. and Mrs. Cliff spent five years "open airing" in New Zealand and a year doing so in the United States, traveling around various states and towns. Mr. Cliff says that after he and Mr. McCullough recently preached on the University of Georgia campus, they began to set up to continue on the streets of U of G's rather liberal hometown, Athens, Ga., but encountered immediate hostility from some locals who objected to public expression of religion, even before a word was spoken. He says they have not encountered a similar degree of hostility in Greenville, although there have been challenges.

"We set up a dual mike system and encourage a Q&A session with anyone at Falls Park to facilitate discussion of world views, theological questions etc. every week. We usually have skeptics, atheists, and agnostics ask questions. One couple recently, among others, we've started to counsel on the basics of Reformed Theology," Mr. Cliff says.

Mr. and Mrs. Cliff, Mr. Nelson and Mr. McCullough have also "open aired" and engaged with people at the Greenville Women's Center abortion clinic.

"The streets are a great training ground where we can practically apply what we are being taught at GPTS, that the Word is be rightly divided and proclaimed," Mr. Cliff says.

Pray that these outreach efforts would find fruitful soil in the hearts of residents of our own Bible Belt community whose familiarity with Christianity may sometimes breed complacency concerning the vitals of the faith.

Steve Cliff (left), Laura (center) and Steve McCullough (right)

Steve McCullough preaching at a university campus

Michael Spangler

Financial Report for August 2014

The tables below indicate our financial situation as of the end of August 2014. Giving by individuals and churches, the backbone of our financial well-being, was unexpectedly thin during the summer months, including August. Boosted by a recent rate increase and growing enrollment, tuition income helped fill the gap to some extent as we began a new semester in late August.

Unrestricted general fund donations during August of $35,773 from churches and individuals were $28,086 below the $63,859 August budget for these types of contributions. Expenses of $98,548 were $8,199 above the $90,349 budgeted for expenses. In addition to the unrestricted donations, $7,885 was given in August for scholarships, $6,815 of which was designated for foreign students.

fundraising ideas for schools, churches, and youth sports teams
Graph shows donation income vs. budget for August 2014

Donation Income (unrestricted)
Other Income
Total Income
Net Income
Donation Income
Other Income
Total Income
Net Income

Capital Campaign Goal*
Long-term Pledges Outstanding
Total Received and Pledged
Outstanding Obligations
Monthly Interest Payment
Remaining Mortgage


If you would like to make a convenient online donation to Greenville Seminary, click the "Donate" button above. Gifts may also be mailed to: Greenville Seminary, PO Box 690, Taylors SC 29687.

Remember, gifts to GPTS are tax-deductible and may include cash, securities, property or a variety of planned giving instruments. See here for information about planning your last will and testament with the Kingdom of God in mind.

Whether or not you can contribute financially, here is another way you can help the seminary: Spread the Word! Do you know someone that would be interested in learning more about our organization or supporting us? If so, share a link to this newsletter. (Click the tiny "M" e-mail icon at the bottom of this post.) Thank you for your continued support for Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Tuition Waiver Program: Boon (and Bane?)

One of the unique opportunities offered by Greenville Seminary is our tuition-waiver program. The program was established by the Board of Trustees many years ago to address the financial burden which a graduate-level education poses for many men called to the ministry.

This virtual scholarship program has been a blessing for many students who otherwise could not afford to obtain a theological education. But a recent upsurge in the number of tuition-waiver students is placing a financial burden on the seminary's bottom line. With the Fall 2014 semester, 30 students are attending under the tuition-waiver program. That's about 40 per cent of our current enrollment.

As our Academic Catalog and web site explain, "At Greenville Seminary, it has always been our belief that students called by God to minister in His vineyard should not have to enter that calling with a mountain of debt created in the pursuit of their preparatory studies."

That philosophy has resulted in two long-standing policies: 1) tuition rates that are considerably lower than those at comparable seminaries, and 2) the special tuition-waiver program.

“God established a Biblical pattern for the support of those who minister in His name. We see that principle demonstrated in the pattern of support for the Levites by the Israelites. This principle encourages the Seminary to ask that the churches and/or presbyteries that endorse men for the Gospel ministry support their candidates financially. In the light of this biblical principle and in order to foster a closer working relationship among the students, the sending bodies, and the Seminary, the Board of Trustees has determined that a student under care of a presbytery or session of the PCA, OPC, or any other approved denomination may have a full tuition waiver…,” the policy states.

Under the tuition-waiver program, tuition is waived for students whose sending churches or church bodies agree to support the seminary at full tuition level or at certain specified levels based on membership rolls — for example, $15 per year per communicant member ($750/year minimum) for a sending church; and $1.50 per communicant member ($1,500/year minimum) for a sending presbytery. Full tuition costs, however, are more than $5,000 per year.

The amount provided by the sending church or presbytery usually does not rise to the level of full tuition, especially if the church or presbytery membership rolls are small and the sending body pays the minimum requirement. If a church pays only part of that requirement, the student is expected to make up the difference. But in most cases, even the combined church and student contributions do not reach full tuition levels.

When the number of tuition-waiver students was small, the seminary could usually absorb the loss through general fund donations from individuals or other churches. Now, however, the number has grown so large that the loss of tuition income is substantial, while donations have not grown proportionately.

We therefore are reviewing the required church support levels, and in the meantime, we must make this special appeal to our faithful supporters to consider helping us bridge the chasm which the waiver program is now causing.

Even if all students paid full tuition, tuition would come nowhere near meeting our financial needs. Last fiscal year, tuition provided $149,579 (short of the budgeted $169,998). The cost of operating the seminary during FY 2013-14 was $1.1 million. Non-earmarked general fund donations of $759,754 provided the bulk of the difference. Thus it can be seen that contributions by God's people covered more than 69 per cent of our operating income, a remarkable fact for such a small institution!

One other feature of the program which helps us reduce costs is a work/study component, whereby students enrolled under this program are required to contribute a certain number of hours to supplement the seminary's staffing needs. Students have been gracious in providing these hours, understanding the concept that benefits should be earned to the extent possible. They understand this is not a welfare program.

Will you search your heart and seek the Lord's guidance to determine whether you can be a part of this unique form of financial aid to our scholars? May God bless your generosity.

Discourses from Mount Olive

As he was drawing near — already on the way down the Mount of Olives — the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen.... (Luke 19:37)

The Mount Olive Tape Library, Inc. was formed in 1969 in Mississippi under the oversight of the late George M. Calhoun, a rural postal carrier and Presbyterian elder. Thirsting for a deeper knowledge of the Reformed faith and desiring to pass that on to others, Mr. Calhoun eventually collected and recorded audio of nearly 10,000 sermons and lectures, including those of such luminaries as Dr. D. Martin Lloyd-Jones. These were made available for rent via cassette tape for a minimal fee, and through this tape ministry, thousands of individuals were given access to materials that would normally have been beyond their reach. Soon after the death of Mr. Calhoun in 2001, an effort was made to begin digitizing the content of the library in order to expand the reach of the ministry.

To date, over 4,600 audio files have been digitized and posted online. The postings of the library have consistently averaged around 20,000 downloads per month and are being accessed across the globe by pastors and laymen alike, many of them having no access to similar lecture materials and sermons in their own countries and language. Speakers featured in the collection, among many others, include: Cornelius Van Til, John Murray, Leon Morris, O. Palmer Robertson, C. Gregg Singer, Morton H. Smith, and Walter Chantry. The library covers a wide range of topics in biblical studies, church history, apologetics, and ethics.

In 2006, the stewardship of the library was given to Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the Smith-Singer Library, which currently maintains the postings on SermonAudio.com, archives the master tapes, and collects and digitizes additional material as funds are available. The postings of the Mt. Olive Tape Library, as well as many recordings from GPTS chapel services and special events, are available free of charge through our website and SermonAudio.com. It is our prayer that these materials will continue to provide rich spiritual nourishment for years to come.

If you have benefited from this audio ministry, please consider how you can help expand its outreach. There are several ways to do this:

First, you can encourage your friends to use the GPTS & Mt Olive Tape Library postings for their own personal edification. They can easily find sermons and lectures to listen to while exercising, traveling, or even while cleaning the house or crocheting a blanket.

Second, if your church has hosted and recorded (or will be hosting and recording) conferences and/or special speakers, please encourage your session to consider sending copies of the master recordings to GPTS so that the body of Christ around the world can benefit from them. We are interested in a broad range of materials (biblical exposition, topics related to family life, church history, worldview issues, etc.). We would especially like to obtain recordings of Dr. Pipa or any of the GPTS faculty that have spoken at your church. Once we have received a quality copy of a master CD or cassette, we will convert it to MP3 format and upload it to SermonAudio.

Third, if your church has considered posting audio to the web, please consider using www.SermonAudio.com, our partner in this audio minstry. If you decide to use their services and you mention that you were referred to them by GPTS, the seminary will receive coupons that can be used to feature GPTS and the audio contained in the GPTS Mt Olive Tape Library collection on the SermonAudio main page.

Fourth, you or your church may want to support the audio ministry of the seminary directly. If so, you can use the donation button on this page (coming soon) or send funds directly to the seminary to be applied to our audio ministry. Please include these matters in your prayers and discuss them with your session. This is an opportunity to partner with us in a far-reaching, truly worldwide, part of our ministry.

Derek Thomas on Pastoral Calling

Dr. Thomas speaking at the GPTS 2014 Spring Theology Conference
Dr. Derek Thomas, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia S.C. and an occasional speaker at Greenville Seminary events, says it's not the job of seminaries to sort out who is called to the ministry, but such callings should be verified and affirmed by the church before a man enters ministerial training. Greenville Seminary wholeheartedly agrees.

The comments came in an interview with Dr. Thomas in the August 2014 issue of Tabletalk, the devotional magazine of Ligonier Ministries. In the interview, he also discussed some pitfalls for young pastors. Here is an excerpt:

TT: What is the greatest temptation that young pastors face in gospel ministry, and how can they stand against it?

DT: To think too highly of themselves. The ministry is a place of enormous temptation to pride. It doesn’t make any difference as to the style of church (historic or hipster-urban church plant)—young ministers often stand in a place where words and opinions sway the hearts and affections of people. This can make the most stable person giddy. Paul knew this issue when he warned Timothy about elders: “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6). How can one avoid issues of spiritual pride in a culture of entitlement? I am tempted to say, “Marry a girl who loves you enough to be honest enough to tell you what you need to hear,” but if current Facebook entries by pastors’ wives are to be believed, this may not be the solution. But accountability is paramount—whether with a good friend, or something more formally established with or by the session.

TT: If a man told you that he feels called to ministry and he asked you how he should pursue this calling, what would you tell him? 

DT: I find today that many young men feel called to “ministry” but not to a traditional view of a “minister.” This issue needs to be addressed carefully. Assuming the call is to preaching and pastoring, I would tell him that the subjective call is one thing and the objective another. He needs to go to the church with this sense of call. Depending upon the ecclesiology, he should go to the pastor(s), who in turn will ensure that the elders endorse this call. There is a view that the seminary will sort out candidates and reveal who is and who is not called. This is a false belief. Usually, I tell a young man to find an opportunity to speak (a Bible study, perhaps) and then ask him to record it and evaluate it so that we can talk about it later.

Pray with Us

"Our prayer must not be self-centered. It must arise not only because we feel our own need as a burden we must lay upon God, but also because we are so bound up in love for our fellow men that we feel their need as acutely as our own. To make intercession for men is the most powerful and practical way in which we can express our love for them." — John Calvin 

  • Pray for GPTS student and resident information technology specialist Bill Hill, who is experiencing debilitating back pain and meeting resistance from his insurance provider to receive necessary diagnostic tests.
  • Pray that new Office Manager Doug Watson and his wife will be able to sell their house in Pennsylvania quickly and complete their move to South Carolina.
  • Ask God for the presence of His Spirit in all the instruction and learning at GPTS this Fall semester, that professors and students alike would be faithful and steadfast in their commitment to the truth of God's Word.
  • Pray that God will abundantly supply the seminary's financial needs and bless and prosper all those who may be led to give in support of this work in God's Kingdom.
  • Ask God to bless, enrich and refresh Dr. Pipa during his teaching sabbatical.
  • Continue to pray for completion of the final steps for the wife and children of one of our foreign students, who escaped persecution in their native land, to embark on their journey to the United States.
  • Please persist in prayer for Betty McGoldrick, wife of Professor James McGoldrick, as she continues to deal with her pain and disabilities.

GPTS Memorabilia

Coffee lovers: Forget about that Starbucks insulated mug. (Liberal Starbucks may not be the best enterprise to commemorate.) Buy and carry a GPTS mug instead!

Visit our online Gift Shop for GPTS-logo insulated travel or ceramic mugs, golf shirts and sweatshirts. Net proceeds help support the seminary's mission.

Above: Ceramic coffee mug - $8
Left: Insulated GPTS logo travel mug - $12
Below left: GPTS embroidered sweatshirt - $28
Below: GPTS logo golf shirt - $21
(prices include shipping)