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New concentration equips students for urban ministry

The ORU Graduate Theology Department is approaching missions and ministry from a new angle. This semester marks the arrival of the urban ministries concentration under the Master of Arts Practical Theology program. The program is headed by Dr. James Barber and Dr. Raymond Smith.

“There was a young lady from the Bahamas who studied missions but was really disappointed because she had not had one class on urban ministry,” Smith said. “That is when I thought, sweet mother of Pearl, you have got to be kidding me.”

Dr. Thomson Matthew, dean of graduate theology,  is confident in those leading the new program.

“I am passionate about this because these teachers have passion and Dr. Smith and Barber have gifts that complement each other,” Matthew said.

Barber is an associate professor of practical theology; Smith serves as associate professor of missions.

“We wanted to revive an old course from about four years ago called Ministry in the Urban Setting and Dr. Barber and I wanted to team teach it,” Smith said.  “We prayed and realized it could spread like wild fire and wanted to teach another one.”

The pair wants students to understand that urban ministry, like ministry done overseas, is a form of mission work.

“Dr. Barber and I have long said that if you are not going to go to North Tulsa, why are you going to go to North Africa,” Smith said.

Joy Sakwe is the first and only student enrolled in the program.

“These professors hammer on the fact that we have to see beyond culture,” Sawke said. “Emphasis is placed on building relationships no matter where you find yourself and understanding that we are not out to force people to come to church but to show the love of God,” Sakwe said.

The concentration includes classes such as Communicating Christ in Urban & Global Contexts while still providing common seminary classes such as Intro to Pastoral Care.

“If you are thinking seriously about ministry in the 21st century, either take the degree or some courses because without some urban ministry knowledge and skills you will not be effective to the maximum,” Matthew said.

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