Introducing the Institute of Public Theology

Introducing the Institute of Public Theology

Founders Ministries recently announced the formation of the Institute of Public Theology (IOPT). The Institute is a Christian educational center that is committed to training men for pastoral ministry and public theology from an orthodox, confessional, baptistic perspective. IOPT will provide instruction in biblical exegesis, worldview analysis, theological thinking, practical ministry, and cultural engagement all based on an unapologetic commitment to the inerrancy, infallibility, and sufficiency of the Bible. Though the curriculum is designed for those engaged in or aspiring to pastoral ministry, it will be open to other serious Christians, as well.

I am pleased to announce that Drs. Tom Nettles, Voddie Baucham, and Jared Longshore will be joining me as the founding faculty of the Institute. Each of us are confessionally committed to the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith and we have all signed the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel. Though we will joyfully work together with those who do not “dot the i’s and cross the t’s” the way that we do confessionally, we can assure everyone that no one will teach in the Institute who is not clear on the dangers of the critical social justice movement and the ideologies that undergird it.

We have already enlisted several excellent adjunct faculty members including Drs. Mark Coppenger, Jim Orrick, and James Dolezal, as well as Pastors Travis Allen and Chad Vegas. These are all men of proven character and exceptional competencies. We hope to announce additional adjunct faculty in the near future.

For many years students and pastors have reached out to Founders asking us to consider starting a school for theological training. In fact, I have been involved in such conversations with pastors and theologians for more than three decades. I helped one seminary get started and have been associated with others as they launched. It was conversations like those that provided impetus for the launch of the Founders Online Study Center in 1983. By God’s grace we have provided theological training for nearly two thousand students over the years.

In recent years, church leaders and pastors have asked us if we could provide something more. These requests have increased as many evangelical churches and institutions have succumbed to prevailing cultural movements. These entities have failed to heed the warnings of Scripture, most notably, Colossians 2:8 where the Apostle Paul admonishes believers to “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirts of the world, and not according to Christ.”

The vain philosophies & ideologies that threaten Western Civilization and have infiltrated many churches must be identified and refuted. The ministry of God’s Word, especially as it reveals His Law and Gospel, must be faithfully executed by pastors and churches in order to protect God’s people and equip them for living well and making disciples for Christ in the world.

IOPT is committed to encouraging pastors and churches in this work. Through biblical exegesis, faithful exposition, courageous proclamation, worldview thinking, careful apologetics, and loving polemics, professors will provide opportunities for students to grow in these areas. 

The mission of IOPT is to provide excellent training that is designed for pastors and pastoral candidates that will prepare them for leading churches to stand firm in the evil day (Ephesians 6:13; 2 Timothy 3:1). This will be done through classroom instruction, strategic seminars, personal mentoring, pastoral collaboration, and cohort fellowship.

Students and participants will be challenged to understand and assess accurately the times in which we live in order to help God’s people faithfully proclaim and apply God’s Word in their spheres of responsibility and influence (1 Chronicles 12:32). This will necessarily involve an emphasis on public theology.

The Institute will carry out its mission by enlisting proven thinkers and practitioners of orthodox and confessional Christianity to teach, mentor, and engage with students and participants. These men will have proven character that has been tested over time and under pressure. They will not only be men of courage and faith, but men who have stayed true to their principles despite trials and hardships. In short, the men who will be trusted to teach in the Institute will be men who have blood mixed with their convictions. A core curriculum will provide instruction in exegesis, theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, and pastoral ministry.

Courses will be taught with a view to helping students learn how to see the relevance of Scripture to both the private and public lives of people. Evangelism, missions and apologetics will be kept in view as all subjects are taught.

Courses will be taught primarily in a modular fashion with a professor joining students for one- and two-week intensives in Cape Coral, Florida. In addition to these in-person courses (which will also be recorded and delivered virtually) special events like debates, colloquiums, seminars, and conferences will be held to challenge students to engage personally and rigorously with contrasting and competing ideas that are current in the Christian and unbelieving worlds.

A master website loaded with materials produced by our faculty as well as other trusted teachers will provide the hub for facilitating student participation in the IOPT program. More than thirty years’ worth of digital content produced by Founders Ministries will also be made available to students.

Student cohorts will be encouraged to proceed through the training program together. This will involve at least two annual visits to the campus in Cape Coral for classes, special events, and to have personal engagement with professors, pastors, and Christian thought leaders. Students who are not prepared to enlist in the whole program will be allowed to take individual classes based on availability.

God has directed our steps in the planning and announcement of this new endeavor. By His grace, we are poised to offer something new and significant to assist faithful men and churches to provide training for pastors and ministerial candidates for the challenging and opportune days of the 21st century.

Under the blessing of God, we hope to help meet a great need for pastoral and worldview training in our day. Please pray for an outpouring of His grace and strength as we zealously work in the fields where He has placed us.

For more information on the Institute of Public Theology and to be kept informed of the opening of enrollment and class schedules visit the web site and sign up for email updates.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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