The Baptist Theological Seminary is situated near the edge of the earliest residential establishments, Falls Estate, off M1 Road to Blantyre, about two and a half kilometres from the centre of Lilongwe Old Town. it is within walking distance of Falls Baptist church, a government primary school, a community centre which has a public library, a market, and depot for buses to and from other centres in Malawi.
Until 1994 the need by BACOMA for seminary level training was primarily met by sending students to Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In the same year BACOMA agreed to begin certificate level seminary training in the country. The establishment of BTSM using the Decentralized Theological Education (DTE) system was an effort to train the largest number of qualified applicants in the most economically efficient way available for the largest likelihood of ministry in Malawi. the first group entered seminary on 5 September 1994. the students travelled between their homes and seminary many times during the four years. In 1998 fifteen out of nineteen students graduated with a certificate in theology after four years of training. All but one student were from the rural areas. Although BACOMA was looking at a seminary to train pastors for both the rural and urban populations, it seemed the BMIM was focussing more on training rural pastors.
Seminary students’ spouses attended separate programmes from their husbands. the seminary training had been designed for men only, nonetheless there was need to train the spouses as well. It was later agreed to give some kind of training to the spouses. The result was a woman’s program that was coordinated by Marlyin Upton. The women attended four one-week seminars per year for four years.
In response to the request of a number of pastors who had studied outside Malawi at seminaries run with support from the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in America, a three-year course at post-secondary level was begun in September 1997. The first group of students to earn a diploma in theology which is validated by the University of Malawi, graduated in August 2000.
Since 1995 the Seminary has been working towards accreditation. As a member of the BTS, BTM’s Diploma programme is validated by the University of Malawi, and the certificate is awarded in conjunction with the Board for Theological Studies. The Seminary is also in the process of working towards the accreditation of all its programmes by ACTEA, a division of the Theological Education Commission of Evangelicals of Africa (TECEA).
It is to equip God-called men and women for Christian ministry by:
- Incorporating into their lives biblical principles for effective church leadership;
- Encouraging them towards personal spiritual growth with emphasis on relating the Bible to everyday living; and
- Helping them to recognize the role of the church as the salt and light in addressing community needs.
BTSM as a Community
First and foremost, BTSM is a Christian community endeavouring to put into practice the things learnt from Jesus Christ.
Second, the Seminary is also an academic community committed to serious study.
Third, study on campus is not just “preparation for ministry”, but ministry by which the students and staff offer themselves to Jesus Christ and minister in his name as growing persons.
And lastly, BTSM is also a witnessing community as ambassadors of Christ.
The Training and Making of Pastors
While the Seminary has been designed to provide pastoral training, it is not specifically a pastors’ school, but its task is to train “men and women called by God for ministry”. While we train for ministry, we are aware that it is the local congregation that calls someone to be a minister.