New Orleans Seminary celebrates 75,682 student-initiated gospel conversations, 9,050 professions of faith


NEW ORLEANS -- As New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary marks the tenth anniversary of the Caskey Center for Church Excellence, the celebration centers on two astounding numbers—75,682 student-initiated gospel conversations and 9,050 professions of faith.

Blake Newsom, director of the Caskey Center, expressed astonishment at the number of gospel conversations during the past ten years. However, he is not surprised that people are responding to the gospel. When believers are faithful to share, God moves, he said.

The Caskey Center, launched in 2014, represents the dream of an anonymous donor family to see Louisiana churches re-engage in the task of evangelism. Named in memory of Steve Caskey, an evangelistic Louisiana pastor, the center provides resources and training for pastors and ministry staff members through scholarships, conferences and research. One of the most notable ways the center helps pastors is through a full-tuition scholarship program for undergraduate and graduate students at NOBTS and Leavell College.

The scholarship program has since expanded beyond Louisiana to include pastors and ministers in Alabama, Indiana, and Mississippi. To qualify for the scholarship, students must serve as paid or bi-vocational pastors or staff members in a church with an average attendance of 250 or less (Louisiana) or in churches with an average attendance of 150 or less (Alabama, Indiana, and Mississippi). Many of the 279 yearly scholarship recipients serve as lead or senior pastors.

Since the donors wanted evangelism to be a top priority of the program, consistent gospel witness became a requirement for recipients. To help students achieve consistency, Mark Tolbert, who served as the director of the Caskey Center from 2014 until 2022, required students to report at least one gospel conversation per week. Newsom, who became the director in 2022 when Tolbert retired, continued to emphasize the requirement.

“One of the most important things for someone learning to share the gospel and actually getting engaged in sharing is accountability,” Newsom said. “We provide accountability—which is a biblical concept—and it makes a difference.”

Newsom said that many students begin the program with fears about initiating a gospel conversation. Over time, the fears subside, and students start looking forward to sharing each week. By the end of their first semester, Newsom said many students begin reporting more than one gospel conversation each week.

“When students get past their fears and begin sharing, they get excited,” Newsom said. “As a result, the church members also get excited about sharing the gospel.”

Newsom added that evangelistic pastors who consistently talk about evangelism naturally inspire the churches they lead to become more evangelistic.

Newsom expressed his amazement at what God had accomplished through the dream of a donor family. Their desire to see renewed evangelistic enthusiasm led to the 75,682 gospel conversations.

As a result, 9,050 people (almost 12 percent of those who heard the gospel) trusted Christ for salvation.

Newsom also applauded the students for embracing evangelism and accountability. He remains hopeful that these Caskey students can inspire local churches to re-engage in the practice of consistent evangelism as well.