New England internship provides preaching opportunities for SBTS students

Communications Staff — May 6, 2009

Future pastors studying at conservative seminaries are taught how to rightly divide God’s Word. Courses on hermeneutics, exegesis, theology, church history and homiletics provide students with a wealth of knowledge and tools for years of faithful pastoral ministry.

But what this teaching cannot provide is the experience of stepping into a local church pulpit and proclaiming God’s Word. The goal of the New England Center for Expository Preaching (NECEP) is to give students just such an opportunity.

NECEP, which is based in Hampstead, N.H., offers internships to master of divinity students during the spring and fall semesters, as well as the summer. Each week interns preach in a different church in New England, preaching a unique sermon in each church.

David A. Ricard, director of the NECEP, said the program has two main aims: giving seminary students practical ministry experience and providing the pulpits of New England with sound expository preaching.

‘We are attempting to fill the gap, where a student gets an experience of where they are heading (preaching in a local church), while also filling pulpits in New England,” he said. “A week doesn’t go by where I don’t hear of a pastor who is leaving New England or leaving the ministry.’

Students from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary can earn their Applied Ministry credits through the internship. John Savage, Michael Nelson, Neil Jackson and Doug Smith are some of the Southern students who have done the internship in the past. Smith did his internship last fall and said the experience taught him the necessity of faithful expository preaching.

“I saw that church revitalization is just as important as church planting and that the churches in New England need men who will be faithful to God’s call – men who will boldly proclaim God’s Word, minister to the flock and band together around the Gospel,” Smith wrote in a letter on the NECEP website. “It (the internship) is a demanding, but worthwhile experience. It will show you the need for faithful men who will shine the Gospel light.”

In addition to preaching each week, interns work closely with an assigned local church, attending staff and elder meetings, and shadowing a pastor at funerals and during visitation.

‘We are trying to make this as much like being in a pastorate as we can, without the interns being in a pastorate,” Ricard said. “Everything is still under the control of a pastor; the students are being mentored for a semester.’

Ricard said interns also listen to 10-12 hours of expository sermons each week from men like John MacArthur and Mark Dever. Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and chairman of the board of trustees at Southern, and Don Whitney, senior associate dean of the School of Theology and associate professor of biblical spirituality, serve on the NECEP board of directors.

The summer of 2009 will mark the fourth year of the program’s existence. The members of the board of directors had been developing the idea of NECEP for two years leading up to the Shepherd’s Conference in 2006. There he met Southern President R. Albert Mohler Jr. and pitched the idea to him. A few weeks later Whitney gave Ricard a call and told him they wanted to send Savage as the program’s first intern in the summer of 2006. Savage now serves as a pastor in southern Rhode Island.

‘We are trying to open students’ eyes to the war that is going on in New England and to the reality that we need troops,” Ricard said. “The basic idea is get seminary interns, parachute them into New England, let them be itinerant preachers for four months and then send them back to the seminary. We then let God work on their hearts until graduation and see who God sends back after graduation. So far, about half of our interns have returned to do pastoral ministry somewhere in New England.’

For the first year the program was strictly an itinerant preaching program. Ricard has progressively added elements to make the program what it is today.

Interns preach in churches of several different denominations and non-denominational congregations. Students can do internships in the fall, spring or summer, though Ricard said students who come in the summer don’t get as much content out of the program. NECEP provides housing, a stipend and all audio/video materials for interns.

For more information on NECEP, visit, call 603-391-7580 or email

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