Our Purpose

Has God called you to serve his church?  Where will you seek preparation for the high call of ministry? Seminaries have much to offer, but we believe that local churches play the most important role in the training of ministers. What if the two worlds of the seminary and the church combined to offer an educational experience that is richer than either could offer by itself? What if seminaries partnered with local churches to enable pastoral training to take place primarily in the context of a local church, with the added benefit of credit hours to be applied toward a Master of Divinity degree? At Cornerstone Community Church, we have just such a program in place.

We offer the opportunity to participate in a one-year pastoral internship that runs from August to July of each year (with several breaks interspersed for holidays and during seminary J-terms).  Our goal is to train students in the development of knowledge, character, and skills required for service as church planters, pastors, and missionaries who will faithfully serve Christ and his church as we participate together in the fulfillment of Jesus’ Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).

Our Method

Interns are expected to attend a weekly two-hour meeting with the program director, Aaron O’Kelley, for theological discussions based on readings in various areas of biblical studies, systematic theology, and applied theology. They are also required to serve in the local church setting where they hold membership for a minimum of 150 hours throughout the year under the supervision of a pastor.  Cornerstone seeks to provide its own intern members occasional preaching, teaching, and small group leadership opportunities, and it is expected that other churches will do the same as opportunities arise.

Interns who desire will be able to receive up to eighteen hours of seminary credit through the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for participation in this one-year program. This includes three six-hour seminars focused on leadership, preaching, and outreach.  With a Southern Seminary extension center already located here in Jackson, this partnership is ideal for those who want to maximize credit hours while remaining here in West Tennessee. More information on the seminary's Ministry Apprenticeship Program is available at Southern Seminary's website:http://www.sbts.edu/map.
The current reading list for interns covers a range of topics, including biblical theology, preaching, apologetics, ecclesiology, missiology, and pressing theological issues. Some of the books on the reading list include The Doctrine of the Word of God by John Frame, Dominion and Dynasty by Stephen Dempster, Kingdom through Covenant by Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches by John Hammett, Christ-Centered Preachin by Brian Chapell, Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves, Center Church by Tim Keller, and many more.

Our Unique Benefits

What can you gain from a year with us that you might not be able to get from seminary alone? Consider the following:
1. An accelerated education schedule; students who receive all 18 credit hours of our program can also take advantage of the Southern extension center, online classes, and J-term classes on campus in Louisville to earn, at the high end, 36-42 hours of credit toward a Master of Divinity in one year!
2. Preaching opportunities in a real, congregational setting rather than in the artificial setting of a classroom.  This also includes helpful critique from pastors, the program director, and, whenever possible, ordinary church members;
3. Experience with day-to-day pastoral ministry;
4. A reading list that is more rigorous than most Master of Divinity programs;
5. Teaching opportunities in a local church;
6. Learning in a small-group, seminar format rather than in a large lecture hall;
7. Close friendships with fellow interns and with program leaders that will last a lifetime;
8. Personal connections that will aid in future ministry placement;
9. Financial assistance through scholarships that are available only to full-time seminary students who are residents of Tennessee through the Tennessee Baptist Convention and the Tennessee Baptist Foundation;
10. For those considering a future in church planting, the opportunity to receive significant financial support throughout the duration of the program through a special partnership with the North American Mission Board. 
Our Requirements
1. All interns must hold membership in a local church where they will be able to receive pastoral supervision for their internship responsibilities.  Interested candidates who are not in the Jackson, TN, area are welcome to join Cornerstone Community Church as members if they are accepted into the program. 
2. Male and female applicants are encouraged to apply. Because it is our conviction that only men are qualified to serve as pastors according to Scripture, our approach to training men and women will vary. However, we are eager to train any qualified candidates who are pursuing a future of service to the church.
3. Interns must commit to be present for all required meetings and to fulfill all of their responsibilities with excellence.
4. Interns must demonstrate strong moral character throughout the duration of the program.  
Applications may be submitted at the link below.  Cornerstone’s elders review all applications and conduct interviews before selecting candidates for admission.

Our Program Leaders

Aaron O’Kelley earned a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has served as director of the pastoral internship program since its inception in 2010. He serves as Director of Southern Seminary's Jackson extension and as a vocational pastor at Cornerstone Community Church.

Lee Tankersley earned a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has served as vocational pastor of Cornerstone Community Church since 1999.  

Internship Application Form

To fill out an application for our Internship program click here.

Need More Information?

If you have any questions that are not addressed here or need further information concerning our Internship program, please submit your questions or request for information here.