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50-year-old cattleman goes back to school

EDITOR’S NOTE: To watch a video about Tim Stobaugh’s life as a cattleman and student, visit www.swbts.edu/stobaugh.

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Before the sun begins to peek over the horizon of his 800-acre farm, 50-year-old cattleman Tim Stobaugh climbs into his pickup truck and begins his hour-and-a-half drive south to attend classes at the College at Southwestern.

For a man who for 20 years rarely left rural Cooke County, located along the Texas-Oklahoma border, this early morning sacrifice reflects a commitment to the Lord’s call on his life.

The majority of Stobaugh’s life has focused on cattle.

“I was born on a dairy farm,” he said. “When I was 25 years old, I decided to put in my own dairy operation.”

After 20 years of milking cows and farming, Stobaugh sold his dairy business and made the transition to beef cattle. Currently, he farms 400 acres of land and raises about 90 cows.

Despite his success, one thing nagged at Stobaugh.

“All my life I’ve always accepted a challenge, but school was not one of them,” he said. “I was never what I considered a good student in my early years. But the older I got, the more I thought about what I might have missed by not going [to college].”

One day the education minister at Stobaugh’s church invited him to ride to Fort Worth to pick up some books at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s bookstore. Stobaugh’s curiosity prompted him to ask for a campus tour while they were there.

Initially interested in simply taking a few Old Testament classes, Stobaugh decided to pursue a certificate in biblical studies at Southwestern.

“I always had a desire to learn more about Old Testament studies,” he said. “Once I got into the classes, it was a great atmosphere that Southwestern provided. The professors that first semester were very considerate and compassionate…. I was actually older than most of the professors that I was studying under. They were just as considerate and compassionate to me as they were any of the others.”

After one semester, Stobaugh was hooked.

“I only went to get some Old Testament,” he said, “but once I completed that first semester, there was no doubt about it that I was going to come back the next semester and do it again. I wasn’t there for the grades. I wasn’t there for the credit hours. But the kind of teaching I was receiving — it became an addiction.”

Eventually, Stobaugh enrolled in the undergraduate program and began to pursue a bachelor of arts in humanities, which includes classes in the history, life and thought of Western civilization and culture alongside a biblical worldview. Seven semesters later, he continues to make up for lost time and soak up what he’s learning.

“What has helped me the most is what I learned in the Old Testament surveys and focus classes because they give me an ability now to open up the Old Testament anywhere at any time, and I know where I’m at,” Stobaugh said. “They have brought the Old Testament alive that was actually dead to me before. Now it’s just as alive as I am.”

Stobaugh’s classes also have taught him more about the character of God. One class required him to read “The Attributes of God” by A.W. Tozer, which answered many of his questions about God.

“I felt drawn closer to [God], because I felt I could understand Him better,” Stobaugh said. “If it hadn’t have been for Southwestern and jumping in that pickup and driving to Fort Worth … I don’t really know how I would be thinking. Now I have a different view.”

Not only has he benefitted from what he’s learning, but he also benefits others. In addition to counseling his family and answering their questions, Stobaugh finds himself contributing more to his Sunday School class.

“It’s just incredible the ones who have relied on me to answer their questions when, before, they would not have done that,” he said.

Stobaugh said his classes have strengthened his ability to critically analyze worldviews and truth claims, which gives him more boldness to engage people in conversation and transition into a Gospel presentation.

“That’s just all I think about much anymore … just another witnessing opportunity. That’s what God has called us to do.

“Through taking these classes, I have a desire … to be with people,” he said. “I’ve even made plans in my mind to make some type of a mission trip…. Before, I wouldn’t have wanted to go two counties away from where I live. But now, I’ve got some kind of desire to go halfway around the world. I think God used Southwestern as a tool to change my heart so that I can look at others differently than I did before.”

The heart change is preparing Stobaugh for future ministry.

“Wherever God leads me, I want to be ready,” he said. “If it’s another country, I want to have my passport ready.

“I hope I have the opportunity to go and do something in the mission field someday, but I want to make sure I’m ready. I want to be prepared for that. I don’t want anything holding me back. I don’t want 100 cows holding me back. If God says ‘Go,’ I don’t want to have to say ‘Well, I’ve got 100 cows holding me back, I can’t go. What am I going to do with all of this?’ I want to get in a position where I’m ready. Southwestern has helped me out a lot in that area.”

For now, Stobaugh’s time outside the classroom still consists of pulling calves, breeding cows, plowing fields and building fences.

“It’s not boring, I promise you. It’s never been boring around here. And that’s what I thought Southwestern was going to be, that I’d get bored stiff. In three and a half years, I haven’t yet.

“I’m not too old to learn, although I thought I might be,” Stobaugh said. “I’ve never read so much in my life. I’ve never studied so much in my life. But I’ve never gained so much out of something either.

“I don’t know how many thousands of dollars I’ve paid to Southwestern, but I can tell anyone at Southwestern that I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned for the money that I’ve given.”
Keith Collier writes for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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  • Keith Collier