WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) – God called me into full-time Christian service on a mission trip in 1977. Our church in Forest Park, Ga., had commissioned a team to travel to Sells, Ariz., in partnership with our Home Mission Board (HMB), now the North American Mission Board (NAMB), to do Vacation Bible School, Backyard Bible Clubs, and a revival on the Indian Reservation of the Tohono O’odham Indians. It was on the Monday night revival service at the First Papago Baptist Church that I received and responded to that call to ministry.
Not sure what to do next, I returned home and sought the counsel of my pastor. He told me that I would be wise to attend seminary. I honestly responded, “What is a seminary?” Amazingly, and through no one’s fault but my own, I had no idea what a seminary was.
Further, I had no idea what the Southern Baptist Convention was, even though I had been attending a Southern Baptist Church since my birth. I had no idea that Southern Baptists owned, prayed for and supported six seminaries, a home mission board, a foreign mission board and many other entities on the state and national level. Finally, I had no idea what the Cooperative Program (CP) was. Needless to say, my knowledge of what Southern Baptists do together to train ministers and missionaries to reach North America and the nations with the Gospel was woefully inadequate. I had a lot to learn about the spiritual family I was a part of. A whole lot!
Gratefully, I have received a healthy education over the past 40-plus years. It has been an amazing and humbling revelation. Because of the theological convictions, missionary passion and generosity of Southern Baptists, I now know that Southern Baptists do an amazing amount of good across America and around the world as together we seek to obey our Lord’s final marching orders called “The Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Given that I am honored to serve our convention of churches as the president of one of our six seminaries, let me focus on two things specifically related to those schools that I know are taking place on those campuses, things made possible by our combined efforts in giving through the Cooperative Program.
- Faculties, whose salaries are funded through the Cooperative Program, stand unapologetically on the rock-solid foundation of the inerrancy, infallibility and sufficiency of the Word of God. They all affirm our statement of faith, The Baptist Faith and Message, and they promise to teach in accordance with and not contrary to, without mental reservation or hesitation, the articles of faith of our confession.
- Students who are Southern Baptist receive at a minimum a 50 percent tuition scholarship for their entire education made possible by the Cooperative Program. Today, our six seminaries are training more than 20,000 students. Southern Baptists, through the Cooperative Program, will provide more than $42 million this year to our six seminaries to train these “Navy Seals for Jesus” who will serve our 45,000 churches, plant churches in North America, and take the Gospel to unreached people groups around the world. These servants of our Savior will receive a world-class education and it will cost them far less than what comparable evangelical schools will charge. Most students who graduate from our six seminaries will do so debt free, and our combined efforts through the CP make this possible.
Southern Baptists are not a perfect people. We know we are sinful and deeply flawed. We need the Gospel and God’s grace to sustain us daily. However, we love our Lord, His Word, our family of churches and the nations. We have a job to do for King Jesus, and we will joyfully do it together until He returns.