MBTS, Spurgeon College students evangelize during Mardi Gras in NOLA; Greenways share at SWBTS about ‘divinely ordained’ courtship, marriage.
MBTS and Spurgeon College students evangelize during Mardi Gras in NOLA
By John L. Inman, III
NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Thirteen students from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) descended into New Orleans’ Mardi Gras festival Feb. 20-23 to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Since 2014, MBTS professor of evangelism Thomas Johnston has taken students from MBTS and Spurgeon College to New Orleans during the annual event. He explained that students are placed into the heat of spiritual battle, proclaiming the good news of the gospel during an event known for its debauchery. The goal of the trip is to confront the lost with the Gospel message.
This year, the students handed out 4,775 Gospel tracts and 1,100 follow-up wristbands. They engaged in 238 Gospel conversations and saw 18 festival-goers repent of their sins and believe in the saving truth of Christ’s salvation.
Johnston said preparation is key when dealing with the mental, emotional and spiritual battle the students encounter. Not going it alone is a primary strategy Johnston picked up from David Cobb, a local who has been sharing the gospel in New Orleans for over 35 years.
“It is important to have a wingman,” Johnston said, “so you are not doing it alone. Built into the trip is the requirement that everyone needs to have a wingman. This means you have to build a spiritual bond with somebody else. You meet with them, pray with them, pray about spiritual needs before you go down there.
“You talk about spiritual things; you talk about life, and you talk about sharing the Gospel. You ask each other how life is going, how well you are loving your family, are there any spiritual needs or issues which need to be worked through? We want to be very guarded with the people going down there because the evil hits hard. The sexual promiscuity is so thick that we need to be guarded from that.”
For accountability, the five students from MBTS’ main campus met several times for breakfast before the trip, while eight online students met with Johnston via video conferencing.
Erick McDonald and Josh Storey became acquainted while taking online classes. Both men are emergency room physicians — McDonald in Florence, Ala., and Storey in Bellevue, Neb. — which helped forge a bond. They have become so connected during their studies that they now take their family vacations together and have undergone the process preparing their families for deployment to East Africa as career missionaries with the International Mission Board. Naturally, McDonald and Storey were wingmen for the New Orleans evangelism trip.
McDonald said the trip went really well and that “God really showed out,” working in even greater ways than they were praying for. He added that his relationship with Storey is quite providential, as their skillsets complemented one another in New Orleans.
“It seemed when I was at a loss, Josh (with the work of the Spirit) picked up right where I left off and vice-versa,” McDonald said. “It was quite fun to be a part of. I think it made both of us really excited for what God will do over the long term in Africa.”
Describing the trip as something like an “evangelism boot camp,” McDonald added: “We were left with great friendships through Christ, a great deal of experience sharing the gospel through different techniques and opportunities, and a spiritual high that can only come from God.”
Once in New Orleans, the group encountered extreme resistance to their message. They were asked common questions about the seriousness of sin, of people being judged by believers, of God’s forgiveness, about Jesus’ love for them (or if Jesus loves/hates those who are gay), of why God allows bad things to happen, and what proof there is of God’s existence.
“Everyone is a theologian on the streets,” said Harper Roderick, an MBTS Accelerate student. “We were on Bourbon Street every night from 6 p.m. to midnight, and you are trying to tell people about the good news of the Gospel, about how they can be reconciled to God through what Jesus has done on the cross, and about the hope of the resurrection, and they wanted nothing to do with it. Instead, they come to you with a weird universalist theology and try to explain to you why you don’t know anything, and why the gospel isn’t true.”
Roderick said the New Orleans evangelism trip was unlike any mission or evangelism trip he had taken part in because of the extreme rejection and opposition they faced. He admitted feeling discouraged after the first day, but said he was encouraged by reading 1 Corinthians 1-2, where the apostle Paul detailed the opposition he faced in Corinth. The passage speaks of how the Gospel is foolishness to the world, which struck Roderick as he too proclaimed the Gospel to those who saw it as foolish. Finally, the encouragement of Johnston stuck out to him during the trip as well.
“It was such a cool experience,” Roderick said. “Dr. Johnston loved on us so well. He was constantly encouraging us, praying for us while some of us were getting discouraged by the environment and the sin around us. He always had a smile on his face, telling people Jesus loved them and they could be reconciled to God through Christ.
“Seeing his calmness and joy helped us to proclaim the gospel with that same joy. Being in a group of people, all of them sharing the Gospel, was encouraging. It would be pretty easy to get discouraged being alone in a crowd of thousands who want nothing to do with the Gospel, but the camaraderie was a huge plus. I definitely recommend the trip to students. It is a good way to overcome some fears in evangelism because you are getting thrown out into the deep end and that is good.”
Greenways share at SWBTS about ‘divinely ordained’ courtship, marriage
By Julie Owens
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — “Marriage is the greatest return on investment you could ever get, but you have to be very intentional,” said Adam W. Greenway, president of The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, at the Feb. 24 “Sweetheart Banquet,” hosted by Metochai.
Derived from the Greek word meaning “partners,” Metochai is an organization that seeks to prepare student wives to be partners in ministry with their husbands. The Sweetheart Banquet is an annual opportunity for husbands to accompany their wives to the organization’s monthly meetings, and this year, they had a question-and-answer session with Greenway, who recently celebrated his first anniversary as SWBTS president, and his wife, Carla.
SWBTS dean of women Terri Stovall said the wives had been eager to learn more about the Greenways’ courtship, marriage, and personal lives. The couple met while attending SWBTS.
“They have been where you are now,” Stovall said, introducing the Greenways.
The Greenways were asked why they initially decided to attend Southwestern Seminary. Carla Greenway, a native of Georgia, said a professor recommended the seminary to her when she was an undergraduate student at Shorter University in Rome, Ga. “I wanted to prepare for ministry,” she said.
Adam Greenway said he had been drawn to ministry at age 16 and decided that “you needed to go as far as you can go in education.” He first attended Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. When his college pastor brought him to his first Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in 1997 in Dallas, he attended a luncheon on the Southwestern Seminary campus, and he knew he would extend his education here. God’s direction was not an “audible voice,” he said. “But it was obvious that I would be coming here.”
“The circumstances by which she and I met were providential,” Greenway said, adding that he accompanied a friend on a hospital visit and wound up talking with a woman who thought that he and Carla might “hit it off.”
Mutual friends invited them both to an Easter lunch, and they talked at length, learning that they had similarities.
“It was divinely ordained,” he said.
Carla Greenway recalls her first impression: “Wow, this guy can carry on a conversation.” She says she could tell he was called to serve God “and had a purpose, had a goal.”
The Greenways shared about their first date, when they ate at a pizza restaurant and visited friends afterward. Carla lived in student housing and was “cautious,” she said, requesting that Adam pick her up at the curb. Future dates involved going for walks, and she recalled “the day he held my hand for the first time” at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Since she hailed from Georgia, they attended a Texas Rangers-Atlanta Braves baseball game together.
Adam Greenway said he knew that he would pursue marriage with Carla after talking to Southwestern Seminary professor Malcolm McDow about her. “She’s the one!” McDow said. He leaned in and told Greenway, “You know, don’t you?”
“I’ve never forgotten that,” Greenway said.
Carla recalled a moment in class when she suddenly realized: “Carla, Adam is God’s grace gift to you.” She calls it her “burning bush moment.”
While visiting Carla’s family in Atlanta, Adam and Carla’s father decided during a hand of the card game gin that if Adam won, he could ask for Carla’s hand in marriage.
“I lost,” he laughed, “but I still got her hand in marriage.”
In Savanah, Ga., the two “went for a long walk on the beach,” she said. “That’s where he proposed.”
The Greenways’ courtship and marriage “was a journey that has taken us where we never could have predicted,” he said. Now, after 17 years of marriage, “I don’t even recall what it was like being single.”