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SBC DIGEST: Don Wilton retirement; SWBTS 2+3 program is mission fast track for couples

Don Wilton announces retirement

By BP Staff

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (BP) – Don Wilton, longtime pastor of First Baptist Church Spartanburg, announced Sunday (Aug. 14) his intention to retire.

A native of South Africa, Wilton has pastored the church 29 years. He also serves as president of The Encouraging Word television ministry and has written several books and numerous magazine articles.

Don Wilton tells his congregation, First Baptist Church Spartanburg, S.C., of his intention to retire. Screen capture

Wilton was close friends with evangelist Billy Graham, who was a member of FBC Spartanburg from 2008 until his death in 2018.

Wilton served with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s schools of evangelism in the 1980s but didn’t meet Graham until 1993. Wilton had just preached his first sermon as pastor of First Baptist. The service was televised as part of the church’s TV ministry.

“Following my very first message, my telephone rang, and it was Dr. Billy Graham,” Wilton recalled after Graham’s death. “He was most kind to me. One can only imagine what was going through my mind.”

During Sunday’s announcement, Wilton expressed deep love and appreciation for his congregation and said the decision has been in the works since 2018.

Then in early 2020, the church was “absolutely booming,” and he prayed: “Lord, we need fresh leadership. I need to make way for a new pastor, just as I was when I was that age. Our church needs to go and find God’s man.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, pushed pause on his departure, and the church council’s initial target year of 2022 was put back in place.

“We knew it was time and that the time is now,” Wilton said Sunday. “Everything we’ve done has been with one heart and soul with the Lord Jesus. … God is on His throne, and He always has been.”

Following the announcement, Mickey Sobeski, the church’s chairman of deacons, said Wilton had agreed to stay as pastor until at least early 2023.

Wilton brought the convention sermon at the 2006 SBC Annual Meeting in Greensboro, N.C. He was president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention at the time.

SWBTS program provides fast track for couple’s missions work

By Timothy McKeown/SWBTS

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) – Two Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary students have found that the 2+3 Master of Divinity program was the quickest way to get to the mission field, gaining both practical experience and theological training in their education. 

The married couple, Patrick and Libby Anderson*, went from enrolling in Southwestern Seminary in the spring of 2019 to serving on the mission field in just over two years. But living life on fast forward fits Patrick Anderson, who is currently nine months into the three-year field portion of the 2+3 program.

The 2+2 and 2+3 programs in the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions allow students to earn 60 course credit hours on the Southwestern campus, followed by either a two-year short-term missions commitment or a three-year long-term missions commitment through the International Mission Board (IMB). The combination of coursework and field experience counts toward a Master of Divinity degree with a concentration of international church planting.

Because Patrick and Libby are called to be career missionaries, he opted for the 2+3 program, which allows them to apprentice with a career IMB missionary and work with Central Asian refugees who are finding new homes in Europe.

The Andersons knew each other as friends throughout their college years but only started dating in early 2018.

“I spent our entire engagement overseas in North Africa,” Patrick said. Libby, who was a year ahead of him in school, graduated while Patrick was away. When Patrick returned to the United States at the end of 2018, he graduated, and they were married in early 2019. He enrolled at Southwestern the same semester.

“When we first started dating, she was in the application process for Journeyman and that fell through for multiple reasons, but I knew I wanted to go overseas at that point as well. So, we decided to go long-term and the 2+ program,” he explained.  

Libby said she they both wanted to go the field as soon as they could. “I said, ‘I don’t want to sit in Fort Worth for four years, while you finish your degree.’ So, that led us to the 2+ program because it was the shortest amount of time we could take and him get a full degree and get us on to the field,” she explained.

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  • BP Staff