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SBC DIGEST: NAMB launches podcast from Tony Evans; UMobile president to retire

New podcast featuring Tony Evans to help pastors from ‘Start to Finish’

By Brandon Elrod/NAMB

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Christian ministry has always been a challenging field, but the trials of the last several years seem to have made it even more difficult for pastors to remain steadfast in their work throughout an entire lifetime, from start to finish.

Yet, there is wisdom in the reminder from Ecclesiastes that, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Though the recent season may appear unprecedented, today’s generation is not the first to experience such societal upheaval, and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) has created a podcast called “Start to Finish” that tells the story of a faithful pastor who has endured much through the years and held tightly to God’s Word through it all: Tony Evans.

“I am so humbled and honored about this podcast that kind of unveils my life, history, ministry, family, worldview and perspective,” Evans said. “It’s a privilege to be able to share with others who I am, where God has brought me from and hopefully where He is taking me to in whatever time He gives me in life and ministry.”

Evans has been the senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas for more than 40 years. He became a household name in evangelicalism over the course of his ministry with a daily radio broadcast that has grown such that it can be heard on more than 2,000 radio outlets around the world.

“In a time with so many examples of institutional and leadership failure, it’s important to honor those who are finishing strong,” said Trevin Wax, NAMB’s vice president of research and resource development. “Dr. Tony Evans has had an incalculable impact on the evangelical world, and there is much wisdom, insight and inspiration we can receive from the ministry impact God has accomplished through him.”

In this podcast, listeners have the opportunity to discover how God took a young man from Baltimore and shaped his wholistic vision for ministry, which he describes as “the Kingdom Agenda, the visible manifestation of the comprehensive rule of God over every area of life.”

Many might see the outward successes that Evans’ kingdom-focused ministry has had through radio broadcasts, books and publishing the first full-Bible commentary and study Bible ever produced by an African American, but fewer might know his full story – growing up in a family transformed by the Gospel, coming of age during the Civil Rights Movement, meeting his late wife, Lois, during a evangelistic trip in Guyana and attending college in Atlanta, seminary in Dallas before starting Oak Cliff in Dallas.

“Start to Finish” provided Evans the chance to reflect on and tell his own story along with dozens of the people who know him best – his children, family, mentors, professors and those he has discipled.

“One of the most inspiring aspects of Dr. Evans’s life and ministry is the consistency of his character,” said Kevin Spratt, NAMB’s director of resources and the producer of “Start to Finish.” “Our team has conducted more than 20 hours of interviews with more than 20 people throughout every stage of Dr. Evans’s life and ministry; everyone we have interviewed has consistently described him in the same way.”

Among those who sat down to talk about Evans were Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy, gospel artist Kirk Franklin and Evans’ daughter Priscilla Shirer, a renowned Bible teacher and author in her own right.

“Dr. Evans embodies my favorite quote from his 1986 NRB message: ‘God is looking for a constituency of heavenly beings living on hellish soil, letting hell know what heaven looks like,’” Spratt said. “His life reflects God’s heavenly constituency on earth. He is a humble, hardworking man of integrity.”

As Evans spoke about the honor of being featured for “Start to Finish,” he shared a prayer for all who will listen.

“It is my prayer that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will take you—wherever you are in the ‘podcast’ of your life and ministry—from where you have been, where you are, to where He wants you to be,” Evans said. “God has an amazing ability to take the good, the bad and the bitter, mix it in His cosmic blender and come out with Romans 8:28, of things working together for good as we love Him more and serve Him.

“May God bless each of you, your ministry, the calling He has on your life as you fulfill your kingdom purpose that He has entrusted you with.”

The podcast launches August 17, and episodes be found here as they release, and they will also be available on every major podcast platform.

University of Mobile President Lonnie Burnett announces retirement in May 2024

By Kathy Dean/University of Mobile

MOBILE, Ala. (BP) – Lonnie A. Burnett, fifth president of the University of Mobile, announced today that he will retire at the end of the 2023-2024 academic year. Burnett, who became president of the Christian university in 2019, made the announcement at the conclusion of the opening session of the institution’s annual faculty and staff convocation gathering.  

Lonnie Burnett

A 1979 graduate of what was then Mobile College, Burnett has spent 45 years working in all levels of education, the last 20 at the university where he has been a professor of history, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and, for the last five years, president. 

In making the announcement, Burnett said that, when he became president, he had several goals for the university including providing a quality academic, spiritual and social experience for students; ensuring financial stability; increasing faculty/staff salaries; maintaining positive relations with Alabama Baptists; improving facilities and implementing new academic programs. Burnett said he is most proud that these goals have been realized, even while navigating the school through a global pandemic and the resulting disruptions in the national economy and workforce.  

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve my alma mater in this role,” Burnett said. “The people I have had the good fortune to work with, as well as the exceptional students I had the privilege to teach in my time here, have made this a wonderful experience. I have appreciated the friendship and support of our Board of Trustees, the Alabama Baptist churches, our alumni, faculty and staff.” 

UM Board of Trustee Chairman Terry Harbin said, “Dr. Burnett has brought vision and clarity to the mission of the University of Mobile while adding strength and stability up and down the organization. I know I speak for the entire Board when I say the university has been served extremely well by his time as our president.” 

Ted Mashburn, senior faculty member, said, “Lonnie is an excellent teacher, careful scholar and sagacious counselor whose motivation for life comes from a deep and abiding love of God, others and the world. This university is a better place because of Dr. Lonnie Burnett. 

“One of the really amazing things about Lonnie is that he is a tireless worker, who seldom asks anyone to do anything he hasn’t already done. From overseeing building renovations to developing academic programs to complying with accrediting agencies to simply moving chairs for the graduation ceremony, Lonnie has always been down in the trenches doing the heavy lifting. There is so much admiration I have for Lonnie Burnett,” Mashburn added. 

Burnett said there is still much work to be done during his last academic year as president, particularly in completing the university’s SACSCOC 10-year reaffirmation process and launching the university’s new “Experience the Difference” campaign. The campaign celebrates UM’s culture of mentoring, quality academics and vision of “Higher Education for a Higher Purpose.”

Burnett’s last day as president at the University of Mobile will be May 30, 2024.  

Harbin said a transition team will be appointed to represent the interests of university faculty, staff and students and announced at the upcoming board meeting in October. 

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