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Southeastern’s new security director brings experience, heart for ministry

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Michael Lawson can perform your wedding and then pull you over for speeding on your honeymoon.

He has guarded the president of the United States, and now he is protecting future leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention and its churches.

Since Lawson stands six feet tall and weighs 235 pounds, would-be criminals think twice about tangling with this ordained minister, an expert marksman and former Secret Service agent — which is why he is a perfect fit for the newly created position of campus security director at Southeastern Seminary.

Lawson has several years of law enforcement training on both the local and federal level and recently completed a training program that certified him as an officer in North Carolina. Beyond that, he has a master of divinity degree from Southeastern.

Lawson said he and his family “are excited about the ministry possibilities this will bring. We’re excited about being here.”

Despite his training and background, Lawson is not intimidating at all to those who have experienced his broad smile and humble manner.

“Mike is one of the sweetest, most gentle men I know,” said Southeastern President Paige Patterson. “He can shoot a fly off an elephant’s tusk at 200 yards and not leave a scratch. He has been trained to put a grown man down on the ground in less than a blink. Yet Mike would rather patiently win a soul to Christ than to do anything in this world.”

Lawson was a natural fit for the security job, seminary administrators said, considering his familiarity with the school and his background: Lawson was a deputy sheriff in Greenville County, S.C., for three and a half years and worked for a year and a half with the Secret Service in Charleston, W.Va., where his responsibilities on some occasions included protection detail for then-President Bill Clinton.

When God called Lawson and his family into fulltime ministry and to Southeastern, he was not sure where God’s leading would take him.

“While I was here, I looked at a number of different things,” he said. “But I felt like God was leading me to stay in law enforcement, as a chaplain.”

God has opened those doors for Lawson through his job with the seminary. Because he had been out of law enforcement too long, Lawson needed to go through another training course to be certified as a North Carolina officer. The local police department in Wake Forest, where Southeastern is located, sponsored Lawson as he went through training at Vance-Granville Community College in Henderson, N.C.

He graduated at the top of his class and was elected class leader by his peers because they knew he was a minister and figured he would not mind speaking at graduation.

He did not mind, and it was one of several opportunities Lawson had to share his faith.

“A few times I got to talk to people and witness to people, which is exactly what I want to do,” he said.

As a result of the training, Lawson is an auxiliary officer with the Wake Forest Police Department, and will soon fill the position of chaplain there. While serving the local police officers, he also can strengthen ties between the seminary and the community.

On campus, Lawson’s primary responsibility is safeguarding the students, faculty, staff and administration of Southeastern and maintaining a high level of access to campus services for the public while keeping an eye out for suspicious behavior in an era when no place in the world seems safe.

Ryan Hutchinson, vice president of administration at Southeastern, said Lawson’s hiring coincided with the seminary’s effort to stay safe in the midst of a changing society.

“Mr. Lawson’s training will bring a new level of security knowledge to our campus,” Hutchinson said. “As our society seems to be changing more and more where security issues are coming to the forefront of everyday life, Mr. Lawson will provide us the knowledge and leadership we need on campus to properly address such issues.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: OFFICER WITH A HEART.

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  • Jason Hall