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‘The very first Christian book I ever read was … on evangelism’

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–There probably aren’t many seminary professors who can list their design of a patented folding combine header among their credits.

Timothy Beougher, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism, earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from Kansas State University. At one point, he thought he might work for John Deere or go into farming.

He soon realized God had called him to a different kind of harvest.

“My coming to Southern was an Ephesians 2:10 experience,” said Beougher, who was among more than two dozen students and professors from Southern Seminary who attended the July 29-Aug. 6 Amsterdam 2000 evangelism conference in The Netherlands. “I feel like my coming to Southern, in a sense, is stepping into the destiny that the Lord has for me. I am doing what I feel like God has created me to do and prepared me to do, and I love it. There’s no place I’d rather be right now, nothing I’d rather be doing.”

Beougher worked in the field of engineering only one year, just long enough for his design to be patented. Then he left for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, where he earned a master of divinity degree. He later earned a master of theology degree in evangelism and a doctorate in historical theology, both from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois.

Before coming to Southern Seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth in the summer of 1996, Beougher worked for six years as assistant professor of evangelism at Wheaton College’s graduate school and associate director of the Institute of Evangelism at the Billy Graham Center there.

He also served four years as director of adult ministries with the International Evangelism Association of Fort Worth, Texas. During this time Beougher met his wife, Sharon. International Evangelism Association was holding a teaching conference for pastors. Sharon, who had recently graduated from Southwestern with her master of religious education degree, had been invited to come and promote some new materials she had used in seminary. She was the only woman invited.

“I am at a conference with 40 pastors and Sharon. Talk about a rose among thorns,” Beougher said. “I was smitten.”

The couple has four children — Kristi, Jonathan, Kari and Karisa. Beougher has been a church planter and a pastor. He currently serves Louisville’s Cedar Creek Baptist Church part-time as their senior teaching pastor.

Studying under such men as Roy Fish, Robert Coleman and J.I. Packer, Beougher says the person who most influenced him was Bob Anderson, his Baptist Student Union director at Kansas State.

“He is the one that really taught me how to walk with God,” Beougher said.

Growing up in a Methodist church, Beougher said the first time he heard the gospel and responded to it was when a college campus minister visited his Sunday school class during his senior year of high school. The visitor spoke on how to prepare for college academically, financially and spiritually.

“In that context, he shared the gospel. I responded to Christ that day as a senior in high school,” Beougher said.

However, those early days as a Christian were frustrating and unfruitful for him.

“I went home and pulled my Bible down off the shelf and dusted it off. It was an RSV translation, which is what the Methodist church gave people in the third grade,” Beougher said.

“I thought you open up the Bible and begin at the beginning.”

He read through Genesis and Exodus, but became discouraged and confused in Leviticus. Beougher said he still doesn’t think he could read through Leviticus in the RSV today. He closed his Bible and put it back on the shelf. It stayed that way the rest of his senior year.

“That was the most miserable time in my life because I now had the Holy Spirit indwelling me, and I had a desire to live for Christ, but I had no power,” he said.

Shortly after arriving at Kansas State, Beougher met Anderson and got involved in a Baptist church. Anderson taught him to have a quiet time and to witness. Beougher was able to lead six friends to Christ that year alone.

“The very first Christian book I ever read was a book on evangelism,” Beougher said. “I tell people I started sharing my faith before I knew I wasn’t `supposed to’ as a new Christian.”

Beougher also credits the influence of his father, who taught him the value of discipline and hard work.

From the very beginning of his call to ministry, Beougher felt God was calling him to teach. He comes from a family of teachers. Both grandmothers and his mother taught, and his three sisters are all teachers. His father also taught for several years before going into full-time farming.

Beougher said he began to think about doctoral work early in his academic career. He also believes God had been leading him to Southern Seminary.

Beougher’s passion is the Great Commission as it relates to five areas: evangelism, discipleship, theology, preaching and revival and spiritual awakening. Personal evangelism is one of the courses he most enjoys teaching.

“My goal as a professor here is that I want to help create an environment where students leave seminary more on fire for the Lord, more committed to him than when they came,” Beougher said. “My challenge to beginning students is whatever else happens here, don’t lose your walk with God. It’s possible to study about God and lose your walk with him.”

Beougher combines his love for teaching and evangelism in the classroom as well as the pulpit. Students in his personal evangelism class are required to turn in 10 witnessing reports throughout the semester. More experienced students are paired with those less comfortable sharing their faith so that students can practice and implement what they have learned in the classroom.

He’s also training his congregation at Cedar Creek in lifestyle evangelism on Sunday nights, encouraging them to invite their friends and acquaintances to church.

Under Beougher’s leadership, the church has established a welcome center and a new member orientation that is open to visitors and guests.

“It’s important, in terms of outreach, that the church be prepared for guests to come,” he said. “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo title: TIMOTHY BEOUGHER.

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  • Brett Champion