At Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary the Great Commission infuses classrooms, captivates hearts, and undergirds every decision.
Thanks to the generous support of Southern Baptists, since 1950 men and women studying at Southeastern have been trained to be effective missionaries in every context. Christ's commands — go, teach, baptize — are obeyed in countless different ways by thousands of alumni, students, faculty, and staff.
Southeastern Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission. Its more than forty different undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate degree programs mean students are being trained for Kingdom service in numerous fields — pastoral ministry, counseling, international and domestic church planting, apologetics, discipleship, music, research, student and collegiate ministry, and more.
Southeastern prepares students to serve God and glorify His name in India, Washington, D.C., in the business world of Raleigh, North Carolina, and beyond.
Across the World
Josh and Susan* can attest to Southeastern's Great Commission focus and its impact on their lives and ministry. As college students, both felt called by God to share the Gospel with unreached people groups.
Both studied in college for different career paths, but through their involvement with missions and international students felt God calling them to the field. Immediately after college, the couple both enrolled at Southeastern in missions degree programs.
As part of the requirements for Josh to graduate with his master of divinity in international church planting, the couple served in Nepal for three years, where they worked alongside people who had never heard the Gospel message before. They have since moved to India, where they work with unengaged, unreached people groups, or UUPGs. They focus on training national believers in church-planting principles.
"We give trainings on how to enter a new area, how to share a personal testimony and the Gospel," they said. They also teach the national believers how to disciple new believers, how to form them into reproducing house churches, and how to develop more leaders.
Without Southeastern they would be ill-equipped for the work, they said.
"Southeastern gave us a strong, biblical foundation for life. We learned good systematic theology and biblical doctrine on important issues" like creation, the fall, salvation, and the church, Susan said.
They credit relationships with their professors as one of the most influential factors in their seminary journey.
"A few key professors invested in us personally, and our relationship with them was very important to us during our time there," she said. "Their mentorship and example challenged and grew us."
It was not only key professors that challenged the couple to go overseas to an unreached and unengaged people group, though. The seminary family was a strong motivating force as well.
"We're very thankful for the commitment to the Great Commission that we have seen in SEBTS — not only while we were students — but since then, as well," Susan said. "Southeastern has been one of our best recruiting fields for new personnel. Of the four long-term families on our team in India, three of us are Southeastern graduates!"
Across Our Country
Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest among Southeastern's students in North American church planting. Southeastern has a program specifically designed for those who feel called to plant their lives in an underserved part of the United States, the master of divinity in North American church planting.
Nathan Knight, a 2007 M.Div. graduate, is one such alumnus who felt God's call on his life to reach the unreached in the United States. He was initially uncertain whether he would be part of church planting or church revitalization. Thanks to the influence of one of his Southeastern professors, Knight said he knew he wanted to be a part of church planting, because he had seen the beauty and importance of the local church in the plan of God.
After prayerfully exploring church planting in numerous urban centers, Knight and fellow SEBTS alumnus, Joey Craft, felt the Lord leading them to plant a church in downtown Washington, D.C.
Knight and Craft determined where they would plant by seeking the Lord's leading and looking at factors like a multicultural population, number of universities, and the like. In short, they were looking for a city with "loads of cultural influence" but few evangelical churches.
"After visiting D.C., I saw those things stand out like a pop-up book, and it was clear where our plant was going to go," Knight said.
Knight and Craft planted Restoration Church and have been ministering to the people of Washington, D.C.
"Our work is actually quite simple," he said. "Jesus said to go and make disciples, and He also claimed He would make those disciples through His church. Over and over again, we see people preaching and teaching the Word and disciples being made, gathered, and built up as faithful worshipers of God who display His glory, and are then sent out to do the same."
Knight said this means the main ministries of Restoration Church are the preaching of the Word and prayer. He added that this means getting into the community and loving and serving people, showing how the Gospel is relevant to their lives.
Furthermore, he said the church plant puts a "high premium on community. We are constantly pushing our people to get out and grab meals together and things like that, so as to not build the church around a personality, but around the Gospel and the community it builds. This becomes an amazing apologetic to the world around us."
Knight said it was his training at both Southeastern and his sending church, North Wake Church of Wake Forest, North Carolina, that taught him what the body of Christ should look like.
Various professors showed him the glories of the church, helped him read and interpret the Bible, understand the importance of ethics and marriage, and recognize the value of preaching and missions with vigor and humility.
It was Southeastern, he said, that showed him the firm balance between doctrine and life, as Paul laid out in his pastoral epistles to Timothy.
"We believe God's earnest desire is to see His church advance in Washington, D.C."
In the Marketplace
Southeastern is also making an impact in its very own backyard, training men like Charles Ligon to be ministers in their workplaces. Ligon worked in the business world for years before he came to Southeastern, segregating his Christian faith from his daily interactions and experiences at work, he said.
"I was not going to change the workplace and it was not going to change me. I fulfilled my 'ministry obligation' at church," he explained.
However, in 1994, Ligon moved his family to Wake Forest, North Carolina, to enroll as a master of divinity student at Southeastern. After graduation in 1997, he continued serving as an associate pastor of children and recreation at Faith Baptist Church in Youngsville, North Carolina.
"Throughout those years, I unintentionally focused on the programs of the church with very little regard for 'equipping the saints' for ministry in the marketplace," he said. "In other words, if those serving under my ministry were faithful in service at church, I didn't consciously concern myself with what they were doing at their workplace."
However, as he began to study for his doctor of ministry degree at Southeastern, Ligon became concerned with the tension of 'marketplace ministry,' that is, actively sharing one's faith in the context of the corporate environment. His D.Min. project, entitled Helping Christians to Effectively Integrate their Faith in the Workplace Context, helped to prepare him for his current position as the corporate chaplain at PowerSecure, a job he took as he was finishing his second degree at Southeastern.
PowerSecure is an energy services company based in Wake Forest. Its CEO, Sidney Hinton, is a believer who has made a firm commitment to seeing the Gospel advance in workplaces. Part of that was hiring Ligon to minister to PowerSecure employees.
"From the first day I arrived at PowerSecure, I have looked for opportunities to share my faith," Ligon said. "What I don't do is pass out tracts at the water cooler, walk around with my Bible tucked under my arm, or have a judgmental attitude or a condemning spirit."
Instead, he uses his time to build relationships with those he works with on a daily basis, living out his faith in front of them, and sharing what he believes whenever an opportunity arises.
One of those Spirit-led opportunities opened up with University of North Carolina graduate, Samantha Sheldon, in 2007, when she served as an administrative assistant to the office manager at PowerSecure. It was a job she received right out of college. Sheldon had shed the vestiges of her childhood religious upbringing years before and was looking forward to climbing the corporate ladder.
Ligon, who shares his faith by building relationships, showing compassion, and meeting the physical, emotional and, spiritual needs of the employees, said it was several months into his friendship with Sheldon before she began to inquire about his faith.
"Every day for nearly six months, Sam observed the CEO and many other Christians effectively living their faith. They loved, encouraged, and served Sam to a point that, one day, Sam walked past my office, backed up, and then requested to speak to me," Ligon said. "She asked, 'What is so different about this place?' My response was simply this: 'It is the presence of Christ.'"
Ligon clearly presented her with the Gospel that day. "I shared how He had transformed our lives and called us to demonstrate His love through how we live and respond to others. She said, 'I want that.'"
As Sheldon grew in the knowledge of the Lord, her hunger to understand the Scriptures also grew, Ligon said. Sheldon's educational background was in psychology and she began to see how that experience might shape her future in serving the Lord.
"Within a few months, the Spirit began to challenge Sam to consider biblical — rather than secular — counseling," Ligon said. "She approached me and said, 'I believe God is calling me to pursue biblical counseling. Will you help me enroll at Southeastern Seminary?"'
Today, Sheldon is a student at Southeastern, studying biblical counseling. Because of her exposure to the Gospel through her job at PowerSecure and Ligon's commitment to sharing his faith, Sheldon is seeking the Lord's will for her life.
A Dangerous Place
Whether it is unreached people groups in India, unreached culture-makers in Washington, D.C., or unreached workplaces, Southeastern is committed to training pastors, leaders, missionaries, counselors, and more with the purpose of glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ and making His name great among all nations.
The students, faculty, and staff of Southeastern are indebted to the people of the Southern Baptist Convention, who, through their support, make the proclamation of the Gospel to all nations possible.
As Southeastern's president, Daniel Akin, is fond of saying, "Southeastern is a dangerous place. It is dangerous because we will challenge you to consider afresh your calling and what it is God wants you to do for His Kingdom and His glory."
* Names have been changed.
SEBTS Fast Facts
• Year Founded: 1950
• Location: Wake Forest, North Carolina
• President: Daniel L. Akin
• Students: 2,629
• Faculty: 96
• Undergraduate school: The College at Southeastern
• Web sites: sebts.edu and college.sebts.edu