By the time I am done, seminary will have been the best decade of my life.
There’s a punchline there, but there is some reality, too. Lord willing, I will complete my PhD in Theological Studies with an emphasis in Christian Ethics by May of 2016.
I began my seminary studies in August of 2005 while I was still stationed on the USS JIMMY CARTER. I still remember watching the first DVD lecture while I was sitting in the wardroom several hundred feet underwater.
My daughter was born a few months later. I had to apologize to the distance learning office at the seminary because I accidentally left one of the lecture DVDs at the hospital.
Since then, I have finished my MDiv in Christian Ministry. That took me until the spring semester of 2011. I worked full-time through almost all of that time period.
By the time I walked across the stage to receive my diploma from Danny Akin, I was already admitted to the PhD program. I was tired, but ready to get started.
For two more years I continued to work full-time at a commercial nuclear power station 42 miles from my home in Wake Forest. I made an hour long trip each way, each day, investing more than one man-year of time in the car over the five years I worked there. It was hard work, but good work. Most of the time I enjoyed it.
In June of 2013, when I was offered my present position on the seminary staff I jumped at it. I was tired. My family was tired. But that was not the only reason I took the job.
Making a Shift
I actually started my seminary education at another institution. However, after I started taking an Ethics class at Southeastern’s extension center in Charleston, SC I started to think about switching.
Then, one day, Danny Akin called me personally to invite me to visit the campus. When the President of an institution takes the time to call, it is probably worth going.
It was worth the visit.
On the campus of Southeastern, I found the opportunity for an education equal to my previous seminary. However, I also found an institutional focus that was focused, in a direct and unswerving way, on the Great Commission.
Southeastern is a Great Commission seminary.
We changed our plans. We were going to move to Wake Forest to finish seminary. At the time we figured we would only be there for a couple of years.
Working through Delays
I was living alone in Wake Forest for a month while my wife finished the year as a teacher in South Carolina. As the prospect of her paycheck ending loomed, the house in South Carolina still hadn’t sold. So I interviewed for a job that would take too much time and which was too far away.
I took the job because our medical insurance costs were about to jump, we had a mortgage and rent to pay, and our savings couldn’t last forever.
Instead of going full-time, I became a very part-time student. I took one or two classes a semester, watching online videos on Saturday mornings and writing papers whenever I could.
Really, that isn’t too far from normal for many of the students at Southeastern.
I tried to get a job on campus for years. When a position finally opened up I jumped at it, even though it entailed a large pay cut.
Working on Campus
I serve in an administrative position at Southeastern. It’s the kind of administrative position that would cause a lot of people to lose their sanctification. I calculate numbers, write reports, and do whatever odd jobs the Provost assigns me. There isn’t a lot of glory in the work.
However, since I’ve served in this position, I’ve had more “Thank You” e-mails and comments than in several years of my previous work experience. This is a place where people are genuinely kind––the façade matches the reality.
In the past year and a half, I’ve seen this institution demonstrate genuine concern for students, faculty, and staff. There is a real sense of service at Southeastern.
We seek to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission.
This process starts with the way we treat each other and moves outward from there. We certainly aren’t perfect, but there is a genuine effort made to demonstrate kindness as we work together for the kingdom.
Graduation is, I hope, only a year and a half away. When that time comes, I am not sure what the future holds. I may have opportunities to teach at a college or seminary, or to serve in a local church. I may have the opportunity to go back to work in commercial nuclear power or even to stay here in an administrative capacity.
Whatever opportunities await me after graduation, I look forward to looking back with thanksgiving at this time at Southeastern Seminary.
I am thankful to have been trained by world-class scholars who are more excited about seeing people come to Christ and the gospel preached to the nations than to have their names on the covers of books. This is good for a young scholar to see.
I am thankful to the many individual donors and the whole Southern Baptist Convention as they support the work here, keeping tuition costs as low as possible. This has made my education, and the education of thousands of others possible.
I am thankful for the friends I’ve made in the seminary community. We don’t always agree on everything, but we all have the same goal: to fulfill the Great Commission. This makes the monumental task of taking the Gospel to the nations imaginable.