And he said unto them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of
is perhaps best described as a twofold following after the Lord Jesus Christ. On
the one hand, Jesus' first and foremost rallying cry was, "Come, follow
me!" On the other hand, our Lord taught His disciples to extend that call
to the world. Likewise, expressing the theme of both the Lord's premiere sermon
(Mark 1:14-15 and parallels) and His final sermon, now known as the Great Commission
(Matt 28:16-20), the final chapter in the New Testament tells us that the
Spirit and the church must entreat, "Come and drink freely of the water of
life!" (Rev 22:17). From beginning to end, there is a twofold determination
in the heart of the New Testament that ought not be quenched: it includes,
first, a desire to follow Christ; it includes, second, a necessarily correlative
passion to call other people to follow Christ.
establishing His roving school of wannabe theologians, Jesus called the
disciples to quit their prior vocation of fishing for fish and to learn,
instead, to fish for human beings. The first Christian seminary, the seminary
of the Apostles, presided over by Jesus Christ, was thus dedicated to evangelism.
And, oh, some of those disciples were not at first what they would become when
Christ had completely ushered them through His curriculum. This was a motley
student body: their leader, appointed by the Lord Himself, was an ill-educated,
impetuous loudmouth who went on to deny his Lord in His hour of greatest human
need; another was committed to armed rebellion, though his Master identified a
different way; yet a third, a betrayer, was providentially allowed by Christ to
enroll. When you can see inside and properly evaluate each human heart, as the
Lord can, yet you still allow such students to enroll, perhaps you are seeing
not who people currently are, but who they may become through the preaching and
teaching of His Word.
of the Apostles was an evangelistic seminary that was itself the subject of the
Lord's evangelism. That a seminary should be evangelistic, primarily outwardly
but also inwardly, is a fact that was not lost upon the founders of Southwestern
Baptist Theological Seminary; it is a fact that is still evident in the
president and faculty of Southwestern Seminary; and it is a fact that must challenge
any seminary that dares to claim that it follows the Lord's commandments and
example. That a seminary, literally a "seedbed," should include seed
bearers whose broadcast of the Word would yield a worldwide harvest was part of
the Lord's plan. That a seminary might include the odd student who was not
committed to the Lord's ways was also apparently part of the Lord's plan.
allow me a moment of your time to explain why and how Southwestern Seminary
became and remains, shall we say, "The Evangelistic Seminary."
1. Southwestern Seminary Was Founded with an Evangelistic
Baptists began their cooperative pilgrimage, the first problem they faced was a
controversy over missions and evangelism. The missionary Baptists who formed
the Union Association in 1840 were opposed on the one side by the
Predestinarian Baptists under Daniel Parker and on the other side by Arminian
Campbellite-influenced Baptists under T.W. Cox. Both of these extremes opposed
"the promissionary, proeducation, and proeffort leaders" among the
eventually victorious traditional Baptists.
When the founding president of Southwestern Seminary, the esteemed Benajah
Harvey Carroll, began to promote the idea of a Texas institution entirely
dedicated to theological education, he emphasized the intended result as first
the "stimulation" of "evangelism," followed by missions,
then the harmony of the churches.
During the 1906 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, Carroll
successfully proposed a new policy for the Home Mission Board, crying out,
"Brethren, give me evangelists."
before the Texas state convention, Carroll famously proposed, "There is
great need to create and endow a chair of evangelism." His argument was
based on the fact that this was "the mind and spirit of Jesus."
According to Carroll, Jesus Christ's "school of the prophets was intensely
practical. The wisdom he inculcated was the winning of souls."
This chair of evangelism, the first chair that Carroll wanted to be endowed,
and the first such chair in the United States, became known as the "Chair
of Fire," and its first occupant was also Carroll's chosen successor as
president of the seminary, Lee Rutland Scarborough. Indeed, Carroll was so
passionate about evangelism that when he discovered that faculty leaders sought
to diminish evangelism as a requirement and turn the school in a primarily
academic direction, he summarily fired two of the very men he had hired.
Robert A. Baker noted that Carroll's godly character was so impressive that
other leaders simply accepted such decisions as Carroll directed.
2. Education Without Evangelism Is a Betrayal of Our
decisive leadership in an evangelistic direction was furthered with the choice
of the next president, L.R. Scarborough. Scarborough's foundational influence
was as great upon Southwestern Seminary, if not greater, prompting the faculty
to refer to him with reverence as their seminary's "father" and with
fondness as their "brother." They also characterized Scarborough as
"a flaming evangelist and a compassionate soul-winner."
This was, of course, part of Carroll's plan. He had written Scarborough to
leave the pastorate and come to the seminary when it was first founded; he had appointed
Scarborough to lead the committee that built the Fort Worth campus; and, after
firing the errant faculty, he had requested the trustees to appoint Scarborough
as his assistant. He had also given a discipleship-oriented deathbed commission
to Scarborough to "keep the Seminary lashed to the cross," according
to W.W. Barnes, the church historian who witnessed this event.
For Carroll, Scarborough was his necessary successor.
Scarborough took the reins of Southwestern's presidency, he delivered a
masterful inaugural address entitled, "The Primal Test of Theological
Education." In that address, delivered in May 1915, he declared,
"Christian education in all lands finds its earliest motive and supreme
passion in a desire to train men to be efficient preachers of the gospel."
By "efficient," Scarborough meant that Baptists need, more than
anything, men who will make the winning of the lost the goal of their greatest
and most effective efforts. And by "supreme passion," Scarborough
meant that Baptist preachers must be fervent soul winners, in the public pulpit
and in private conversations.
offered five marks for the type of preacher that Southwestern must generate,
including character, spirituality, scholarship, doctrinal conviction, and
denominational sympathy and co-operation. It is in his comments on the second mark
that he becomes most pointed. By "spirituality," Scarborough did not
mean some type of inward, quietist devotionalism. No, by
"spirituality," he meant a white-hot passion for souls. For a
minister to be truly "spiritual," he must be
"evangelistic." Anything less is a false ministerial spirituality.
Listen to Scarborough:
Too many of our evangelists are unlearned, and too many of
our scholars are unevangelistic. We will never win the world by the evangelists
alone. We must train a strong group of scholarly pastors, who will go into the
church with the soul-winning spirit and power and build evangelistic churches,
and from them as centers win the regions round about. A seminary should not put
a premium on ministerial stiffness, dryness, and starchiness, and turn out
stilted clergymen. An unspiritual, unevangelistic ministry will never be an
efficient ministry. The soul-winning spirit and compassion for lost men in our
seminaries will enlarge their popularity and favor with the people, contribute
to their spiritual life, keep them in vital touch with God and with the unseen
realities of religion, and thus preserve our teachers and students from
theological drift in doctrines and life, keep them close to the common
suffering heart of a lost and ruined world, turn their energies constantly out
of the uplifting movements among men, build in them the constructive spirit of
missions, and thus make them power-plants, pulsating with the life of God. The
final test of a preacher's efficiency is not found in what he knows about the
deep things of God's Word, but in what he does with what he knows in bringing
in Christ's kingdom among men.
so many passages in Scarborough's works that ring with such power. Was he
interested in proper theology? Absolutely, and to read his declarations about
orthodox dogma will encourage the heart of every biblicist. But even more, this
"father" of Southwestern Seminary was interested in theology being
demonstrated in the winning of the lost. For any Christian to refuse to go
"with Christ after the lost" is unthinkable. Moreover, the
"spiritual life and atmosphere of Christian schools should be kept
distinctly and continuously evangelistic."
profoundly appreciated Roy J. Fish summarized Scarborough's legacy, noting that
our seminary's father held the line against the social gospel that was so prevalent
in his day; that he was "passionate" about the lost; that he started
the whole movement toward state evangelism conferences through the first such
meeting in Cowden Hall on Southwestern's campus in 1936; that he defined the church
as "a group of baptized believers
going with Christ after the lost
"; that he described personal
evangelism as a "fine art," "the finest of fine arts." In
summary, "One cannot understand L.R. Scarborough without seeing him
primarily as a person of great passion for people who are lost. He not only
preached it but he lived it."
3. We Assume Lost People Are in Our Classrooms
Seminary has a legacy of winning lost people to Christ in the classroom. When
B.H. Carroll was a young man, he first confessed Christ, but he soon denied our
Lord and asked to be removed from his church's membership. He was "an
avowed infidel" when he sought entrance to Baylor, but was nevertheless
admitted by its president, Rufus C. Burleson, on the basis of Carroll's obvious
intellectual attainments and debating skills.
Years later, after several crises, upon hearing an evangelistic sermon he went
down the aisle to the front of a church, "casting myself unreservedly and
for all time at Christ's feet, and in a moment the rest came, indescribable and
unspeakable, and it has remained from that day until now."
He was subsequently baptized at the hands of W.W. "Spurgeon" Harris,
a former Baylor schoolmate. Six years earlier, Harris had been an eloquent
opponent of the infidel whom he was now baptizing. That infidel admitted by
Burleson into Baylor would become the founder of Southwestern Seminary.
young man was admitted into Baylor, this time in 1888, and he was not a baptized
believer. His father sent him to the school with the understanding that the
young man would attend all of Carroll's sermons at the First Baptist Church of
Waco and send his father a summary. That young man's letters to his father
started short but eventually reached sometimes fifty pages in length as he
absorbed Carroll's preaching. That young man was baptized at the hands of B.H.
Carroll during his first year as a student at Baylor. That young man would
later go on to win thousands of people to Christ as a pastor. That young man
would then receive letters from Carroll begging him to hear God's call to take
up the chair of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. That
young man was Lee Rutland Scarborough, the "father" of Southwestern
One of the
surprises that many new faculty at Southwestern Seminary have when they come on
board is that Paige Patterson, our current president, regularly proclaims the
gospel evangelistically, not only as part of his public sermons outside the
seminary and not only as a regular personal soul winner, but also in chapel.
Patterson has consistently presented the gospel in his sermons and has issued
altar calls and other invitations during the most public gatherings of the
seminary, during both Convocation and Commencement.
Patterson once explained to me that he does not want to waste any opportunity
to lead a lost person to salvation. With a gentle but firm spirit, after
proclaiming the Word of God, after explaining about human sinfulness, divine
wrath, and the offer of salvation in Jesus Christ, Patterson will invite any
students at Convocation to come forward and receive counseling from professors
who are ready and willing to lead them to a sure salvation in Christ. At the
Commencement ceremony, which typically has people from all over and from every
walk of life, many who may never otherwise hear the gospel, he will invite
everybody to bow their heads and lift their hands if they wish to receive
Christ. Then he will lead in a sinner's prayer of salvation, appealing to the
Word of God externally and to the movement of the Spirit internally. President
Patterson assumes that there are lost people at Southwestern Seminary and he
issues invitations to all sinners to believe and be saved. And many are.
discovered the same phenomenon in my own classroom. My systematic theology
lectures are grounded in hours of consistent biblical exegesis and begin with a
detailed and passionate scriptural exposition before proceeding to historical
examples and concluding with systematic concerns. As a result of this teaching
method, learned in part from my own mentor at Southwestern Seminary, James Leo
Garrett, Jr., primary emphasis is placed upon biblical proclamation. Because I
preach the Word when I teach systematic theology, students may be convicted,
even converted. One day, to my surprise, a student stood in class and thanked
me publicly for leading him to be born again during one of our systematic
theology lectures. He explained that he could not keep silent. My first thought
was not to expel the young man and ask him to reapply to seminary for admission,
but to praise the Lord and help this man to complete his degree. That young
man, formerly a Presbyterian, is now a successful Baptist pastor of a dynamic
and growing large church in Texas. I no longer assume that every person in my
classroom is truly born again. Indeed, I hope that some are not, for there is
no greater privilege on this planet than being used by God to midwife a
rebirth. Professors ought to be preachers, too.
remember the history of Southwestern and how its founders made so much of
evangelism, perhaps because school administrators and pastors had made so much
of it in their lives, I am emboldened to make more of evangelism in my own
life. Indeed, while L.R. Scarborough assumed most of his students would be
believers (after all, this is a Southern Baptist seminary), he was under no
illusions all his students would be. In his famous work, With Christ After the Lost
, he has a chapter devoted to
"Educational Evangelism." Therein, he discusses how students in
Christian schools should meet together "to pray for their college
friends" and thus "they have become burdened for those who are
lost." "This burden has caused them to go out under the leadership of
the Holy Spirit to witness personally to the lost and to lead them to the
In the same
chapter, on "Educational Evangelism," he discusses "imperatives
for denominational schools." Therein, he argues that the administration
and trustees must be responsible to the churches and that the faculty must be faithful
Christians and that it is best if they are also faithful to their denomination.
What Scarborough never argues is that students themselves must subscribe to the
denomination's confession, nor even that they must be Christians.
Similarly, when directly addressing the fundamentals of Southwestern Seminary,
he again puts the emphasis on the fidelity of the faculty, by subscription, and
of the trustees to their Christian and Baptist confession. Again, he does not
presume to make such a requirement for students. To the contrary, he states
bluntly, "No such requirement is made for students."
Why would the father of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary make such
a claim? Perhaps Scarborough understood by personal experience that the
Christian school itself is a place for lost people to be evangelized and not a
disconnected ivory tower for starched shirts. The seminary is a place where
evangelism should be practiced by professors and students alike towards
everybody they encounter, whether in the school or outside it.
4. Evangelism Suffuses Our Teaching
Baker writes movingly about how Southwestern Seminary has several ingredients
that constitute its spirit. One of those concerns "the nature of a
theological seminary." "Carroll, Scarborough, and the faculty did not
conceive of Southwestern Seminary as an academic ivory tower in which to retire
from the world for study but saw it as a front-line bunker where students
participated in the contemporary spiritual battles." And the first example
that Baker offered concerned evangelism: "The weekly memorization of many
Scripture verses in the evangelism class of L.R. Scarborough was not an
academic exercise; it was the loading of the students' weapons for regular use
in winning people to Christ, after the example of their teacher."
As a student of Scarborough's successor in the Chair of Fire, Roy J. Fish, I
can attest that the practice continued into the late twentieth century.
example that Baker offered concerning the evangelistic ethos of Southwestern
regards Walter Thomas Conner. In the historical hierarchy of Southwestern
Seminary, Conner receives the honor of third place, after Carroll and
Scarborough, as indicated in an authoritative collection of essays on the
legacy of Southwestern.
When Carroll was putting together his plans for the future of the seminary
during the seminal years of 1906 through 1908, the founder indicated to the
young Conner that he "would be offered the position of teacher of theology
in the seminary" if he "would make proper preparation."
Conner went on to study with A.H. Strong and Walter Rauschenbusch at Rochester
Seminary and E.Y. Mullins at Southern Seminary. He was subsequently appointed
as professor of theology at Southwestern in 1910 and retired in 1949. His
theology shaped generations of preachers and his influence was profound among
Southern Baptists. He declined a professorship at Baylor and the presidency of
the Kansas City seminary in order to become the leading theologian at
Southwestern Seminary during the first half of the twentieth century. It is
said that his "recommendation of young men for the Southwestern faculty
was tantamount to their election."
Conner's student, James Leo Garrett, Jr., became Southwestern's leading
theologian during the second half of the twentieth century.
Conner's greatest contributions concerned his understanding of theology as a
practical discipline. He argued, "the purpose of theology is to furnish us
with a knowledge that is practical in its aim. It is not meant to give us a
speculative knowledge that is all-comprehensive and logically complete. It aims
rather to give us truth by which we are to live."
Through a series of brilliant responses to the acidic trends in his day, Conner
Properly speaking, Christian theology is the statement of
the meaning of the Gospel. A man does not have to have a complete philosophy of
the whole universe in order to grasp and state the meaning of the Gospel of
Christ. This is not to say that we should not, so far as we can, relate the
truth of the Gospel to every other truth. But it is to say that one does need a
theology that he can preach. And a theology that is not preachable is not good
theology; there is something wrong with it. A good way to test your theology is
on a sinner. The Gospel is good news. It is good news because it announces
spiritual redemption for the whole world of lost sinners. Theology is the
statement of the meaning of this good news in terms that will appeal to the
people of our day. This is the thing that makes Christianity a preaching
religion. When Christianity ceases to be a preaching religion, you may know
that it has lost the passion that grows out of the experience of redemption;
that is, it has ceased to be Christianity.
With appreciation, James Leo Garrett, Jr., started his
wonderful two-volume systematic theology by summarizing Conner's argument that
theology must be evangelistic to be good theology.
In my own
teaching and preaching, I have taken the assertion of Conner and the affirmation
of Garrett to heart, both as a pastor and as a professor. (To be honest, I
cannot teach without preaching, nor can I preach without teaching, just as I
cannot evangelize without preaching, nor can I preach without evangelizing.) At
the end of the second semester of the required course in systematic theology at
Southwestern Seminary, I require my students to share the good news of Jesus
Christ with a lost person. Their job is to be faithful to the Word of God and
proclaim it to lost people. During the final examination, they are given an
opportunity to reflect theologically on the witnessing event itself. This
practice of correlating systematic theology with evangelism has yielded both
evangelistic and disciplinary fruit.
to the first issue, of evangelistic impact, for example, during this last year
alone, 146 of my 151 systematic students shared the gospel with a lost person
to meet their class requirement. Of those 146 testimonies to Christ, 19 souls
were won to profess personal faith in Jesus Christ!
new converts to Jesus from a systematic theology assignment at Southwestern
Seminary: I cannot help but get excited about my students having the privilege
of leading lost people to an eternal relationship with the living Triune God!
to the second issue, of personal discipline, the students benefit in profound
ways. Some students have sheepishly admitted that their Reformed theology previously
stood in the way of their witnessing, but now they were so happy that their
systematic theology professor had "forced" them to overcome that.
Others have talked about ingenious ways they have brought the gospel into a
public classroom, or have been compelled to learn or relearn their Spanish in
order to testify better to the growing Hispanic population, or have corrected a
heretical teaching about the Trinity, or have led a Hindu to faith in the one
true God, or have been led to become a fulltime missionary to Mormons, or have
learned that the Holy Spirit is responsible for salvation while we are
responsible for speaking the Word, and the list goes on.
systematic theology is not the only discipline that is suffused with
evangelism. A New Testament professor, Dr. Terry Wilder, regularly joins
Southwestern Seminary's students in order to reach the area around Seminary
Hill. When asked why and how he incorporates evangelism into the New Testament
course, he writes, "I incorporate evangelism into my discipline largely
because (1) God commands us to evangelize/make disciples (Matt 28:19-20;
2 Tim 2:2), and (2) he wants everyone to be saved (2 Pet 3:9)." He
accomplishes this goal "primarily by teaching it from biblical texts and
by requiring my NT students to share their faith a certain number of times each
semester, always being sure not to ask them to do something that I myself am
not willing to do or model for them."
We have Old Testament, Missions, and Education professors and administrators
who are just as adamant about evangelism as our New Testament and Theology
professors, and we have not even mentioned the dynamic and vivacious current
occupant of the Chair of Fire, Dr. Matthew Queen.
a professor in our Preaching and Pastoral Studies division, Dr. Thomas Kiker,
writes, "If we don't train our pastors to be intentional evangelists we
will continue to have plateaued and declining churches. The main role of the
pastor is to make disciples and equip the saints to make disciples. Evangelism
has got to be at the forefront if we are to do what God has called us to do."
In a day when our Southern Baptist Convention is forming task forces to examine
why baptisms have been in decline, while other task forces seek to dampen
arguments over divisive theological speculations, Dr. Kiker's words are
Keith Eitel writes, "Theology without evangelism/missions is like a body without
a soul. The one needs the other for human existence in this world. The soul
lives on either in heaven or hell. Hence evangelism is the only basis to alter
the destiny of anyone who is lost."
a time when our seminary comes under scrutiny for making so much of evangelism,
Dr. Wilder's claims about Scripture's demands upon Christians and Dr. Eitel's
reminder about the eternal destinies of the human beings who are at stake—these
take on even more relevance.
the lives of the presidents, professors, and students of Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary. We exist to help the churches fulfill the Great
Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. Evangelism is, from a practical theological
perspective, our raison d'être. If I may paraphrase W.T. Conner, our seminary's
founding theologian, applying his words to the nature of our school, as
revealed in its historical and contemporary character, Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary is "The Evangelistic Seminary," and the day it
ceases to be such is the day it ceases to be a Christian seminary. We are
fishers of men making fishers of men and may nothing ever stand in the way of
that overriding dominical policy.
Director, Center for
Written on the 487th
Anniversary of the Anabaptist
Drowning for Testifying to Christ