The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives. I am reminded daily when I receive updates and prayer requests regarding the health challenges and hospitalizations of church members, the reported deaths of those in our communities and families, and the varied other challenges related to employment, education, and relational health. The list is extensive.
As a Southern Baptist pastor, I receive updates regularly from leaders in our local association, state convention, mission boards, and other denominational offices and entities. I appreciate the information and am thankful for the men and women serving the Lord and our churches in these offices and entities.
We have six excellent seminaries as Southern Baptists. These schools have served Southern Baptists well for many years. There have been challenges, changes, restructuring, and shifts throughout the years. Today we have six seminaries providing solid, biblical, doctrinally-sound guidance for men and women called of God into ministry. In addition to graduate level degrees, some offer undergraduate degrees in their respective colleges.
When COVID-19 forced most all schools to close and shift to online, distance-learning only, our seminaries made the proper adjustments. Yet, the challenges remain.
Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS,) recently published an article delineating the changes made at SBTS in order to continue offering courses, degrees, and provide for staff and students. The changes were difficult and unexpected by many. Nevertheless, these are unexpected times (from a human perspective.) Click here for article.
It is my great concern for each of our seminaries at this time. While some see this as an opportune time to critique unnecessarily our seminaries and the men chosen to lead our institutions, I believe our needed and primary response as faithful believers and Southern Baptists is to pray for these men and the health of our schools.
These are our schools.
Last Sunday (April 26, 2020) was a day on the denominational calendar emphasizing our Cooperative Program (CP.) I am so thankful for the CP and the faithful, generous giving Southern Baptists have historically shown.
As a graduate of two of our seminaries (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary - 1993, and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - 2018) and pastor of a church with staff, church planters, and missionaries with degrees from each of our six seminaries, I am so thankful for the education provided and the resources available through CP.
Call to Prayer - Beginning Friday, May 1 at 11am EDT
Some will say "Who are you to call Southern Baptists to prayer?" Well...no one, really. Just a pastor believing that God desires we do this. Perhaps (and there's a really good possibility of this) he just wants me to pray for these men more intently. Nevertheless, I would like more to join me.
I have contacted the presidents of each of our seminaries and have asked individual local church pastors who are either graduates of each seminary or closely connected to join me on a Zoom call for a time of pastoral prayer for our seminaries and the presidents.
I will be premiering these prayer videos each weekday, beginning Friday, May 1, 2020 on our church's YouTube channel, Facebook page, and Twitter account. These clips will be shareable and I hope that many other Southern Baptists will join us in prayer each of these days for about fifteen minutes.
Why Do This?
Like others, I have been thinking about all the ways our church and others have been impacted by the pandemic. In the midst of this forced pause for many, I see God at work. I am not fearful. I am just praying for wisdom for decisions I must make as the pastor of the church and the leadership I must offer, as the under-shepherd of this flock. It can be overwhelming, especially if I slide into relying on my own ingenuity, ideas, and thoughts.
In other words, I know I need wisdom and I cannot generate that. It is a gift from God. I know I lack wisdom in this area. I have never pastored during a pandemic (and neither has anyone else I know.)
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. - James 1:5 (ESV)
Thankfully, I know brothers and sisters who are praying for me. In addition to my request for wisdom, others are interceding as well.
I know there are other denominational entities and conventions across the nation and world needing our prayers. I know there are other leaders needing prayer. We need to pray for them as well. This call to prayer is not meant to elevate one group over another. It is just that having one staff person set to graduate from Southeastern in May and others looking to move toward getting degrees in the future, our schools continue to come to my mind.
I truly enjoyed and benefited from my years in seminary and appreciate all who poured their lives into ensuring we have these schools and that they are worthy places to recommend others to attend.
When I reached out the seminary presidents, I explained that I was simply a local pastor desiring to initiate a time of prayer for them and the schools. I need wisdom in these days. I know they do as well. I asked local pastors to lead simply because I believe in the local church and know these pastors love these seminary presidents and seminaries and have blessed by them personally.
I also assured each pastor and president that the only agenda for these meetings was prayer. Nothing more. Nothing less. No critiques. No trolling disguised as prayer. No puffing up. No putting down. Just prayer for wisdom and encouragement.
Everyone needs a Barnabas every now and then.
So, please share the schedule and join in prayer. If you cannot join at the time when the prayer videos premiere, join at a time that works for your schedule.
I believe in the power of prayer. I also believe that for me, at least, I sometimes talk more about prayer than I actually pray. So, by scheduling these prayers, I will do more than just talk about prayer for these men, I will intercede on their behalf. I hope you will as well.
Prayer for our Seminaries & Presidents Schedule:
These prayer videos will premiere on the following days:
- Friday, May 1, 2020 at 11am EDT - Prayer with Pastor Ronny Raines (Bradfordville FBC, Florida) and Dr. Jamie Dew, President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
- Monday, May 3, 2020 at 11am EDT - Prayer with Pastor Grant Welch (Church Planter, Crosspointe West Church in Vancouver, Washington, part of our Send Portland Network) and Dr. Jeff Iorg, President of Gateway Seminary
- Tuesday, May 4, 2020 at 11am EDT - Prayer with Pastor Matt Henslee (Mayhill Baptist Church, New Mexico) and Dr. Adam Greenway, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
- Wednesday, May 5, 2020 at 11am EDT - Prayer with Pastor Dean Inserra (City Church Tallahassee, Florida) and Dr. Jason Allen, President of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
- Thursday, May 6, 2020 at 11am EDT - Prayer with Pastor Michael Seaman (Trinity Life Church, Toronto) and Dr. Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
- Friday, May 7, 2020 at 11am EDT - Prayer for Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (details TBD)
This call to prayer is not something scheduled by any denominational entity. It is a grass-roots call to prayer for our men leading our seminaries. Praying for every staff member, student, and family connected to our seminaries. I am thankful for these men being willing to join me online for this time of intercession.