And he said unto them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Christianity 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.
In 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.
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.
The Seminary 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.
Please allow me a moment of your time to explain why and how Southwestern Seminary became and remains, shall we say, “The Evangelistic Seminary.”
Editor’s note: This is the introduction to Malcolm Yarnell’s essay titled “The Evangelistic Seminary.”