Jeff Struecker, lead pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, Ga., and former ranger and retired chaplain for the United States Army, graduated this spring from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) with a doctor of philosophy in Christian leadership.
Struecker was one of the heroes of the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993 – portrayed by the film “Black Hawk Down.” He was decorated for bravery above and beyond the call of duty for any ranger, special operations warrior or soldier that resulted in saved lives.
He retired from the Army after 22 years of service and received several awards, commendations and decorations throughout his military career.
Struecker was drawn to SEBTS because of President Daniel Akin’s passion for the gospel and desire to train spiritual warriors to go to dangerous places.
“I am convinced that Jesus’ church is desperate for great leadership today,” Struecker said. “I’m equally convinced that [Southern Baptist] seminaries do a great job of educating people to be effective theologians, preachers and church historians, but I think more emphasis should be placed on leadership at the same time.”
“Jeff’s skills as a leader have been on full display in his superb work in our Ph.D. in Leadership program,” Akin said. “It is an honor to have him as one of our graduates. As he excelled as an Army ranger, he has continued to excel as a pastor and a student at Southeastern.”
Struecker views Christ as the ultimate leader. “The study of God is the study of leadership,” Struecker said. “In order for Jesus’ church to confront sin and spread the gospel to the ends of the earth it will require men and women who are courageous leaders with a bold vision for God’s glory. God alone can make a man or woman into the leader the church needs them to be.”
Larry Purcell, associate professor of leadership and discipleship and associate dean of ministry studies, also shares a passion for leadership. “I was honored when he came to me and asked that I be his major professor,” Purcell said. “We both share the experience of the military and combat.”
At Purcell’s request, Struecker shared his testimony from Black Hawk Down in class. He stated that after washing away the blood of comrades he went back into the “kill-zone” numerous times.
“He seemed fearless,” Purcell said. “This opened the door to many Army rangers hearing the gospel and coming to salvation after the fire fight.”
Struecker holds a master of divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and undergraduate degrees from Troy University in Troy, Ala.
He was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and he enlisted in the U.S. Army as an infantryman when he was 18. His combat experience includes the invasion of Panama, Operation Desert Storm, The Battle of Magadishu, and more than a dozen combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Struecker has been awarded medals for valor in combat and many others for his service in the U.S. Army.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ali Dixon writes for the communications department of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Biblical Recorder staff added to this story.)