Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) hosted its Alumni and Friends Luncheon on June 15 at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Anaheim, Calif. Celebrating stories of faithfulness to the Great Commission, alumni of SEBTS and Danny Akin, president of SEBTS, charged attendees to remain committed to the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Each year during the SBC annual meeting, Southeastern is privileged to host hundreds of alumni and friends,” noted Jonathan Six, acting vice president of Institutional Advancement at SEBTS. “Together we all get to celebrate what God is doing to advance the gospel of Jesus around the world. It is always a delight to hear testimony of God’s work among our graduates. The luncheon provides a unique opportunity to step away from the business of the convention and celebrate God’s faithfulness.”
Directing attendees toward the throne room vision of a great multitude in Revelation 7, this year’s luncheon was themed “That All May Know: Every Nation, Tribe, People and Tongue.” The luncheon featured stories from Southeastern alumni who are fulfilling the mission by training the next generation to make disciples of Jesus Christ around the world. Attendees also heard a personal address from Akin, who shared from his heart about his resolve to stay true to the mission and his excitement to see God bless the efforts of SEBTS.
“We are so grateful to partner with you in the work of the Great Commission,” shared Ronjour Locke, instructor of preaching and urban ministry and director for the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership at SEBTS. “We are not the ones doing the sending. You are. Our role is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission. It is our great joy to partner with you and your churches in the sending of God’s people to the nations and the neighborhoods.”
Among those sent out to serve the Church, SEBTS alum Blair Robinson, lead pastor of First Baptist Church (FBC) of Irving, Texas, narrated how his SEBTS training equipped him to lead a 120-year-old, multi-generational, multi-ethnic church in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) metroplex. “Six of our pastors have been trained by Southeastern, so we have been infused with a Great Commission mindset,” noted Robinson. “We feel a stewardship from the Lord to train and equip students to fulfill the Great Commission.”
Robinson noted that in God’s providence, FBC of Irving is in proximity to several major universities, which has allowed them to reach, equip and send dozens of students to fulfill the mission. In the last six years, FBC of Irving has commissioned eight full time missionaries who love Christ’s mission and his Church. “We are thankful not only for the way that the Great Commission has been infused in our hearts and minds, but also how a love for the local church has been developed within us,” stated Robinson concerning his training at SEBTS.
Moises Gomez, Spanish pastor of FBC of Irving and SEBTS alum, also shared with attendees how this Great Commission vision extends to his church planting and discipleship efforts among the Hispanic population in the DFW metroplex and in Latin America. Gomez noted that it was his time at Southeastern that galvanized his Great Commission focus through friendships with professors who not only personally invested in him but also challenged him in every class to practice evangelism. “Southeastern is more than a seminary,” commented Gomez. “I have so many good memories of how the professors infused this Great Commission DNA in all their classes.”
Sharing with attendees about life on mission in the UK, Thomas West, SEBTS alum and pastor of Redeemer Queen’s Park in London, celebrated how God used SEBTS and local churches in Raleigh, N.C., to prepare and send him to plant a church in London. “Pastors, be encouraged. God is using your humble, faithful efforts. People are going,” shared West. “Alumni and friends of Southeastern, I want you to be encouraged. It is because you helped pray and pay the way of the gospel forward through the teaching, training and instruction at Southeastern that things like this are happening.”
Although, as West noted, London boasts more than 11 million people and over 300 languages, the International Mission Board reports that most of London is still unreached with the gospel. Confident in God’s grace to empower Redeemer Queen’s Park, West reminded attendees, “We can’t change hearts, but God can.” Having caught a vision for God’s mission in the world while at SEBTS, West and his team represent thousands of SEBTS alumni who have obeyed God’s command to go and have committed their lives to make disciples of all nations.
“I love this school because of who you are,” commented Ed Litton, former president of the SBC, in his brief remarks at the luncheon. “Your heart is for the nations. Your heart is for God, first and foremost. You reflect what Baptists are at their best.”
In his address, Akin shared how God has demonstrated his faithfulness to SEBTS in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how each year God faithfully draws godly and gifted men and women to teach, serve and study at SEBTS. Akin reported that SEBTS continues to train more than 5,000 students annually in addition to 4,000 global leaders through Global Theological Initiatives, including more than 3,000 Persian students in its Persian Leadership Development Program.
“God gave us clear marching orders until He comes again, that is, the Great Commission,” shared Akin. “When we are being faithful to what was on our Lord’s heart when He went back to heaven, I think He is going to honor that and [is] going to bless that.” This single-minded focus on the Great Commission is central to the SEBTS mission and has become the hallmark of Akin’s presidency, arising from Akin’s desire to please God above all. “I learned a long time ago,” stated Akin, “that the bottom line, all that matters in life, is that you please God.”
Akin affirmed that as a confessional Southern Baptist institution, SEBTS is uncompromising in its theological commitments. “We are committed to a complementarian understanding of leadership, both in the home and in the Church,” noted Akin. “We also want people to know that Southeastern is a welcoming place for women to be trained to think well, biblically and theologically.” Sharing stories from SEBTS students, Akin reminded attendees of the importance of training men and women for Great Commission ministry in a world that needs the truth and power of the gospel.
Akin concluded by acknowledging the contributions of Southern Baptists, thanking them for their ongoing support. “We could not do what we do without your prayers,” stated Akin. “We could not do what we do without your financial support. We could not do what we do without you sending your sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters.” SEBTS continues to be a Great Commission seminary because God commands all Christians to go and make disciples, and because Southern Baptists have supported and championed this mission at SEBTS since its founding in 1950.
“This luncheon is the highlight of our year because it is always the single largest gathering of Southeastern alumni and friends,” commented Drew Davis, director of Financial and Alumni Development at SEBTS. “This is a unique event because it is part homecoming pep rally, part state of the union and part worship service. We want all our attendees leaving the luncheon each year encouraged by what God is doing in and through Southeastern and re-energized to continue our collective pursuit to serve the Church, make disciples and fulfill the Great Commission.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chad Burchett is a writer for the SEBTS office of communications.)