It’s kind of hard for me to believe, but my Fruitland experience goes back 22 years. It was the summer of 1999, and I was 19 years old. Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute (now Fruitland Baptist Bible College) was an excellent beginning choice for my higher education.
My connection with Fruitland began even before my birth. My uncle James Hefner, also a Southern Baptist pastor, went to Fruitland in the 1960s. When my brother Robert and I announced our call to vocational ministry, we chose to attend Fruitland because of our family connections, appreciation for faculty such as Kenneth Ridings and Randy Kilby, and because of its tuition affordability.
That decision turned out to be life changing.
One of the greatest benefits of Fruitland is the practical theology of its educational curriculum. Most of the faculty are part-time and most were or have been in full-time Christian ministry. Professors who are also pastors help the courses to be academically sound and ministerially applicable. Students learn first-hand about pastoral ministry.
My two years at Fruitland introduced me to mentors and professors whose influence continues in my life. As a student, the camaraderie and theological development alongside other students shaped my perspectives and practices.
As for academics, the lessons of studying, reading, researching and writing I learned at Fruitland formed the foundation for my academic endeavors all the way to my doctoral studies.
Fruitland became life changing for me beyond academics. Fruitland is nestled in Hendersonville, N.C., and while a student, I began an internship at Mud Creek Baptist Church where several members of the pastoral staff taught at Fruitland. The opportunity to learn academically while serving ministerially in part-time and then full-time ministry formed my ministry philosophy.
Because of my connection to Fruitland as a student and through fellow pastors, I had the opportunity to substitute in a variety of classes and grew to love Fruitland not just for the education it provided, but for the opportunity to share what I had learned with others.
Currently, I serve as a professor at Fruitland, teaching Western civilization and theology. Having also taught apologetics, I’ve grown to deeply appreciate the impact Fruitland has on students and North Carolina Baptists. It is an honor to look aspiring ministers in the eye and participate in shaping their academic development and ministerial philosophy.
As a student I didn’t fully appreciate the connection between Fruitland and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), but now I do. Because Fruitland is an entity of the BSC, tuition costs have remained affordable. This was one of the primary reasons I attended Fruitland and it is still a factor for many current students. As an N.C. Baptist, I want to take this opportunity to thank my fellow N.C. Baptists and convention leadership for their continued investment in Fruitland. I don’t know where I would be without the academic foundation it provided and the opportunities it offered.
When you give, you support a school that trains ministers to have a high view of biblical authority. When you give, you provide for the education and development of pastors who will do kingdom work for decades to come. When you give, students learn how to communicate the unchanging gospel to an ever-changing culture. When you give, you help students develop their ministry philosophy that will impact eternity.
For me, Fruitland is more than an entity of the state convention. It is the ministry lifeblood for Baptists across North and South Carolina.
To the faculty at Fruitland, thank you for investing in the lives of students who will go on to be pastors, missionaries and denominational leaders.
To the leadership at the BSC, thank you for your continued support for Fruitland to remain an academic and ministerial foundation for N.C. Baptists.
To N.C. Baptists, thank you for giving. Your giving influences kingdom work right here in our state and throughout the world.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chris Hefner serves as chairman of the Biblical Recorder’s board of directors.)