Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Statement of Call and Commitment

In order to be accepted into the Ph.D program, I have to respond to some questions on a document called: Statement of Call and Commitment. I thought I'd post my responses to these questions here for your edification, and so you might get to know me better. Here you go.

Statement of Call and Commitment

1. Explain your conversion experience. Include your age, the circumstances, etc.

I became a Christian my junior year of college at 21 years of age. I came to college with an agnostic view of the world, and admitted the probability that there was a God, but I did not believe that He was either personal or knowable with any certainty. College life served to further this agnosticism through my various encounters with people of other faiths, and the tendency towards postmodern relativism in the department of my major certainly did not help make matters clearer.

It was the logical end of radical relativism that proved to be one of the motivating factors behind my renewed interest in religious clarity. Through my philosophy classes and personal struggle with finding meaning in life, I came to the bleak conclusion that if there were no God, then life seemed devoid of any real purpose. Being agnostic was no longer a happy place for me, and it led me into a time of spiritual misery which lasted for more than a year. During this time, I began to investigate religious truth claims in earnest, hoping that I might find a truth to latch onto.

It was during this struggle that I came to Jesus Christ. In a completely unanticipated event, I came to realize that Jesus Christ was truly the Son of God, and that He had truly died for my sins, and that I was completely sinful. This awakening happened one evening while I was in my apartment talking to a couple of friends about nothing particularly profound. One moment I was chatting, the next I was in tremendous fear for my soul. All the Scriptures that I had read as a sixteen year old were instantly confirmed to me in my heart through a work of the Holy Spirit. It was simultaneously terrifying and liberating. It was terrifying because I knew, for the first time without doubt, that I had offended a holy God, and I knew that my condemnation was just. After asking one of my friends who was present to come and pray with me, I went to the bedroom and begged for the Lord’s forgiveness. For the first time, I knew without doubt that there was a God, that Jesus Christ was the Savior of the world, and that I had peace through the death and resurrection of Christ.

2. Describe your family background.

(Too personal for the internet, sorry.)

3. Share elements and facts that have influenced your spiritual development. Tell about your call to ministry.

After my conversion in college, I spent a period of time wandering from church to church. For the most part, my Christian instruction came through colleges ministries such as Campus Crusade for Christ and Reformed University Fellowship. The leader of the RUF ministries on campus, Billy Joseph, helped me tremendously by discipling me and encouraging me to read good Christian books.

Perhaps nothing affected my growth more than my call to ministry. Approximately six months after my conversion, I realized while doing devotional reading in the book of James that my ministry was to teach. Specifically, I was reading James 3:1 which states, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” The Lord used that verse to convince me that I was both a teacher and that I had a strict judgment to look forward to. Apart from conversion, this was the most life changing moment of my life. Upon graduation from college, I began to seek a suitable seminary in which to study. The fear of God that James 3:1 put into my heart drove me to learn as much as I could so that I would be able to stand in the day of my judgment with as little shame as possible.

By God’s grace, I wound up studying at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary for my Master’s Degree in Divinity. The four years I spent there were by far the most beneficial and influential years in my Christian life. Through the seminary’s dedication to teaching the Scriptures and through the modeling of godliness by its faculty, I grew in wisdom and humility. Upon graduation, I was called to serve as pastor at First Baptist Church of Plaquemine where I currently serve.

4. To what area of service has God called you? What are your ministry goals?

In general, God has called me to equip the saints through the teaching of God’s Word. Specifically, the Lord has called my to discharge that duty at the church that I now pastor. My only ministry goal is to be found faithful in the day of the Lord’s return in all that He has given me to do. To this end, I have dedicated myself to a lifetime of studying God’s Word, to seek opportunities to place myself under the tutelage of godly men, and to pray continually that God will never allow me to trust to myself to fulfill the ministry that He has given me.

5. Give your educational goals. What is your reason for pursuing this degree?

My personal educational goal is to pursue wisdom throughout my life. I hope to become wise by the study of God’s Word and through the tutelage of godly people. As much as the Lord blesses me in this pursuit, I hope to share all that I have learned with others who have this same desire.

I am pursuing a Ph.D with a concentration in Church History for several reasons. First, I enjoy the environment of learning. It challenges me in ways that push me beyond what I might learn as a pastor of a local church. One of my fears is that I would grow stagnate in the pastorate, and so seminary is helpful to keep me learning and accountable.
Secondly, I have chosen church history to prevent me from becoming too reactionary. Many times we waste brainpower and energy reinventing the wheel. Most doctrinal challenges have already arisen in the history of the church, and it is likely that the questions being asked have been thoroughly answered by one or more of our Christian forefathers. The genius and piety of those who have gone before serves to both encourage and comfort me as I deal with the controversies of my own time.

Since it is one of my life goals to be under the tutelage of the godly, I find the writings of our forefathers immensely helpful. Being dead is no deterrent to instruction, and so by studying Church history godly men speak to me from the grave. I am often awed by their godliness, stirred by their conviction, and instructed by their doctrine. I owe more to the dead than I do the living in my spiritual formation, and they have never surprised me by suddenly losing their faith or plunging into scandalous sin.

Finally, I have a strong desire to teach the church of her heritage. I believe that the testimonies we have been handed throughout the history of the church are treasures for discipleship and encouragement. By studying church history, I will be personally enriched by the wonderful history of Christianity, and I will be equipped to pass on her legacy to others. Hopefully, my studies will result in more people embracing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and that others will be encouraged to walk in faith by the examples of those gone before.

6 comments:

Justin Rayburn said...

Your spurring has led me to embrace the teachings of our forefathers and to defend them against seminary students who disregard their church history classes. I hope this will be another time of great growth in your life.

Even So... said...

Thank you for this, Brad...

Lisa writes... said...

Welcome back, Brad!

Thanks for sharing this, not so just so we can "know you better," but that we may also be challenged to pursue the call of God on our individual lives. I especially appreciated your commitment "to pray continually that God will never allow me to trust to myself to fulfill the ministry that He has given me."

Perry McCall said...

Brad,
You may not remember me from the Katrina days in Assoc. office but we talk about ph.d. work and I was able to make one of the fraternal meetings while I was serving with the gang in Baton Rouge. (They are a gang you know!!) I am glad to see that you are pursuing doctoral work. Is it through NOBTS?

Sojourner said...

JD,

You're welcome!

Lisa,

Thanks! I hope that my creativity is coming back. I've been so brain-dead lately that I didn't have the energy to blog.

Perry,

Yes, I remember you well. I will be studying Church History at NOBTS, God willing. And yes, they are a gang, of which I am proudly one. How are you doing and what are you doing, brother?

Perry McCall said...

Brad,
I am the pastor at Madden Baptist Church, in Madden , MS. Burn Page was the pastor here when he was finishing his doctorate. The pulpit committee got desperate and called him for a recommendation and that ended up with Roddy giving them mine. It is a great place to be serving. I fit well with the congregation and the community. I have decided not to do my D.Min. at Southern because it is just too far. I am beginning the app. Process at NOBTS.