Faculty Q&A with Al James

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Al James is the Associate Dean of Ministry Studies and Professor of Missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He shares about his experience as a missionary and how he teaches students pursue God’s heart for all peoples. 

1. Tell us about yourself. 

I’m originally from Jesup, Georgia. I went to Brewton-Parker College and Blue Mountain College for my undergraduate degrees. I earned my M.Div. and Th.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. I started preaching at age 13 and pastoring at age 18. I met my wife, Cathy, while signing up for classes at Brewton-Parker. We got married after our sophomore year of college, and have been married for 38 years. We have four children, ages 16 to 35, and a dog, Chipper. We have six grandchildren ages 2 to 11.

I was called to the mission field during seminary at New Orleans. We eventually went to India and the Philippines, spending 10 years with the International Mission Board.

2. How did you come to SEBTS? 

We were enjoying our work in the Philippines in 2001 when I received an email from Southeastern about an opening for a missions professor role. I had already served as a missions professor at New Orleans before returning to the mission field, but we were unsure it was time for us to come back to the states. I met with Dr. Paige Patterson and Dr. Russ Bush in Manila, and over a six-month period, I eventually determined it was the Lord’s will and began serving at Southeastern in August 2002.

Since serving here at Southeastern, I have also served as a pastor in a couple of churches. First, I served as pastor of Carey Baptist Church for 11 years, and now I serve as a pastor of Hales Chapel Baptist Church and have been for two years.

3. What do you do at Southeastern?

I serve as the Professor of Missions and as Associate Dean of Ministry Studies. As Associate Dean I work with our missions, preaching, evangelism, counseling, Christian education, worship and women’s studies faculty.

4. On what are you currently working?

One of the biggest projects I’ve been a part of lately was the recent curriculum redesign at Southeastern, which we finished last year. I was part of the leadership to revise several of the degrees I oversee. Now, I am catching my breath a bit from those big projects but there are always more coming up in the future.

5. What have you been reading recently?

I am currently reading Pastor Derwin Gray’s “The High Definition Leader.” It is an excellent book for anyone trying to process the racial tension in our country right now and to think about multi-ethnic ministry. 

6. When you get home from work, what do you look forward to doing? (What are your other passions?)

I love spending time with my wife. We’ve made it a habit for 20 years to date each other at least weekly, which I highly recommend doing. I also love spending time with my kids and have been a part of their sports endeavors over the years. I’ve caught thousands of footballs and baseballs with my son. I’m a reader, too, so I spend a lot of time reading different blogs, newspapers and more. I also enjoy exercising regularly. 

7. Who are your role models?

Some role models include my father in ministry, W.D. Johnson, my youth pastor, John Carlton, and my college English professor, Jimmy Voyles, who showed me what it’s like to do bivocational ministry. 

8. What has God been teaching you lately?

I’ve been preaching through the Sermon on the Mount recently at my church, and the Lord has just really been impressing upon me that character matters and the way we relate to each other matters. 

9. When a student completes your class, what do you want him or her to walk away with at the end of the semester?

I want my students to understand that God has a heart for the nations, and if God has a heart for the nations, then we must have a heart for the nations, even if that means we don’t pack up and go to the nations.

10. We always say that every classroom at SEBTS is a Great Commission classroom. What does that look like for your class?

I want my students to know what God’s heart is for the nations, and I want them to adopt that same heart so that they might live a life of faithful ministry.


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