SEBTS Celebrates Great Commission Pioneers and Announces New Endowment

The Alumni Luncheon of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) was filled to capacity on the last day of the SBC annual meeting June 16.

Hosting nearly 800 alumni, friends, and supporters of SEBTS, SEBTS President Danny Akin welcomed the attendees from the stage with a past, present, and the newly elected president of the SBC. 

The entire lunch paused for a moment as all attendees joined Akin, Johnny Hunt, and JD Greear to pray for president-elect, Ed Litton. It was from the same stage that Dr. Akin announced the addition of the Sam James Church Planting Endowment and celebrated the Great Commission stories of alumni who have served in ministry for a combined 100+ years. 

The Sam James Church Planting Endowment, which President Akin and J.D. Greear announced to alumni and friends during the luncheon, will enable SEBTS to send recruit, train, and send more church planters around the world. Akin and Greear urged those in attendance to consider giving to endowment with the goal of raising $1 million to train ministers to fulfill the mission.   

“We want to honor [Sam James] because of his passion for the gospel and his love for Southeastern,” said SEBTS President Danny Akin. 

James has served with the International Mission Board for over 50 years in 115 countries and has played a crucial role in the development of Southeastern’s efforts to start a seminary in Vietnam. Before moving to Southeast Asia with his wife, Rachel, to serve as missionaries, James planted Grace Baptist Mission in 1961. After preaching one sermon urging the congregation to be on mission in their city and around the world, he moved to serve overseas. Grace Baptist Mission became Homestead Baptist Heights and eventually in 2001, the congregation re-launched as The Summit Church. James has played an integral part in helping SEBTS as they seek to launch a seminary in Vietnam through the school’s Global Theological Initiatives. 

“A lot of the so-called success that we have had as a church in missions I know is not just because of any great leadership skills or sermons I’ve preached,” said Greear, two-time graduate of SEBTS and pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. “It’s because there is a wind at our back that I cannot tell you where it comes from, but I know it’s in part because of the faith and the legacy of Sam James.” 

“I would have never dreamed that there would be a Johnny Hunt Chair of Biblical Preaching, noted Hunt, who explained that based on his background of poverty and lostness, he never imagined one day he’d have a part in raising up the next generation of scholars to lead churches. “I’ve never considered myself a scholar; I’ve consider myself a hot-hearted, gospel preacher my entire tenure, and I still feel the same,” said Hunt. He encouraged attendees to consider giving to the mission of SEBTS, so that more students can be trained to share the gospel and lead churches around the world. 

Litton celebrated the Great Commission DNA that makes up SEBTS and encouraged alumni to continue giving to the work of equipping leaders to fulfill the mission. “Because of the people who lead this institution, you have ‘go’ in your DNA, and it will never leave. It’s who you are… and you’re changing the world for the glory of God.” 

The luncheon also featured video testimonies from James and Dr. George Braswell. Braswell and his wife, Joan, served as the first missionaries to Iran in 1968. Braswell serves as Emeritus Professor of Missions and World Religion at SEBTS, where he taught for more than three decades. They have continued to partner with SEBTS in their efforts to train Farsi speakers through the Persian Leadership Initiative.   

Keelan Cook, Instructor of Missiology and Coordinator of Diaspora Missions and Evangelism, emceed the SEBTS lunch. The lunch concluded with a time of music led by award-winning musician Ellie Holcomb.  

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