Standing for Evangelism: From Rural North Carolina to the Chair of Fire
Chad Burchett | May 31, 2022
From Candler, North Carolina, outside of Asheville, Matt Queen first learned about Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) during his college years. Challenging him to consider seminary, Queen’s local pastor recommended he attend SEBTS to be trained for ministry. “He trusted Southeastern,” Queen recalled, “and the fact that my pastor trusted Southeastern was good enough for me.”
When he enrolled in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) program at SEBTS in the spring of 1997, Queen was unaware how God would use the evangelistic community at SEBTS to enflame his heart for missions. “We didn’t realize we were right in the middle of a revival on campus,” Queen recalled, “but the Holy Spirit was working.”
The culture of evangelism around campus was contagious. “As students we actually went out and we mapped every house within a five-mile radius of campus,” Queen recounted. “Then we went out every Friday night and shared the gospel and tried to connect people to local churches. The more time I spent with Jesus, the more time I wanted to spend telling others about Jesus. So, we did that every Friday night, and when I did it once a week, it became easier for me to do it.”
The more time I spent with Jesus, the more time I wanted to spend telling others about Jesus.
“When I was near the end of my MDiv,” Queen recalled. “I knew I had been called into gospel ministry, but I didn’t know specifically in what role I would serve the Lord. I just thought, ‘Well, I’ll be a pastor. That’s what gospel ministry is.’ However, I remember an old evangelist preached in chapel one day. At the end of the sermon, he said, ‘If you will commit to share the gospel once a day, I want you to stand, but don’t stand unless you’re serious.’ I remember it was as if God said to me, ‘Matt, if you stand up, you’re not just committing to share the gospel. You’re also committing to equip people in churches, people in North America to share the gospel.’” Queen stood that day as God called him to train other Christians to share the gospel.
Queen remained at SEBTS for his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Applied Theology with a focus on evangelism as God emboldened Queen’s personal obedience to the Great Commission. “At Southeastern, one of the things that the Lord impressed on my heart was the need to do personal evangelism,” noted Queen. “The professors told us we should do it, we heard it in chapel, and we actually did it. We were held accountable by fellow students. And sometimes the professors would come out with us.”
At Southeastern, one of the things that the Lord impressed on my heart was the need to do personal evangelism.
His professors’ involvement fueled Queen’s passion to teach and train students to share the gospel. In his faithfulness, God directed Queen to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) to serve as a professor of evangelism. Four years later, Queen was elected as the L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism (known as the “Chair of Fire”).
“While at Southeastern, I remember reading about how Southwestern created the first endowed chair in evangelism,” Queen recalled. “I remember thinking about the Chair of Fire and saying, ‘I love evangelism and would love to do that, but I’m some guy from the backwoods of Candler, North Carolina, and there’s no way I would ever have an opportunity to do that. When I got the call about the position, I just felt so unworthy, and I still feel so unworthy to be able to carry on that legacy.”
As Queen stepped into the new role, God used him to expand the Taking the Hill initiative at SWBTS — a weekly evangelism canvasing effort — from a one-mile radius around the campus to a two-mile radius, challenging not only students but also professors to model a commitment to personal evangelism. “When I came here, I thought back to what we did at Southeastern,” Queen recounted. “What really got the initiative at Southeastern off the ground was the professors coming out. So, I made myself available and went out three times a week with students. It started with three students, and then more and more started coming because they saw professors coming. Evangelism professors, Old Testament professors, Church history professors — many were coming out.”
“Now we see some professors and students going out every day of the week,” Queen remarked. “We are seeing professors not only talk about evangelism but also lead Southwestern to reach our community.”
These professor-supported evangelism efforts at SEBTS, SWBTS, and the four other seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) have given rise to the Southern Baptist Professors of Evangelism Fellowship — a strategic collective with representatives from all six Southern Baptist seminaries. As a former president and an ongoing member of the fellowship, Queen, believes the fellowship illustrates the missional heart of the SBC: “It’s a picture of the Southern Baptist Convention at its best.”
“The fellowship meets at the convention every year,” Queen notes. “We also do Crossover before the annual meeting. Students from the six seminaries get to hear evangelism taught by professors from the other seminaries. And then we also get together the week after the annual meeting for a dinner, where we collaborate with each other, talk about teaching strategies, discuss book projects, and write books together. There’s no one-upmanship; we work together, and that has become a fixture.”
Join Southeastern as we pray for the residents of Anaheim and the ministry of our students and professors during Crossover on June 11. For more information about Crossover, visit www.namb.net/crossover.