Missions Burning in our Souls: Training Church Planters in Los Angeles

Will Browning grew up as a regular churchgoer in the small, southern town of Barnwell, South Carolina. Although he heard the gospel many times in his childhood, God used the faithful ministry of a fraternity brother to lead him to saving faith in Christ in January of 1996 during his freshman year in college. Before and after Browning’s conversion, his fraternity brother, Phil, led him in a weekly Bible study, taking time to teach him God’s word.

Because of Phil’s obedience to the Great Commission and Browning’s surrender to Christ, Browning got more invested in the local church, eventually accepting a ministry opportunity at a church in South Carolina. This opportunity led to his call to ministry, a few years at seminary in Kentucky, and then a new chapter at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to pursue his Doctor of Ministry. A 2015 alum of Southeastern, Browning now serves as the Send City Missionary for the North American Mission Board in Los Angeles, California. 

In the following Q&A, Browning takes time to share his Southeastern story and how his Southeastern training prepared him for ministry in Los Angeles:  

What led you to pursue doctoral education, and why did you choose Southeastern?

It was a personal goal of mine, and my relationship with Dr. Chuck Lawless ultimately brought me to Southeastern. I chose Southeastern because I wanted to diversify my education after finishing my Master of Divinity at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Also, the fact that I could study under Dr. Lawless was my biggest draw. So, I started at Southeastern in 2013 and graduated in 2015 with a Doctor of Ministry in Great Commission Studies. My ministry project was on “Developing and Evaluating a Personal Scorecard for a ‘Missionary Disciple’ at the Journey Church of Summerville, SC.” 

What stands out about your time at Southeastern? What did God do in your life while at Southeastern?

The cohort learning style was very appealing to me. I also loved getting to draw closer to the professors and ask them questions on the subjects they have spent their life studying. It was during my Doctor of Ministry at Southeastern when I established that I wanted to be about missional disciple-making for the rest of my life. 

Are there any professors or classes that were uniquely formative for you?

I had Dr. Lawless as my professor at Southern for my Master of Divinity degree. When I heard he was at Southeastern, it was a no-brainer to study under him. I was always drawn to his pastoral heart as a professor. I always felt as much like his personal disciple as I did a student in the classroom. First, I knew that my doctoral work would be something we would all be proud of because Dr. Lawless is such a gifted grammarian and author. Second, I knew he would pastor me through the process. As an example, he offered for me to stay at his home during a week-long writing sabbatical. He’s the best professor I have ever had at any level of my education. 

How did Southeastern shape the way you view the Great Commission?

The applicational end of the Great Commission is life as a disciple-maker; the end is not a worship service. My time of study put application around that theological idea. As believers we are all called to be missionaries where God has sent us — whether it is across the country or across the street. Second, great theology is not a hindrance to mission but rather the fuel that makes missions burn in our souls.  Our love for Jesus, understood through our theology, is the reason we do everything missionally. 

How and where are you working and serving now?

I currently serve as the Send City Missionary (Chief Church Planting Strategist) in Los Angeles with Send Network and the North American Mission Board. My region consists of nearly 19 million people in five counties that make up Metro-Los Angeles. I would say that every obstacle — both religious and cultural — is a part of ministering to the melting pot that is Los Angeles. The biggest of them all is the expense to do ministry in this incredibly expensive city. 

How can your Southeastern family be praying for you?

Pray for my family to adjust well to the change from South Carolina to southern California. Particularly for our sixteen-year-old son who is making the most significant transition of us all. His name is Jedidiah. 

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