“God Did This”: Answered Prayer in the SEBTS Community
Chad Burchett | March 17, 2023
After praying for months that God would go before them to prepare their new community, David Rogers and his wife Sarah moved from Texas to North Carolina for David to start his MA in Christian Marital, Family, and Individual Counseling at Southeastern. When they arrived, they quickly realized God had answered their prayers with a vibrant discipling community.
During his college years, David sensed the Lord leading him to pursue theological education as he prepared for ministry. Shortly after David and Sarah got married, they began to consider seminaries. What stood out to them about Southeastern was its Great Commission vision and how that vision shaped Southeastern’s culture and community.
“What drew us here was Southeastern’s Great Commission focus,” shared David. “We believe that we are most effective in evangelism and discipleship when we are with others who are committed to the same thing. Where you live and where you work are important, but what really makes a difference is if you’re with other people committed to the same mission.”
We believe that we are most effective in evangelism and discipleship when we are with others who are committed to the same thing.
Praying for community, accountability, and friendship, David and Sarah moved into Southeastern housing in the fall of 2021, trusting God to provide in unlooked for ways even as they purposed to form new community. In God’s providence, their own practice of intentional community took shape when they were invited to dinner by one of their new Southeastern neighbors.
“Shortly after we moved to Southeastern, the Kaisers, who were also from Texas, invited us into their home for dinner,” recalled Sarah. “We felt really cared for by their intentionality and act of friendship. We were humbled that, immediately after moving here, we were already being sought after by people. That act of kindness set the trajectory for our involvement in community here at Southeastern.
“Before coming to Southeastern, we were both concerned about getting connected and developing community — especially meaningful community for Sarah since we knew I would be connected in class and on campus as a student,” recalled David. “So, we began to pray about our future community. Because we had been praying for community even before we came to Southeastern, it was such a blessing to get connected so quickly and recognize that God did this. The community we’ve experienced here has been an answered prayer.”
God did this. The community we’ve experienced here has been an answered prayer.
“God has certainly answered our prayers,” shared Sarah. “Living in Southeastern housing has created a community for me as the wife of a seminary student and as someone who works off campus. Because of the proximity to other women in my neighborhood, I feel more emotionally connected to them, which has been a sweet blessing for my spiritual and emotional growth. I feel like I truly have a place here.”
Embraced by their new community and encouraged by God’s work in their lives, David and Sarah began to look for ways to intentionally connect with other Southeastern students and families.
“Because we felt so cared for by our Southeastern family, we became quick to say, ‘yes,’ to people and to be the ones to reach out,” noted Sarah. “For us, we started with pumpkin bread, carrying a baked item to the 12 or so neighbors around us. God blessed that intentionality, and we met some of our good friends that way.”
“We began by making friends in our neighborhood, and now we are quick to invite people over, especially if we find out that they are new to the area,” shared Sarah. “We want to be really intentional to ask people over and invite them into our home and make them meals — both other married couples and singles.”
“We try to have the mindset that we are called to ‘be’ community instead of just ‘find’ community,” noted David.
We try to have the mindset that we are called to “be” community instead of just “find” community.
For the Rogers, this intentional, others-oriented mindset has even changed how they think about the potential for discipleship in everyday interactions.
“The proximity of living in the Southeastern community has opened up ways of connecting and discipling one another that we hadn’t anticipated,” commented David. “The accessibility to our neighbors and to our church family is such a blessing. Simple things like going on walks or stopping by to chat with our neighbors have become spiritually formative moments.”
As a way to prioritize community in their lives, David and Sarah try to think strategically and missionally about all of life, including mundane everyday tasks like budgeting and calendaring.
“If you don’t plan to connect with people, it probably won’t happen, especially amid the busyness of life,” noted Sarah.
“That’s why Sarah and I sit down each Sunday — and more concertedly once a month — to do our budget and talk through our calendar for the month,” added David. “We quickly realized that if we wanted to prioritize investing in people, then we needed to make time in our calendar and budget to host people for small group, to cook for our neighbors, and to invite people into our home.”
For David, what it means to be a part of the Southeastern community not only includes opportunities for discipleship in the neighborhood but also intentional relationships in the classroom and around campus — everyday spaces where he has been discipled and encouraged by his professors and classmates.
“The relationships in the ordinary things have become extraordinary,” shared David. “It has been encouraging and formative for me to see how Southeastern’s faculty take Jesus and what they’re teaching very seriously but don’t take themselves seriously. They also keep the main thing the main thing. The faculty love Jesus, they love the Church, and they want to see the mission fulfilled.”
The relationships in the ordinary things have become extraordinary.
“Dr. Moseley taught me so much about prayer,” noted David. “I felt like he taught me as much about prayer as he did Hebrew in his Hebrew classes. The way he took time for students like me and was unhurried in prayer helped me to see and not just hear that prayer matters. Dr. Kellen has also helped me to see that you can be really intelligent and care really well for people. She knows her stuff, yet she is so warm and personable. Other professors like Dr. Robinson and Dr. McKenzie have also taught and challenged me so much by their examples.”
In David’s experience, the accessibility of his professors, their willingness to take time for students, and their intentionality to model what they teach have set the tone for intentional community in the classroom. This intentionality has become a defining characteristic of the camaraderie and friendships David has forged among classmates.
David narrated the story of one particular friendship with a classmate named Lane. Both David and Lane shared the same Tuesday-Thursday class schedule of Old Testament, Hebrew, and discipleship and disciple making, which gave them ample opportunity to talk with each other. Through open and honest conversations for projects in their discipleship course, David and Lane developed a close friendship.
“What started as classroom interaction became a good friendship as we realized we not only enjoyed each other’s company but also were genuinely encouraged by each other’s walks,” recounted David. “First as classmates and then as friends and brothers in Christ, we have tried to be intentional to invest in one another’s lives and build each other up in Christ.”
“When I had surgery and was confined to home for a while, Lane would come over, and we would study together and just encourage one another,” recalled David. “Now Sarah and I get together with Lane and his wife Tamara, who have both become great friends to Sarah and I. Even though Lane and I no longer have the same course schedules, we all purpose to make sure this friendship lasts as we grow together toward greater faithfulness to Christ’s mission.”
This deepening friendship is just one of the ways David and Sarah have been united with others in the Southeastern community. One joy of life in the Southeastern community is that many of their friendships overlap at work, church, and campus as they labor side by side in ministry. These close connections, however, do not stop David from continuing to pray for unity in the community.
If Jesus prayed for our connection with one another to be as intimate as the unity of the Son with the Father, then we can never write off another believer.
“I pray regularly for continued unity in our community and am often reminded of John 17:20-21,” shared David. “If Jesus prayed for our connection with one another to be as intimate as the unity of the Son with the Father, then we can never write off another believer. We want to be intentional and invested in the believers around us, and we rejoice that he has given us his Spirit to do just that.”
David and Sarah remain committed to intentional discipling community because the Scriptures repeatedly call them to make it a priority in their lives. One of the Rogers’ favorite verses is Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (ESV).
“We really love these verses,” shared Sarah. “After COVID, many Christians have gotten out of the habit of community and have neglected to meet together. So, these verses remind us to stay committed to intentional Christian community. We are called to stir one another up and to encourage and admonish one another toward Christ. These verses have become our vision for meeting and connecting with people — all for the purpose of encouraging one another in the gospel.”
For the Rogers, everyday intentional discipleship is the heartbeat of the Southeastern community. That is what it means to be a Great Commission community and that is why the Rogers are passionate about connecting deeply with others to encourage them in the gospel and make faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.