Go Make Disciples: Serving the Church, Loving the Nations
Chad Burchett | September 22, 2023
For Southeastern alumni, Josiah and Emily Gwyn, their training at Southeastern Seminary prepared them to live every day on mission in Memphis, TN, while waiting on the Lord’s timing to serve internationally. In their waiting, the Gwyn’s are deeply invested in their community, making disciples in their neighborhood and in the everyday rhythms of church ministry.
When Josiah came to faith at age 16, God gave him a passion to serve, and Josiah sensed God calling him into ministry. Eager to learn, Josiah began volunteering in the student ministry at his local church, Richland Creek Community Church. Week after week for six years, Josiah taught the Bible to middle school boys.
In his kindness, the Lord used that teaching experience to clarify Josiah’s calling to full-time ministry. During those early years of ministry, Josiah’s church family often encouraged him to consider The College at Southeastern, so he enrolled in 2016 and began work on his bachelor’s in theology and English.
In 2017, Josiah had the opportunity to go on a mission trip with Southeastern to Toronto, Canada, and the Lord used that experience to capture his heart for international missions. Between this missions experience and the missional community at Southeastern, Josiah could sense God preparing him for a life on mission.
“The community at Southeastern was so closely tied to its Great Commission culture,” recalled Josiah. “That missional culture is something that I caught at Southeastern, and I am now — in my heart of hearts — focused on the nations and the Great Commission in every context.”
That missional culture is something that I caught at Southeastern, and I am now — in my heart of hearts — focused on the nations and the Great Commission in every context.
In 2018, Josiah met Emily, whose heart for reaching the nations encouraged his own passion for the Great Commission.
After she was saved in college, Emily’s call to missions had been as immediate as Josiah’s call to ministry. During the summer following her conversion, Emily surrendered to the Lord’s call on her life, and as God worked in her heart, she began to realize the lostness around her. Many of her international friends had come to the U.S. from countries with pervasive lostness and little gospel access. That broke Emily’s heart.
She spent the summer of 2016 in Taiwan with the International Mission Board, and when she returned, she was even more passionate about God’s word. Emily knew she needed to be better equipped to serve, so she began considering master’s options.
“My mom recommended I go to seminary, but I thought seminary was only for pastors,” Emily recounted. “I didn’t realize that I could go to seminary, but I learned that Southeastern Seminary was all about missions and that it was supportive of women in ministry. So, I listened to some of Dr. Akin’s sermons, and I really liked what I heard and what I could sense about the heartbeat of the school.”
In 2018, Emily applied to Southeastern and started her MA in intercultural studies that fall. That next year, Emily was able to go with Southeastern to Malaysia on a summer mission trip, deepening her resolve to live on mission even while studying at seminary.
In March of 2019, Emily and Josiah started dating and were married the following year. As Josiah graduated in 2021 and Emily graduated in 2022, God opened a door for them to join the staff at Bellevue Baptist Church and live on mission in Memphis.
When they arrived in Memphis, Josiah and Emily entered the community with an intentional Great Commission mindset — something they learned during their time at Southeastern.
“Southeastern’s Great Commission culture so shaped me to the point where now when I look around Memphis, I’m conditioned to ask how our church is reaching these people,” noted Josiah, who serves as director of home groups and Equip at Bellevue. “Southeastern helped me develop eyes to see lost people who are hurting right here in my neighborhood and in my community and a heart to recognize my responsibility to minister to these folks.”
Southeastern’s Great Commission culture so shaped me to the point where now when I look around Memphis, I’m conditioned to ask how our church is reaching these people.
“I was shaped by every aspect of my experience at Southeastern, but the most formative thing for me has been Southeastern’s emphasis on going and sharing the gospel,” recalled Emily. “Southeastern’s urgency of sharing the gospel — that really challenged me, and it still does as I try to live authentically and make disciples in our community.”
Motivated to make disciples where God has placed them, Josiah and Emily are involved in apartment ministry in their neighborhood, serving the residents as missionaries alongside 6 other team members. Together, they are intentionally making disciples in the everyday rhythms of apartment life in Memphis.
“My training at Southeastern helped prepare me to live as a missionary in my neighborhood,” commented Emily. “Classes that required me to share the gospel — even when I was scared — taught me to trust God and obey his command to reach the lost. Now, we are strategically meeting people in our neighborhood and hosting events in hopes of reaching them with the gospel.”
My training at Southeastern helped prepare me to live as a missionary in my neighborhood.
Josiah and Emily also serve as life group leaders at Bellevue, discipling fellow believers in authentic community, modeling what it means to live on mission as a family. Josiah and Emily were deeply formed by this model of discipling community during their time at Southeastern, and now they are working to reproduce the kind of biblical community they experienced there.
On staff at Bellevue, Josiah has consistently seen how his Southeastern training orients his teaching and keeps him grounded in God’s word.
“My theology degree equipped me to think well about how I teach and about what I teach and to biblically evaluate events and ministry activities in the church,” noted Josiah. “It tempers my teaching and helps me ensure that what I am saying about God’s word is accurate and true instead of merely looking for something motivating to say to people.”
“The combination of English and theology has also helped me do good research — especially as a pastor,” added Josiah. “You never stop researching in ministry, and even though you aren’t submitting essays to professors, you are still keeping up with current events, studying biblical topics, and exercising discernment when engaging various sources — all with the goal of discipling others to walk with Jesus.”
As everyday missionaries, Josiah and Emily are deeply rooted in their community but are still praying for God to one day send them and their son Enoch to serve internationally. Josiah and Emily’s passion for missions continues to grow as they remain obedient to make disciples and as God continues to place cities like Toronto on their hearts.
“I believe that the Lord has called us to Bellevue for a season to shape us and mold us, and he also has us here to make disciples in this community and shape and serve the church,” noted Josiah. “We are fully invested here until the Lord moves us, and we pray for faithfulness as we wait on what the Lord has planted in our hearts — to one day serve in an international context.”
In their waiting, as they remain faithful to Jesus’s command to make disciples, Josiah and Emily are grateful for their season of community and training at Southeastern where God instilled in them an abiding passion for the glory of King Jesus among the nations.
“Because of Southeastern, we’ll never forget the lostness of the nations,” noted Josiah. “We’ll never forget the lostness of our next-door neighbors and what it means to enter into community and friendship with them but also to share with them the most important news that they could ever hear — the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Would you join us in prayer for Josiah and Emily as they live on mission in Memphis and as they stay surrendered to where the Lord may lead them next?