FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Dressed in camouflage and stationed as gunner in a Chenowth Desert Fast Attack Vehicle, President Paige Patterson stormed onto the chapel stage at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Sept. 3. After firing a round of blanks from a .50-caliber Browning machine gun, he took his place behind the pulpit and initiated operation “Taking the Hill.”
“We are taking the Hill,” Patterson announced to the students, faculty and staff members in his audience. “Taking the Hill” is Southwestern’s effort to reach the nearly 6,700 households within a one-mile radius of Southwestern Seminary with the Gospel. The initiative will involve door-to-door, personal evangelism by teams of seminary students, faculty and staff members.
Looking back at his Fast Attack Vehicle and machine gun, Patterson said the seminary must be well armed for this initiative.
“That is quite a bit of fire power up there, but it is totally inadequate,” Patterson said. “As a matter of fact, it’s not even the kind of weaponry that actually works. That weaponry maims and kills. The weaponry that we need is weaponry that brings life. That weaponry brings sorrow and heartache. We need weaponry that brings joy and happiness. This weaponry has the prospect of bringing things to an end. We need weaponry that opens eternity. What kind of weaponry would do that?”
Patterson lifted his Bible, pointing out that God has armed believers with His Word, along with prayer and proclamation. Then, reading 2 Corinthians 5, he urged believers to testify to the Gospel of Christ, and he reminded them of Paul’s own motivation: the “terror of the Lord,” the righteous judge of all men and women; and the “love of Christ,” who died to save all who believe.
“What keeps you from hell and makes heaven possible,” Patterson said, “what keeps you from the ravages of death and makes life a possibility for you, what keeps you from having the sorrow of the world and gives you the joy of Jesus Christ is a God who loves you so much that He gave Himself. What kind of an individual (are you) if you do not love Him enough … to do a simple thing that He asks, and tell everybody else what He has done.”
Patterson also reminded Southwesterners that they are called to be ambassadors of Christ. He asked the members of his audience why they are at the seminary. Some, he said, are at Southwestern to become music ministers, others youth ministers and others counselors.
“That is not your vocation,” Patterson said. “That is just how you support your vocation. Your vocation is that you are a witness for Jesus Christ … In the end, there is no question of your vocation. You are an ambassador for Christ. It is simply a question whether you are a faithful ambassador or an unfaithful ambassador.”
As soon as Patterson finished speaking these words, a voice called his name twice. It was the voice of Southwestern Seminary music professor David Robinson, playing the part of God. In this short drama, the voice asked Patterson whether he really fulfilled the Great Commission and showed concern for lost men and women each day.
Lifting his left hand Patterson saw that it was covered with blood—the blood of one woman who died without hearing the Gospel although she lived less than a mile from the seminary. His right hand was covered with the blood of a man who took his own life because Patterson did not witness to him at God’s prompting.
To end the drama, the voice recited God’s warning to Ezekiel: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Therefore, hear a word from my mouth and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity. But his blood, I will require at your hand” (Ezekiel 3:17-18).
Patterson closed the chapel service by challenging Southwesterners to pray every morning for 30 days that God would give them at least one witnessing opportunity each day, along with the wisdom to see those opportunities when they come and the courage to fulfill their calling in those moments.