Longtime professor of adult education Lucien Coleman dies at 91

Timothy McKeown
| Jun 17, 2022

Lucien Edwin Coleman Jr., retired professor of adult education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1983-1993), died Saturday, June 11, in his home in Weatherford, Texas. He was 91.

“The influence of Lucien Coleman in the area of Christian adult education is still being felt today in the lives of the countless students he taught and in the lives of persons taught by those teachers," said Adam W. Greenway, president of Southwestern Seminary and Texas Baptist College. "I’m grateful for Dr. Coleman’s years of investment in Southwestern Seminary. I urge all Southwesterners to join me in praying for the entire Coleman family during this time of loss.”

Jack D. Terry Jr., vice president emeritus for institutional advancement and senior professor of foundations of education, was instrumental in bringing Coleman to Southwestern Seminary when he served as dean of what was then known as the School of Religious Education. 

“It was my happy privilege in 1982 to contact Dr. Coleman, who was teaching adult education at Southern Seminary,” Terry said. “At that time, Dr. Coleman was the premier seminary professor and writer in adult education in the Southern Baptist Convention. I was told by my colleague, Jim Williams, who was also a professor of adult education at that time, that to convince Lucien Coleman to leave Southern Seminary and come to Southwestern Seminary was a ‘religious education coup.’”

Terry added that Coleman “was a master at creating adult learning sequences that could be used in a class of any size from the smallest adult class in country churches in rural America, to the adult classes in the largest metropolitan mega churches in the convention.  His ability to instruct the least able adult teacher to the most educationally qualified adult teacher in Southern Baptist churches was his greatest and most enduring quality as a teacher of teachers.”

N. Chris Shirley, interim dean of the Jack D. Terry School of Educational Ministries, said Coleman was a forerunner and influencer in adult education for the Southern Baptist Convention. He also recalled that “He was a gentle man. He was a kind person who was very approachable and was very open. One thing I remember was he invited his classes over to his house for lunch and fellowship with him and his wife.” 

Coleman was born March 2, 1931, and graduated from Ouachita Baptist College, where he met his wife, Bobbie, of 69 years. He was ordained for ministry in 1950 and served as pastor and minister of education to several congregations before and during his time as professor of religious education at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he served from 1966 to 1983 prior to coming to Southwestern Seminary. 

While at Southern Seminary, he earned four degrees, including his Doctor of Education in religious education. He also earned a Master of Arts in communications from the University of Kentucky. From 1979-80, he was a visiting scholar at Regents Park College, Oxford University. During his tenure at Southwestern, he taught at Hong Kong Baptist Theological Seminary and Korea Baptist Theological Seminary as a mission volunteer in 1988-89.

He was the author of numerous books, notably How to Teach the Bible (1980), Understanding Today’s Adults (1983), and Why the Church Must Teach (1984). He was also the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, including the Distinguished Leader Award from the Baptist Association of Christian Educators (BACE) in 1995. Coleman taught in seminaries and conference centers on six continents. He was a frequent contributor to numerous Southern Baptist publications, including Sunday School material, Open Windows, and the Lucien Coleman Teaching Ideas for Lifeway’s Bible study material. He and his wife wrote training materials from their home for 38 years, reaching at its peak more than 800 churches.

His roots to Southern Baptist work extend back to his father, Lucien Coleman Sr., who served as an Arkansas legislator and attorney for 21 years before being ordained and serving in churches as a minister, as well as in the Arkansas Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Brotherhood Commission.

Coleman is survived by his wife, Bobbie, and their three children: Vivian Conrad and her husband John; Lynette Johnson and her husband Garry; and Martin Coleman and his wife Shirley. They have 12 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.

Services are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 18, at Laurel Land Funeral Home, 7100 Crowley Rd., in Fort Worth, with viewing at 2:30 p.m. Interment will be at 4:30 p.m. at Laurel Land Cemetery. The family requests those attending to wear a facial covering for health safety.