Former preaching professor Harold Freeman dies at 83
Harold Freeman, former professor of preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, died on April 14. He was 83.
“Harold Freeman was a faithful and valued member of the Southwestern Seminary preaching faculty for nearly three decades,” says Southwestern Seminary President Adam W. Greenway. “His contributions to the great tradition of text-driven preaching that has long characterized our seminary are significant and perhaps best seen in the fruitful ministries of the countless students he taught over the years, and in particular the many doctoral students he supervised. I hope all Southwesterners will join me in praying for Dr. Freeman’s family as they grieve the passing of this legacy servant of our seminary.”
Freeman was born on Jan. 2, 1936. The son of C. Wade Freeman, a Southwestern Seminary alumnus who served as a pastor as well as director of evangelism for the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), Freeman felt the call to a preaching ministry at the age of 12. Though a sense of shyness initially made him resistant to the idea, his family encouraged him to pursue the ministry, leading him to enroll in Baylor University.
Freeman began his first pastorate while a sophomore at Baylor, preaching every other Sunday and getting paid 75 percent of the offering each day, which amounted to such totals as $11.33 one Sunday and $7.68 the next. After graduating from Baylor, Freeman came to Southwestern Seminary, where he earned a Bachelor of Divinity in 1961 and a Doctor of Theology in 1969. He held multiple pastorates during this time, ultimately settling at Highland Baptist Church in Dallas from 1967-1974.
In June 1974, Southwestern Seminary President Robert Naylor invited Freeman to join the faculty as a preaching professor, a prospect Freeman had never considered. Nevertheless, Freeman accepted the invitation and was elected to the faculty during a specially called meeting that same month. He went on to serve as professor of preaching, associate dean for the Ph.D. program, and the Ralph and Bess Smith Chair of Preaching for the next 27 years.
Former Southwestern Seminary administrator William B. Tolar, a contemporary of Freeman’s, said of him upon Freeman’s retirement in 2000, “Harold is a very hard-working, very conscientious professor, and very meticulous in his demands of himself and his people.”
Throughout his ministry at Southwestern Seminary, Freeman encouraged his students “to let the text shape the message and not make the Bible serve your sermon structure.” He also encouraged them to find the practical application—that is, the “so what?”—of a text.
Freeman was the author of Variety in Biblical Preaching and published articles in various academic journals, including the Southwestern Journal of Theology. In addition to Southwestern Seminary, Freeman also taught internationally, traveling to Australia, Hungary, Romania, Poland, and Ukraine. He also served on the executive board of the BGCT. Following his retirement from the seminary, Freeman continued to serve churches through interim pastorates.
Freeman is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, Alice; two children, Hal and Amy; and multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
To listen to some of Freeman’s chapel sermons at Southwestern Seminary, see here.