Jerry Vines, pastor emeritus of the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Fla., and preacher for more than 60 years, has enrolled in the Ph.D. program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The prolific preacher and frequent speaker at Southwestern’s annual preaching conference will begin his studies in Southwestern’s School of Preaching this fall.

“All of his life, Jerry Vines has been a student par excellence,” says Southwestern President Paige Patterson. “For Vines, who already has a Th.D., now in retirement to seek a Ph.D. with our School of Preaching should inspire every preacher to keep studying and learning all of his life. I will be the most surprised man on earth if he does not write one of the finest dissertations ever.”

Vines started preaching at age 16, and he pastored several churches before accepting the pastorate at FBC Jacksonville in 1982, where he served for the next 24 years. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at Mercer University, a Bachelor of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Theology from Luther Rice Seminary.

Over the years, Vines has been active in the Southern Baptist Convention, serving as president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference from 1976-1977 and president of the SBC itself from 1988-1989. Vines’ sermon “A Baptist and His Bible,” delivered at the SBC annual meeting in 1987, was considered a turning point in the Conservative Resurgence.

Adrian Rogers, SBC president that year, called the sermon “a wonderful example of scholarship, conviction, and truth presented from a heart on fire and a heart in love with Jesus and His Word.” Regarding the sermon’s significance, Rogers said, “My own heart was deeply stirred to have affirmed one more time that the rank and file of Southern Baptists are people of The Book. We may be diverse in many ways, but real Baptists are united in the Word of the Lord and the Lord of that Word.”

Vines retired from the pastorate in 2006. In the days following, he realized he needed to continue studying the Bible as he had for the past several decades, even though he would no longer fill the pulpit of a single church. In his most recent book, Progress in the Pulpit, which he co-wrote with Jim Shaddix, Vines writes, “I am not content to coast to the finish line. I intend to keep making progress as a preacher until then.”

Vines says that, in the book, he and Shaddix “encourage preachers not to just stay where they are in their preaching. Rather, seek to make progress in your preaching as Paul encouraged young Timothy to do in 1 Timothy 4:15: ‘so that your progress will be evident to all.’”

“I thought I might better practice what I preach!” Vines says in regard to his decision to continue his formal education. “You never get too old to hone your preaching tools and be a better preacher.”

Vines is enrolled in Southwestern’s flex access Ph.D., which will allow him to participate in seminars through live, real-time video web conferencing. Given his writing and traveling schedule, Vines says this is “perfect” for him at this time. “To say I am excited to begin this work is an understatement,” he says.