Ph.D. student inspired by zeal of Nigerian students
Seven Southwestern Seminary Ph.D. students and three faculty members recently had the opportunity to teach courses at the Baptist theological seminary in Kaduna, Nigeria. Understanding how Southwestern’s resources have benefited his academic career and ministry, Ph.D. student Russell Bryan imagined what might be possible for the Nigerian students if they only had more resources, newer technology, and a better classroom environment. But after witnessing their passion to impact northern Nigeria with the Gospel, he realized it was students back in Fort Worth who might have something to learn.
Although the Nigerian students face the threat of persecution for their Christian faith, they remain persistent in their theological education. Bryan asked himself, “What would happen if we (the students at Southwestern Seminary) had the zeal of those believers being trained in Kaduna?”
The trip to the Baptist seminary in Kaduna this January was part of a teaching requirement for Ph.D. students in the schools of theology, preaching, and evangelism and missions that provides students an opportunity to teach in an international context. Students co-taught with professors in various classes including Global Trends, Evangelistic Preaching, Christian-Muslim Relations, and World Religions.
In all of their courses, Bryan says they emphasized the importance of a high view of Scripture. He says this was particularly important for the Nigerian students, who will minister in a culture that blends various religions and spiritual elements. Even among those who “affirm confidently their identity in Christ,” Bryan says, many have a misguided zeal for God, viewing Jesus as a means through which their sicknesses and struggles can be alleviated.
While teaching his course on evangelistic preaching, Bryan conveyed many of the same lessons he learned as a student at Southwestern, emphasizing that text-driven preaching is Christ-centered and evangelistic. “By taking them through the same exegetical steps and biblical hermeneutics taught at Southwestern, we encouraged them to not approach the text with their topic, but rather allow the text to drive the point of the sermon and its supporting points,” he explains.
In returning to the United States, Bryan says he is humbled and convicted by the determination of the students to advance the Great Commission in such a challenging location. In 2001, an attack on the seminary destroyed the building and killed two faculty and two students. Christians continue to face persecution, and many have even fled the region, but Kaduna seminary students remained to see the impact of the Gospel in their communities.
“These believers seal their faith with difficulty, persecution, and for some, their own blood,” Bryan says. “Yet for many of us as believers in the United States, we struggle to seal our faith by simply stepping over the infinitesimal barrier of perceived awkwardness in sharing the Gospel.”