ORLANDO, Fla. (SWBTS) -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary honored three distinguished alumni whose ministries reach around the world with the Gospel during its annual alumni luncheon at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting, June 16. More than 400 alumni and friends gathered to honor Gil Stricklin, Mike Howard and Charles Stanley in addition to hearing a president’s report and electing alumni association officers.
Stanley, whom Southwestern president Paige Patterson said is the most well known Southwestern alumnus in the world, serves as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta as well as founder and president of In Touch Ministries, a global broadcast ministry that presents the Gospel in 50 languages on 1,800 television and radio stations around the world. Stanley also served as SBC president for two terms during the Conservative Resurgence. As a New York Times best-selling author, he has sold 6.5 million copies of his 35 books.
Patterson praised Stanley's steadfast obedience to the Lord regardless of the circumstances. He recounted occasions during the turbulent times of the Conservative Resurgence when someone would suggest a political shortcut, and Stanley would say, "Wait a minute. We don't have to win. All we have to do is please God."
Stanley thanked Southwestern for honoring him with one of the distinguished alumni awards and gave all the credit to God.
"When I think about all the things that God has done and people ask me why, my answer is very simple: Just do what God tells you to do next," Stanley said.
"I have one goal: Get the truth of the Gospel to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, as simply as possible, in the power of the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God.
"I have one bottom line by which I make all my decisions: obey God and leave all the consequences to Him. He can handle anything He sends my way."
Also during the luncheon, In Touch board member Dean Hancock presented Southwestern with the first of five $100,000 checks to be used to fund student scholarships at the seminary.
"It is our desire as a ministry to honor Dr. Stanley by giving $100,000 each year for the next four years to see the ministry of In Touch bless and be used until our Lord returns," Hancock said.
Hancock spoke of God's provision through a small Southern Baptist pastor in Virginia for Stanley to attend college. "It was the pastor of a small church in a small town that opened the door for this day," Hancock said.
Patterson accepted the check on the seminary's behalf and expressed appreciation for In Touch's investment in eternity. He noted that when Stanley found out that it would be another year before the endowment would produce the interest to fund student scholarships, he personally donated $10,000 of his own money to fund students for the coming academic year.
Stricklin is founder and CEO of Marketplace Ministries, a Dallas-based company that provides 416 U.S. corporations with nearly 2,500 chaplains who minister to their employees. Founded in 1984 with contributions from First Baptist Church in Dallas and the North American Mission Board, Stricklin's company has seen more than 55,000 people come to Christ in the workplace through their ministry.
"That's thrilling to me because that's what we're all about," Stricklin said. "We're all about seeking to bring others to Christ and getting them into a fellowship where they can be discipled for Christ."
"People do not have to go to your church or mine, but I want you to know that they've got to go to work, and if we can be there to love them and encourage them and uplift them and value them and tell them about Jesus, there will be a lot of them that will join us in heaven."
Howard and his wife, Lindy, have served with the International Missionary Board (IMB) in the African nation of Zambia since the early 1980s. The Howards worked with national believers to plant 230 churches before being assigned as IMB strategy facilitators, where they mentored missionaries who planted an additional 1,400 churches, resulting in 6,000 new believers.
"We went to Africa and went to a bush situation, and we were amazed to see that there were Africans that God had already put in place who were ready to share the Gospel," Howard said. "All we were was a catalyst for them to plant churches among their own people."
"We just believe that everyone in the world deserves a chance to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and the only way that change will come about is if they know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior."
In addition to alumni awards, Patterson told alumni and friends about the work God is doing at Southwestern. He relayed up-to-date information he received from IMB, which indicates that there are currently 948 Southwestern graduates serving with IMB on the mission field. Even more noteworthy, Patterson said, is the 382 Southwesterners serving in secure locations around the world, 191 of which are serving in Security 3 zones, countries where the highest level of hostility toward Christianity resides and many are martyred for their faith.
Patterson also invited professors and administrators Steven Smith, David Allen and Thomas White to share with alumni how Southwestern seeks to impact the world with the Gospel. Smith, dean of the College at Southwestern, shared how the seminary's undergraduate program trains students to be cultural apologists wherever God calls them.
"One of the things you've heard from the convention floor the last two days was that this next generation is more tenacious and more ambitious," Smith said. "So, it's providential that we have this degree that matches their ambition." Smith spoke of the "robust degree" offered in the College at Southwestern and explained the seminary's partnership with IMB that allows students to spend six months during their degree with IMB missionaries, taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Allen, dean of the School of Theology, shared with alumni the seminary's commitment to expository preaching, saying it must be done "in a creative way with passion." White, vice president for student services and communications, told of his experience with a current student who is finishing his degree while sharing the Gospel with the unreached Ngindo people of East Africa. He also told how students are reaching the Fort Worth metroplex with the Good News of Jesus Christ. He even showed Southwestern's free iPhone and iPad apps, which contain multiple evangelism tracts that students and alumni are already using to share the Gospel.
"Today's students are passionate about making sure that the Gospel of Jesus Christ goes to the ends of the earth," White said.
In election of national alumni officers, Hayes Wicker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fl., was elected president and Tommy French, pastor emeritus of Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La ., was elected vice president.