The state of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is “getting stronger every day,” President Adam W. Greenway told the gathering of the institution’s alumni and friends at the largest and final Southwestern Nights spring event on May 10. Held at Prestonwood Baptist Church, the Dallas-area event featured a panel discussion with Southern Baptist Convention leaders Jack Graham and O.S. Hawkins, both distinguished alumni of the seminary.
The Dallas event concluded a four-city tour over the last month that also included stops in Houston, Oklahoma City, and Little Rock. The events allowed Southwestern Seminary alumni and friends to experience an evening that featured updates from Greenway and interaction with local pastors and alumni.
“I want you to know that the state of Southwestern Seminary is getting stronger every day and that is because of the grace of our Lord,” Greenway told the gathering of 150 registered attendees who represented decades of seminary alumni.
“If you come to our seminary today, what you’re going to find are men and women who have a heart to serve the Lord in the context of the local church, particularly the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention,” he said. “You’re going find men who are called of God who want to pastor Southern Baptist churches and that’s a sign of health” because “the number one thing that we do is we train pastors that will serve in our Baptist churches across Texas, and literally across our land and around the world.”
Since becoming president of Southwestern Seminary in February 2019, Greenway said seminary leadership has “worked very diligently” to “recalibrate and recenter” the institution “back to what matters most,” including the primacy of the local church, missions and evangelism, church planting, church revitalization, and “the entirety of the New Testament ministry God has given to the church.”
Greenway also noted the institution’s fall 2021 class of over 300 graduates is larger than the “average enrollment at an accredited seminary in North America today” at 275 students.
Graham, a two-time graduate of Southwestern Seminary who has pastored Prestonwood since 1989, and Hawkins, also a two-time graduate of the Fort Worth institution and president emeritus of GuideStone Financial Resources, joined Greenway for a panel discussion that included reflections from the two Fort Worth natives and life-long friends regarding their ties to the seminary.
“I have a great love for Southwestern and I have a great love for our president,” Graham said. “I'm just grateful that there’s just a fresh wind blowing through our seminary.”
Graham said Prestonwood was “built on the back of Southwestern graduates” as the staff has included a number of the seminary’s alumni. The Plano-based pastor also noted the internship program between the seminary and the church that allows seminary students to earn 30 credit hours toward their degrees while gaining practical ministry experience serving at the church.
Hawkins observed the influence of the faculty of the institution on churches both he and Graham pastored. He explained the late William B. Tolar, who served for 38 years at Southwestern Seminary as faculty member, academic administrator, and interim president, also served as the interim pastor of Prestonwood. Tolar’s “hands of guidance and prayerful leadership really set this church up for success coming out of a disaster” prior to Graham assuming the senior pastor role, he said.
Hawkins also noted late longtime professor of evangelism, Roy J. Fish, served as interim pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas during a “difficult time” before Hawkins was called as senior pastor in 1993. Hawkins served the downtown Dallas church until 1997 when he became president and chief executive officer of the Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, renamed GuideStone in 2004.
Graham and Hawkins mentioned the influence of W. Fred Swank on their lives and ministries. Graham said Swank, who served as pastor of Sagamore Hill Baptist Church in Fort Worth for 43 years, “launched” their ministries, but also mentored the two men as he modeled leadership, “the discipline of study,” and the necessity of building relationships.
Reflecting on the next generation of ministry leaders, Graham expressed excitement about the future of the Fort Worth institution.
“I think Southwestern is poised and prepared for great days as a seminary and a brand-new era of raising up” future ministry leaders, Graham said. The former SBC president (2002-2004) noted he and Hawkins were part of the “Jesus Movement” of the 1970s that brought about revival across the United States, including at Southwestern Seminary.
“I'm really fired up to see what God is doing in raising up a new generation of kids,” Graham concluded. There needs to be “a place that is ripe and ready to receive them and will be focused on the right things going forward and I believe that Southwestern is that seminary,” he said.