The President’s June Newsletter
Congratulations to the class of 2021! This month, we graduated 65 pastoral leaders: the largest graduating class of Northern Seminary in over 60 years. Not since the days of Washington Boulevard—even before Judson University in Elgin began—have we conferred so many degrees. Amid the noise and chaos of our world, the class of 2021 has heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom Shall I Send and Who will go for us?” They replied, “Here am I send me.” Congratulations.
Here is just a snapshot of this gifted, global group:
- They serve in 20 states- from Maine to Hawaii
- Their churches partner with eight different Christian denominations
- They minister in four international countries
- They are missionaries in Rwanda, Bolivia, Canada, and the United States
- They are chaplains on the front lines through the Salvation Army
- They have planted churches in Utah, Idaho, Illinois, and San Antonio
In this newsletter, you’ll read just a few of their fantastic stories in ministry contexts, from Reno to Bolivia. We also celebrate the inaugural cohort of the Master of Arts in Urban Leadership under the leadership of Dr. Gerald Dew. Started on the South Side of Chicago in partnership with New Life Covenant Church Southeast, this degree program trains pastors and ministers serving in historically Black and multiethnic churches serving in the heart of the city.
REWATCh Last Week’s Commencement Events
A Third-Generation Pastor Pursues His Love of Learning at Northern
Pastoring and a love of learning both run deep in Steffan Allen’s heritage. Almost sixty years ago, his grandfather, Samuel Allen Sr., started Greater Bible Way Apostolic Temple in Joliet, Illinois. Steffan’s father, Bryan Allen, took over leading the church in 2005. Now Steffan is the assistant pastor. He says, “I have been officially preaching and ministering since May 23, 2013, but I have been active in ministry since my early days in church”—from participating in Sunday school to serving as a drummer for two of the church choirs.
While immersed in church ministry, Allen also took the opportunity to pursue his passion for education by earning a degree at Northern Seminary. “I genuinely enjoy new information and furthering my understanding,” he says. “Not only do I love learning, but it is something that has been ingrained in me from an early age.” His grandfather received his doctoral degree from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in 1974, and his father received his doctoral degree from St. Thomas Christian University in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2013. “Northern Seminary felt like a place where I could follow in those same footsteps made by great men before me.”
Combining Scholarship and Ministry in Reno
For recent Northern graduate Brandon Evans, being a student and scholar of the Word is a lifelong endeavor. When Evans first enrolled in seminary, his goal was to enter the academy as a scholar. Instead, he says, “I had a growing call to the local church and opted to pursue pastoral ministry.” During his first year of vocational ministry, he discovered Northern Seminary’s DMin in New Testament Context program. “It was the perfect bridge between scholarship and ministry—academically rigorous and applicable for my local congregation. I applied as soon as I could.”
The church context where Evans serves is not short on challenges. After six years in vocational ministry, he is currently the lead pastor of Reno Christian Fellowship in Reno, Nevada. “Despite its sordid reputation, Reno is a fast-growing high desert gem nestled at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains,” he says. “Yet the spiritual climate in Northern Nevada is a cold one.” According to Barna research, Reno is currently the second most unchurched city, the eighth most dechurched city, and the 18th most “post-Christian” city in the U.S. “However,” Evans says, “in the face of these statistics, the opportunities for revival are endless.”
Theological Reflection at Northern Helps Equip Worship Leaders in London
For Tracey Campbell, being the only international student in her cohort at Northern Seminary was more of a blessing than a challenge. “I had the immense privilege of learning alongside people who live, work, and serve in contexts very different to mine,” she says. “This made the MAW course all the more enriching because there was so much to learn from the varying denominations and traditions represented in each lecture.”
For over ten years, Campbell has served as the leader of the worship ministry at Emmanuel Community Church International (ECCi), a Pentecostal church in London, England. In that capacity, she says, “My role is to help broaden and deepen the team’s understanding of worship theology and practice through developing teaching programs that facilitate ongoing theological and spiritual development.”
A Chicago Pastor Engages the Ever-Changing World of Ministry
Reflecting on his experience as a student at Northern Seminary, Lawrence Walker quotes a line from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” Over the last three years at Northern, Walker says, “That is just what has happened to me. Dr. Robert Price, Dr. Felecia Thompson, Dr. Gerald Dew, and others have taught me to think outside of the box because ministry is constantly changing. They reminded me that as the methods change, the Gospel message doesn’t. I wholeheartedly cherish the privilege of learning from these stalwarts in ministry.”
Walker himself has been active in various ministry roles over the last fifteen years. Currently he serves as the Children and Youth Pastor at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in the Englewood community in Chicago. Previously he has taught Sunday school, worked with and mentored youth, served as an executive pastor, “and everything in between.”
CONTEXTUAL THEOLOGY IN Bolivia
In 25 years of ministry, J.D. Reed has served on two different continents, including youth pastor, associate pastor, nonprofit leader, and adjunct professor. One of the things that drew him to the DMin in Contextual Theology program at Northern Seminary was its focus on ethnography. By the time he came to Northern, he had already been studying culture for years while ministering in Bolivia. The DMin degree, he says, “helped to give me a better framework to understand the culture in a more comprehensive way.”
J.D. and his wife, Rhonda, felt a calling to cross-cultural ministry while he was working as a pastor in the U.S. In 2011 they were commissioned by American Baptist International Ministries (I.M.) and moved to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. In 2014, they took over a ministry that is now a nonprofit foundation called Fundación Proyecto de Esperanza (Project of Hope Foundation). This organization supports local ministries in the areas of health and wellness, local church empowerment, and leadership development.
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