Dr. Tom Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky will visit Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral on May 4-6 in view of a call to become the Associate Pastor. While this news may come as a shock to many people, those who know Tom well will not be surprised. He represents what is best in our seminaries and has consistently carried out his classroom responsibilities with a sense that he is a servant of the local church.
The best seminary professors are those who teach with a pastor's heart. That is the way that Dr. Nettles teaches. It was a great blessing from God when I first stepped on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary 28 years ago to have Dr. Nettles for my first professor. He taught me that all of history takes its significance in relationship to the person and work of Jesus Christ. He taught me that loving the brethren includes caring about those servants whom God gave to the Church in generations past. He convinced me that my theological understanding of the Gospel and how it works was too superficial to sustain authentic ministry in a local church. And he patiently helped me to come to a more accurate understanding of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
What many of his friends and students may not know is that Tom never intended to be a classroom professor. He believed that God called him to be a pastor and fully intended to pursue that calling in a local church. God providentially directed him along a different path. For the last 32 years he has fulfilled his calling by training pastors, missionaries and church leaders whose ministries span the globe. And he has done so as a churchman with a pastor's heart. Only a few days ago I spoke to a recent former student of Tom's. His testimony echoed what I have from countless others and personally experienced during the years that I studied under him. This new pastor described how Dr. Nettles sought to shepherd him during his days as a student, caring not only for his knowledge of history, but more particularly for the health of his soul.
The journey by which the Lord has led both Tom and Grace Baptist Church to this path is a testimony to divine wisdom and grace. Though there are still some very important, final steps in the process of his being called to serve as a pastor at Grace, the elders of our church are recommending him to the congregation and he and his wife, Margaret, sense the Lord leading them thus far to entertain that possibility.
I know that many of the readers of this blog love Dr. Nettles and praise the Lord for his life and ministry. Please pray for him and Margaret, and for the Grace family over the next three weeks. We all want the Lord's will to be done and are very consciously depending on Him to speak through His church in guiding us and the Nettles in this important matter. By God's grace, we hope to have a confident understanding of the Lord's will by the middle of May.
For the formal announcement by our church, go here.