What kind of people select RTS/Orlando? The same sort who have sought out RTS from the beginning — men with high goals, far-reaching vision, and a burning passion to know God’s Word and His will for their lives. Strikingly different in their talents and interests, they have one thing in common: they are single-mindedly committed to making an impact on our culture for Christ. Most have sacrificed greatly to follow God’s call on their lives; some have given up careers; others commute far distances to attend.
At 22, D.J. Snell has achieved more than some people twice his age. Raised in Canton, Georgia, Snell was vice-president and valedictorian of his senior class, editor of the school annual, and president of the National Honor Society. He graduated magna cum laude in political science this year from Davidson College, where he was also chairman of the Honor Council and a member of both ODK and Phi Beta Kappa. He is bound for Harvard Law School next year as a Truman Scholar, a coveted award given to only one hundred students nationwide.
Planning a career in government service — possibly in the State Department or elected office — D.J. has already amassed quite a bit of experience abroad for one so young. After his junior year, he spent the summer studying literature in Cambridge, England, then studied political science in France for a semester and interned for the Council of Europe, a political forum for Western European nations.
But most important of all, D.J. Snell is not just another bright, young whiz kid to enter the halls of government service. This young man is a dedicated Christian who is using his own money to take a year’s leave from his law education to study the Bible and get his priorities straight.
“This past year,” D.J. confesses, “I began to realize how much about the Bible I did not know, and, as a future public servant, how much I needed to know. I did not want to struggle with my faith in law school; I wanted to spend those years applying my faith, understanding the law and how a Christian approaches it biblically.”
Reared in a Christian family, D.J. committed his life to Christ in the eighth grade. He believes that a strong public servant must be a Christian.
“Civil servants receive their power from God,” says D.J. “How can they be effective if they do not have the mind of Christ? Most people are now-oriented; if a public official is doing a good job now, whether he is a Christian or not, everyone is satisfied. But if I really want to do a good job, I will have the mind of Christ since He knows what is eternally down the road. I will not act expediently for present gain, but will think of the future.”
Last year 42-year-old Alan Byrd had a thriving–no, booming — medical practice in the small, sleepy west Texas town of Alpine, near El Paso. In the fifteen years since medical school, he and his wife, Kay, had thoroughly enjoyed this rural desert community in the foothills of the Rockies.
He felt needed and trusted. As a family practitioner and one of the few doctors in a predominantly Mexican ranching population, Alan was expected to be able to fix almost anything. He figures he has delivered at least 1200-1300 babies and set countless broken bones.
But about five years ago, God began showing Alan in unmistakable ways that He had other plans for him — plans that might shatter the idyllic life in Alpine. Through an interdenominational Bible study begun in 1985, Alan’s faith deepened and many nagging questions were answered. Eventually he was asked to lead the group and, as his faith grew, he and Kay found themselves searching ever harder for God’s will in their lives.
During a vacation to Orlando the first part of this year, Alan felt the Lord strongly leading him to leave his medical practice and enroll at RTS. But driving back into Alpine and recalling the happy years spent there, he was assailed by doubts. “What a great town we’ll be leaving!” he moaned to Kay. “Besides, who will take over my practice and lead the Bible study? I can’t leave all these people stranded. Maybe God isn’t leading us to Orlando after all.” But He was. God brought a new doctor to Alpine who took over Alan’s practice and the Bible study! When the house sold within two months in a depressed real estate market, Alan’s doubts vanished.
As a student in the Biblical Studies program, Alan’s main goal is to study the Scriptures, and he staunchly refuses to speculate on God’s plans for his future ministry.
“As a doctor,” he admits, “I didn’t have time to study the Bible properly. I want to share Christ’s gospel — not the gospel according to Alan Byrd. I want to be armed with the knowledge and understanding and wisdom of how Christ wants us to live. However He uses me with that knowledge, that’s fine.”
“We have put ourselves in the Lord’s hands and are here for two or three or ten years, whatever He wants,” continues Alan. “It’s a relief to turn my life over to God. “I’ve always been the boss and made the decisions; now, it’s wonderful to know that God is in charge.”
By the world’s standards, twenty-eight-year-old Rick Crotteau had made it to the top last year. An ambitious and energetic second-generation Vanderbilt law graduate, Crotteau was making a lucrative salary in a prestigious Atlanta law firm. A rewarding career in law stretched before him. But the day came when he had to face it. He was extremely dissatisfied with his profession.
“I did not feel that I was really helping anyone with my work,” remembers Rick. “I was making a lot of money for the partners and myself, but I was not fulfilled.”
An added frustration was his grueling schedule. Twelve to fourteen hour workdays were common — a situation which effectively ruled out any social life or ministry opportunities. He lived on two meals a day, since anxiety about work killed any appetite for breakfast. A triathlon enthusiast, he found it next to impossible to find the time to train.
Rick wrestled and prayed and finally realized that God was summoning him back to the calling he had felt at age eleven to be a minister. Raised for most of his life in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Rick accepted Christ in the second grade. His family later became members of Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church, where, as a young boy, he developed a passion for the study of the Scriptures under the preaching of Dr. George Long (brother to RTS’s Dr. Paul Long) and associate pastor Dr. Roger Gulick. Although the passion had continued over the years, Rick had shelved the call to the ministry in favor of the “safer” and more secure practice of law.
Realizing his error, Rick resigned from the firm last summer, leaving the money, the perks, and the comforts of an affluent life to answer God’s original call for his life.
“My purpose is not only to become a scholar of theology,” says Rick, “but, more importantly, to respond to a God-given passion to learn, organize, and teach biblical truths in terms of practical application. What attracts me to the pastorate is the ability to combine teaching and counseling; I enjoy encouraging others and feel God has gifted me in the areas of exhortation, mercy, and compassion.”
Rick’s analytical training in law will be a great asset to his study of theology, while his experience in relating to the staff of a large law firm (many with skewed priorities) will help him as a pastor. Professionals in churches, he feels, can have real problems prioritizing family, work, and church. Understanding the stress in the white-collar world, Rick wants to be able to love his members unconditionally while applying biblical truths to help them decide their priorities.
As with other men who have been attracted to RTS in the past, Rick is courageous and unafraid of a challenge.
“The primary reason I was attracted to RTS\Orlando is the faculty of master teachers,” Rick confesses. “The second reason is that RTS is a new seminary. It is on the cutting edge; the students and faculty must work hard to demonstrate excellence in the first years. I would like to be a part of that. My career shift has been a dramatic one; by God’s leading, I have burned bridges and am on a proving ground myself. We both have an incentive to excel.”
If you do much flying between Miami and Orlando, you will probably recognize thirty-three-year-old Kent Keller. He’s the one who’s piling up Frequent Flyer points commuting from Miami to Orlando as a middler in the Master of Divinity program. Sound glamorous? Even fun? The fact is, making a forty-minute flight of 225 miles twice a week, packing all your classwork into two days, and leaving your wife for about half of every week is far from amusing; it constitutes real sacrifice.
That’s not all; Kent also holds down a fulltime job as Director of Singles Ministries at Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church in Miami. His dedicated commitment and motivation have made him a very valuable asset to the church in every area he has touched. Since his arrival at Key Biscayne in 1984, Kent has deepened both the youth and singles ministries and helped broaden the entire congregation’s perspective on evangelism by involving them personally in international mission work.
“He really poured his life into our kids,” says Key Biscayne member Cathy Wyatt, speaking of Kent’s youth ministry, “and worked at discipling them, spending time with them. Before he came, the ministry centered on outreach; but Kent understood the need to focus on Key Biscayne youth. He built such good relationships that, even now, college kids still come back to talk with him.”
Soon, Kent will have the privilege of seeing Matt Lomileck — a product of his youth ministry — enter RTS\Orlando in the Master of Divinity program.
In 1986, Kent became Key Biscayne’s Director of Singles Ministries and brought a fresh vigor and vision to yet another part of the church’s life. Under his leadership, the singles’ group has become not just a social outlet to meet other singles, but a body whose primary focus is discipleship, growing in the Word and the Christian life. In a city where singles are literally “here today and gone tomorrow” when a better job offer comes along, the ministry provides an opportunity for solid commitment to Christ.
The entire congregation, in fact, has benefitted from Kent’s ministry because of his emphasis on missions. Recent estimates show that over ten per cent of Key Biscayne’s membership have been on some type of short term mission trip. Deeply affected in high school by a mission trip to Bolivia, Kent made an early vow to encourage others to help spread the Gospel in countries less fortunate than ours. Consequently, youth and adults alike in the church have been to the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Ecuador, and Jamaica. This past year a group traveled to St. Croix to do reconstruction work after Hurricane Hugo.
Part of Kent’s success at Key Biscayne is the ministry experience he brings to his job. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, he became a Christian in the eighth grade after the family moved to Birmingham. Blessed with pastors who discipled him, he also became involved in Campus Life and began to consider fulltime ministry as early as high school. After graduation, he went to the University of Montevallo, south of Birmingham, where he received a B.A. in psychology and a master’s degree in counseling — both degrees chosen to help him work with youth.
In 1979 he joined Youth for Christ in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. In five years he had built a very effective ministry, involving his youth in mission projects in the Caribbean and Latin America and developing other skills he would use later at Key Biscayne.
Churches saw his work and offered him a job as youth pastor, but he turned them down, afraid his freedom would be curtailed. But Key Biscayne was different.
“I thought church youth ministers wore a ball and chain and were expected in the office from 9-5 every day wearing a coat and tie,” remembers Kent. “Raising my support was worth the freedom I had with Youth for Christ. But Key Biscayne gave me the latitude to do my job, the accountability I needed as a Christian worker, and a salary, too!”
With the growing opportuntities to minister at Key Biscayne, Kent knew years ago that he needed more training, but he did not want to leave his job to return to school. So, through the support of Key Biscayne and his wife, Heidi, he hasn’t had to.
How does he handle it? By creative management of his time, delegation of some responsibilities, and a lot of sacrifice. He has cut his work week from sixty hours to forty, and the church (not to mention his wife, Heidi) allow him very flexible hours. In addition, he works every Saturday, counseling and catching up on activities.
“What I really miss,” says Kent, “is the time to talk or simply hang around. Right now, I can’t have as many of those special one-on-one times over lunch. I hope to make that up when I return to the singles ministry after graduation.”
When asked about the exhausting pace he keeps, Kent shrugs it off, pointing instead to men of God he has met around the world — pastors who operate with no formal theological training.
“They would give anything to be in my place,” says Kent. “I met one pastor in Jamaica who works fifty hours a week in a factory and pastors four different village churches, walking to each one because he has no vehicle. What I do is easy compared to that man.”