Bloom where you’re planted

Communications Staff — September 21, 2009

“He ultimately helped me to realize that He did not need me to fulfill His purpose and was more concerned with conforming me to the image of Christ.”
– Jennifer Lyell

Billy Graham School grad finds herself on an unexpected path

Jennifer Lyell, a 2005 master of divinity graduate of The Southern Baptists Theological Seminary’s Billy Graham School, felt called to serve through international missions work. Yet, she also wanted to fulfill stateside obligations prior to heading to the mission field.

Upon completion of her M.Div. and after taking some doctoral classes, she realized it was time to put her education into practice. She sent her resume to mission agencies across the country but after six months of searching, Lyell had been granted only one interview. The Lord had not opened any doors and her sense of confusion and impatience had set in.

“So often in those situations, I respond with a spiritual (or sometimes physical) temper tantrum before the Lord,” Lyell said. “Eventually, I’m always convicted of the reality that my life is not my own. It was bought at an incomprehensible price. When I remember that – when I remember the Gospel and the picture of who Christ is and who I am – then I can humble myself before the Lord and confess the disappointment, while praying for greater faith, trust and submission.”

Entering the world of publishing

Unbeknownst to Lyell, the Lord has been developing her career path through her local church ministry at Louisville’s Ninth & O Baptist Church. While diligently job searching, Lyell had been helping teach a Sunday school class for women who were new to the church. Lyell loved watching God transform the women right before her eyes and was pleased to find their hearts and minds yearning for more of God’s Word. While looking for additional resources for these women, Lyell came across the website for Moody Publishers, which had posted a job opening that intrigued her.

“I saw the job listing for Women’s Acquisitions Editor and realized I met the minimum requirements for the position,” she said. “As I went through the interview process, initially hesitant at the thought of entering a field that was not missions, I began to realize how serving in publishing could have an immense impact in the lives of so many. I was able to see how I could help shape biblically sound and substantive resources that would help women seeking to be godly in the midst of a culture that is very far removed from the time when generations were raised learning from flannelgraphs in children’s church.”

Lyell, who has been an avid reader since childhood, moved to Chicago and joined Moody Publishers in 2006. Her initial adjustment to the publishing world was somewhat difficult, as she struggled to reconcile the path on which the Lord had her with that which she had previously envisioned. “During those first six months I was frustrated that I was not serving in the capacity I thought would most honor the Lord and the passions He had given me,” she recalled. “Thankfully, He ultimately helped me to realize that He did not need me to fulfill His purpose and was more concerned with conforming me to the image of Christ.”

Lyell grew to see how her work at Moody could both benefit the Kingdom and be used of the Lord to conform her to the image of Christ. She has taken those experiences to her current position as executive editor for women’s books at B&H Publishing Group, the trade publishing division of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville.

Being prepared at Southern

Lyell credits her experience at Southern Seminary and its Billy Graham School for preparing her heart and mind for her current work. Arriving at Southern in 2002, just two and a half years after the Lord saved her, Lyell acknowledges that at the time she was full of passion for the Lord but was still “very rough around the edges.”

“The Lord used virtually every aspect of SBTS to transform so much of that – although I’m certainly still a work in progress. My classes taught me how to study God’s Word, how to defend God’s Word, and perhaps most importantly, how to minister It with grace,” Lyell said. “So many of the core relationships in my life today are relationships that began at SBTS and continue to be my strongest source of support and mentoring. In short, my education at SBTS gave me the theological discernment to serve in Christian publishing while the relationships and experience of SBTS have enabled me to exercise that discernment with greater care and wisdom.”

Lyell is proud to be a Billy Graham School alumna and believes wholeheartedly that the school’s balance of theological grounding and missiological emphasis is unparalleled: “Second only to my salvation, frankly, going to Southern Seminary has been the most significant blessing in my life.”

Speaking at Southern

Giving back to Southern is important to Lyell. On Aug. 24, she returned to campus to speak at the Chit Chat Café event, hosted by the Pendergraph Women’s Ministry. Her discussion, “Expectations and Realities Concerning Seminary, Ministry as a Woman, and Publishing,” offered invaluable information for women wondering about their place in ministry – both in and out of the traditional workforce – and how to be patient for the Lord to reveal their place to serve.

Lyell’s position at B&H keeps her in contact with female authors from around the country. During her Chit Chat Café presentation, she commented on three particularly: Beth Moore, Carolyn McCulley and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, all of whom have impacted her life profoundly and have challenged her to grow in her walk with the Lord. Lyell has come to love and appreciate her time at both Moody and B&H Publishing and is thankful her ministry preparation is being used – but in a manner she never anticipated.

“I believe that it is good stewardship of the gifts and opportunities that the Lord has given us when we sense He is leading us in a particular direction and pursue that plan. Yet, we must be cautious and submissive to the Lord as we plan. The wisdom of today tells us that we should “network” in every way possible. The potential danger with this model is that it can sometimes entice us to trust in our relationships, connections, or social savvy, rather than trusting and hoping in the Lord. He has called us to trust in Him with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding – and He has promised that He will guide our path,” Lyell said.

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