Southern’s teaching impact branches beyond Louisville

Communications Staff — January 4, 2010

When Brandon O’Shields began to realize God was directing him toward a life of discipleship and of equipping the saints, he quickly realized he needed to be equipped himself.

“As I prayed and studied the Scriptures, God made it clear that I needed a theological foundation, and the seminary I chose needed to equip me in this area,” O’Shields said. “As I talked with people and researched seminary professors, SBTS stood above the rest with most if not all professors believing in God’s sovereignty and our responsibility to be submissive to the Scriptures. My wife and I took the next step by visiting the seminary and were blessed by the hospitality and the interaction with students and professors.”

O’Shields and his wife began to pray about how his attending seminary would impact his career, his ministry as Student Minister of Glenwood Baptist Church in Easley, SC., and their plans to start a family. It was decided that staying in South Carolina and attending Southern’s extension center in Greenville would work best for the couple.

In spring 2008, O’Shields began working towards his master of divinity in pastoral studies in Greenville. He has supplemented his Greenville coursework with travels to Louisville for on-campus winter and summer J-terms. The SBTS extension center program has helped O’Shields balance his work life, church life and school life during the past two years.

“In life and especially in beginning ministry, I find it easy to ride the waves of emotion, desires of men, and pragmatism. The extension center has helped me to put off this mentality by keeping me grounded in the Word,” O’Shields said. “Anyone who has sat under the teaching of SBTS knows that the professors teach, reprove, correct and train us so that we may be competent and equipped for every good work. At the extension center, this training has gone beyond the classroom. In my experience, a professor often teaches two successive classes and between those classes we have been able to grab lunch or dinner. This fellowship with the professors has been such an encouragement to me, for they are no longer just my teacher but also my mentor.”

O’Shields has found that the individuals that sit beside him during class have become more than just fellow classmates.

“Through the extension I have become friends with people who are my age and others who are old enough to be my dad,” he said. “As we train together and travel together for J-terms, we are able to encourage one another in our lives, families, ministries and studies.”

All of O’Shields extension center classes have been beneficial to his understanding of God’s Word.

“The class that has been especially beneficial for my sanctification and in how I disciple others is Introduction to Biblical Counseling with Dr. Stuart Scott. Dr. Scott’s class on Personal Spiritual Disciplines was also instrumental in understanding growth in godliness. Church History with Dr. Gregory Wills was beneficial for my understanding of the historical implications for the Church today.  Dr. Adam Greenway’s class on Apologetics in the Local Church helped me understand how evangelism and apologetics works together in the local church,” O’Shields said.

As O’Shields has walked deeper into his studies at Southern,  his goals to pastor a church and reach out to lost people groups have grown stronger.

“As I finish seminary, I plan to explore unreached areas and people groups to see where God may want my family to serve,” O’Shields said. “I am not sure if we will start in an area that is reached or not reached, but I am sure that we will be involved in seeing every tribe and nation confess Jesus Christ as Lord.”

Like many Southern students, both on and off campus, O’Shields finds that many people do not know about the extension centers, located in Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Wisconsin and Washington D.C. O’Shields  encourages all SBTS students, on-campus or off-campus, to be ambassadors for the seminary and its extension centers.

“The seminary professors go out of their way to come to the extension centers and we, the students, need to find ways to spread the word. If you have a home church where an extension center is close by, spread the word through your friends, family, and church,” O’Shields said. “If you are considering moving on-campus in the future, look to see if there is an extension center close by and start taking classes. The extension center is the best way to have quality off-campus theological training. By quality, I mean it is biblical, personal, and interactive.”

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