Originally published in the spring 2023 Update Magazine.
“Our world needs more pastors and church members who know what they believe and are equipped to serve,” said Dr. Dan Rushing, dean of Pensacola Theological Seminary (PTS) since 2009.
PTS began meeting that need in spring 1998, opening its doors with 80 students—including Dr. Rushing, who graduated in 2000 with the first Master of Divinity class. Although PCC’s Bible department was already offering a few graduate degrees, Dr. Arlin Horton and the Board of Directors agreed that establishing a seminary would better support future pastors and ministry leaders. “The aim was to master God’s Word, knowing what the Bible teaches and then ministering in a compassionate manner,” said Dr. Dell Johnson, the first dean of PTS. “We did not want pride of intellect, but purity of heart with a trained mind: to pack students’ souls with a passionate heart for God alone.”
Guided by solid leadership—Dr. Johnson, then Dr. Joel Porcher, and now Dr. Rushing—PTS has grown throughout its 25 years. More degrees are offered for pastors, missionaries, and laypersons; and online classes have been added, enabling students to earn degrees without leaving home. As PTS has expanded, though, the original values have never wavered.
Boldly Taking a Stand
The hallmark of PTS has always been its passion for the authority of the Bible. In contrast to a rising trend toward questioning the Bible’s validity, “PTS students are instructed to believe the Word of God—not criticize it,” said Dr. Johnson.
“Without question, the focus on Scripture itself is our distinctive,” shared Dr. Rushing. “There’s no substitute for that.”
Firmly believing that the Bible is the final answer on all matters, PTS upholds a literal understanding of issues like Creation, a worldwide flood, and eschatology—and a confidence that God has kept His promise to preserve His inspired Word. “Our graduates leave with a deep conviction about the inspiration, preservation, and sufficiency of Scripture,” said Dr. Rushing. “That is the bedrock foundation for their ministry and for their life. If we can help them settle that, they’ll go in the right direction.”
Preparing Students for Ministry
PTS students receive practical training, an academically rigorous education, and a strong base of Bible knowledge. Learning to carefully handle Scripture, they develop a well-balanced philosophy of ministry: clearly formed convictions and a heart for people’s needs. “Each of my teachers has had a clear desire to prepare me to serve God and reach others,” said PTS student Taylor Cartwright (Professional Writing ’21), who plans to serve women in her community. “With each conversation, lecture, and project, they have pointed me to Christ and the Bible and helped me seek God better.”
Students are encouraged to begin their ministries while attending seminary, immediately applying their studies in a church setting. “Serving as an intern in a local church gave me the opportunity to further grow in both academic knowledge and practical experience,” said Sam Sinclair (Pastoral Ministries ’13, History ’15, M.A. Biblical Languages ’15, M.Div. ’17). Now a senior pastor in Alabama, Sinclair feels well prepared to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). “My ministry has been enormously enhanced by my language training at PTS,” he said. “I regularly use the tools I learned in my Greek and Hebrew classes to mine the Scriptures for truth. Being able to interpret, apply, and explain the Bible has been the most important part of my ministry.”
Making a Difference in the World
Through its graduates, the legacy of PTS reaches worldwide. “The longer I look at America, the more I am convinced that people desperately need Jesus,” said PTS student Jeremiah Thomason (Pastoral Ministries ’22). “I want to do my part as an obedient servant of Jesus Christ to take the gospel to my people.”
Missionary Chris Hurst (M.Div. ’10) chose PTS for his Bible education before moving his family to the Philippines, where the church he pastors has opened a Christian school and Bible institute. “We are praying about other church plant locations and sending out individuals from the ministry,” he said. “PTS helped prepare me to share God’s Word while also preparing me to show God’s love.”
Whether graduates plant churches in distant lands or spread the gospel in their own hometown, studying at PTS can strengthen their ability to serve their Savior. “Our burden is for our students to be thoroughly furnished for every good work,” said Dr. Rushing. “If we can have a part in that, then that’s our joy and delight. That’s what we’re doing at Pensacola Theological Seminary. This year, next year, but also 40 years from now.”
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