Professor installed into evangelism chair preaches, practices ‘Everyday Evangelism’
October 13th, 2014 / By: Rob Collingsworth / comments
FORT WORTH—Matt Queen, assistant professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was installed in the school’s prestigious L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism at the beginning of the fall semester. Queen is the eighth professor to hold the distinguished position but the first among them with an earned Ph.D. in evangelism.
The history of the Scarborough Chair, as well as Southwestern’s legacy of training in evangelism, goes back over a century.
The school’s founding president, B.H. Carroll, installed L.R. Scarborough as the first occupant of the “Chair of Fire” in 1908. The nickname stemmed from Carroll’s preferred designation for the newly created chair of evangelism, the first of its kind in the world.
In keeping with the wishes of Carroll, the Chair of Fire has been reserved for professors who displayed a particular fervor for evangelism.
“That all the work of this chair may not be mere theory and historical delay,” Carroll writes, “the occupant of this chair must himself be a practical field evangelist all the time illustrating, between lecture series, the power of his office in great revival meetings.”
In his four years at Southwestern, Queen has proved to be just such an evangelist. However, he says he is fully aware of the weight that accompanies the historic Chair of Fire.
Referring to his new assignment as the “Holy Grail for evangelism professors,” Queen described the history of the position first held by Scarborough.
“Scarborough was the first evangelism professor in the world. He was a preacher of the people who passionately shared the gospel and inspired people with his stories of soul-winning. His successor E.D. Head was evangelistic but is primarily remembered for his passion for scholarship.”
According to Queen, James Eaves and Malcolm McDow were both “compassionate men who loved souls.” However, they each held the chair for only a year or two during a brief period when it rotated among the chair of the seminary’s evangelism department.
“C.E. Autrey was thoroughly Baptist, but he had a broader base in his evangelistic leadership among evangelicals because of his association with Billy Graham,” Queen explained. “He left Southwestern to lead the evangelism department at the then-Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board).”
It was under Roy Fish that the Chair of Fire was officially named for Scarborough.
“Roy Fish had a love for studying evangelism historically, and in many ways contributed to an ongoing history of evangelism among Southern Baptists,” Queen said. “If Scarborough’s evangelistic influence in theological education was that he introduced the study of evangelism in seminaries and divinity schools as the first professor of evangelism, Fish’s evangelistic influence is in the students he taught who now serve as professors of evangelism.”
Queen pointed out that Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson, his immediate predecessor in the Chair of Fire, has championed evangelism in his role as president at three different schools: Criswell College, Southeastern Seminary and Southwestern.
“Exactly like Fish’s influence on theological education, Patterson has trained numerous Southern Baptist professors who are evangelistic in their places of service, as well as beyond SBC entities,” Queen said. “On a personal note, Paige Patterson has had the most influential impact on me in my practice of personal evangelism. His example, teaching and expectation for faculty to be soul-winners have made me who I am today.”
Known by those on campus for his winsome and approachable personality, Queen has continued in the tradition of the previous occupants of the Chair of Fire by displaying evangelistic passion both inside and outside of the classroom.
Queen was instrumental in the seminary’s “Taking the Hill” initiative, a plan conceived in 2009 by Patterson, the then-occupant of the Chair of Fire. Prioritizing the importance of evangelism both far and near, “Taking the Hill” and its follow-up initiative “No Soul Left Behind” proposed to share the gospel with every household within a one-mile radius of the seminary campus—some 6,700 homes. Thanks largely in part to Queen’s leadership and passion, the seminary accomplished this goal by the end of 2012.
The seminary’s next evangelism initiative, “Going the Second Mile,” extends that same theme to include every household within a two-mile radius. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Queen leads groups of students to share the gospel at least once every week in the area immediately surrounding the seminary.
In his newly published book Everyday Evangelism, Queen lays out how to establish a culture of evangelism within your church. Groups from Southwestern have also been made available to do evangelism outreach and training at churches across the state of Texas.
Twice in the last year, Queen has led a group of Southwestern students to Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla. The students trained and led church members to share the gospel personally in the area around the church. Between the two trips, more than 20 individuals expressed faith in Christ for the first time.
“We chose Southwestern because we know that Southwestern has a hot heart to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people,” pastor Stephen Rummage said.
“We know what they’re doing in their community around Southwestern Seminary to reach people with the gospel, so we wanted a little bit of that spirit here in our community as we seek to reach the people around us with the gospel.
“I’ve known Matt Queen for a long time. He was one of my students when I was a seminary professor. I know about his commitment to evangelism and to personal soul-winning, so I really wanted our students here to have an opportunity up close to find out what it’s like to be around people like Matt and like the students who are studying with him at Southwestern, who are sharing the gospel diligently, boldly and through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
In writing of Scarborough, Carroll penned these words that also describe the most recent occupant of the Chair of Fire: “His office continues each year from January 1 to December 31. He is now on the field. The Lord is blessing him. ... Like John the Baptist, he is both a burning and a shining light—not light without heat as fungus fox fire, not the aurora borealis, brilliant indeed, but melting no icebergs, but light with heat.”