This has been a big year for me.
A year ago, I was working a part-time job that paid me way more money than I needed. I was finishing up my first semester at Johnson University in Knoxville, Tennessee, and I was about ready to quit. There was nothing keeping me at Johnson. As I began looking at my options, the thought of quitting school altogether to work seemed more and more feasible.
But one night, I took to Twitter in hopes of getting a free shirt that I had seen on various sites. The shirt read, "For the Church," and it was connected with Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. It seemed as if the school was pushing for a rebranding, so, in typical Cody style, I tweeted one of Midwestern's Vice Presidents asking for a shirt. He quickly followed me back so I could direct message him my address, and I requested additional information about Midwestern in hopes that it would soften the blow of me suckering them out of a free shirt.
I would have never guessed in that moment that I was the sucker.
After a brief time enrolled at an unaccredited online school, I began surveying what it would mean to relate writing and ministry. My brother attended Middle Tennessee State University, and I had heard favorable things about their English program. In my mind, I was going to be a Blue Raider—though I was a little bummed about it. I had given up an automatic scholarship since my online school was out of state. I looked everywhere. Bethlehem Seminary? Affordable, but unaccredited. Boyce? Wonderful, but too expensive.
I gave Midwestern a second look, remembering my interaction on Twitter months before
Accredited? Yes. Affordable? Just as affordable as MTSU would have been.
I dug around and found out about their new Accelerate program. I could finish up my Bachelors and get my Master of Divinity in a combined five years, not counting all of the credit I could transfer in. I ran some numbers for a week before talking to my family about it, and they reacted...positively, much to my surprise. I prayed, quit my job for a ministry internship, applied and got accepted. God was moving in a clear direction: He wanted me to at least give an eye towards Midwestern Seminary.
I flew to Kansas City in May. As long as I didn't hate campus, I was ready to say, "Yes!" While visiting campus, God connected me with the pastor of my church, a group of people who have drowned me in the gospel during my time here. God allowed me to connect with some folks online before I made the move. Next thing I knew, it was August 20, and I was in Kansas City again, this time to stay.
But God did not slow down. God moving at His pace seems to be the norm here since Dr. Allen has taken over, and God has not been sluggish.
I have been given the incredible honor to work underneath Dr. Christian George in studying the unpublished work of one of my heroes of the faith as a Spurgeon Scholar. The Spurgeon Library here at Midwestern is a world-class facility that is pregnant with opportunity.
I have been blessed by Midwestern's family of faculty and staff and their willingness to act as a resource for me. If you're a student, learn to care about your faculty and staff. They care about you.
I have met some of my best friends here, ranging from men who could almost be my father to the guys who live on my hall.
I have been pushed into godliness, work ethic, and community.
None of these things could have been done by me. They were all given to me. And I'm grateful for them every day. 2015 has been a year of change, endurance, and excitement. But I would not change a thing, and I am certain there is much more in store for the way God will use Midwestern in my life for His glory.
There is something special going on at Midwestern. If you blink, you'll miss this unique season that I believe will shape the future of Southern Baptist identity in the twenty-first century. Midwestern is raising up both gentle pastors and theological pumas, and there is an extreme overlap between the two. I'm excited to watch these things unfold, but I'm immensely more honored that God has chosen to put me here during this time.
To 2016, and beyond.
Cody Glen Barnhart
Cody Glen Barnhart (@codygbarnhart) lives in Kansas City, Missouri, and is a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Canon & Culture, Gospel Centered Discipleship, and is a contributor at servantsofgrace.org.