In 2011, when John D. Massey began serving as associate professor of missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he said it was a “great thrill” to serve the Lord by being a “part of the process of training those” who would be “sent out by the churches” to serve as missionaries through the International Mission Board the same way he and his wife, Vanessa, were a decade earlier.
After serving as a professor teaching systematic theology, church history, and Baptist history at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Singapore, in addition to serving as a team strategy leader for southern Malaysia and Singapore with the IMB, Massey said when he first joined the Southwestern faculty he wanted, “to take all of the experience that we had with successes and failures and translate those into helping the current and next generation of those who are going out” while also “presenting a vision of serving the Lord globally to students who may have never considered whether or not God may be calling them to be overseas.”
Since 2019, Massey has served as the dean of the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions and leads the faculty of scholar-practitioners that has over 163 years of combined Southern Baptist missionary experience. Historically, Southwestern Seminary has sent more missionaries to serve through the IMB than any other seminary in the history of theological education. Massey, a 2001 Doctor of Philosophy graduate of Southwestern, is counted among that number.
Massey’s heart for Asia was an encouragement for Franklin Karong, a 2021 Ph.D. in World Christian Studies graduate from Kuching, Malaysia. Karong currently serves as the Malay Language Department director and the chairman of Global Christian Studies program at the Malaysian Baptist Theological Seminary in Penang, Malaysia.
“His love for Asia affirmed my plan to serve in my own country after completing the Ph.D. program, especially to take up the teaching position at the Malaysia Baptist Theological Seminary,” Karong explained. He said Massey’s role as dean of the Fish School, where the World Christian Studies program is housed, “inspires me to start the WCS program at my seminary alongside my colleague.”
Karong said Massey, who served as his doctoral supervisor, was “very resourceful and helpful in coaching me in writing my dissertation.” He added that Massey’s “friendly and kind character made my studies less stressful.”
Massey was instrumental in God calling one Southwestern Seminary graduate, Brit Redfield, to missions. When Redfield, a native of Mansfield, Texas, first began seminary studies in 2015, she was originally in the Master of Arts in Christian Education degree program. However, after taking a missions class with Massey that focused on “animistic folk religions,” Redfield began sensing that God was calling her to serve as a missionary though she “didn’t know anything about missions” and “wasn’t even planning on being a missionary.”
Redfield, who subsequently changed degree programs to a Master of Divinity with her elective courses taken in the discipline of missions, said through Massey’s teaching she believes she “really felt like I got the right understanding of missions praxis and why we do missions.”
Within the Fish School’s curriculum, Massey said the faculty is “very intentional about getting our theology right because to get our theology right is the first step in getting our models for ministry right.” Classroom instruction and application in real-world settings are provided through the practicums offered as part of the Introduction to Missions and Contemporary Evangelism courses that require students to share the Gospel a minimum of 12 times throughout the semester, but also through the Everyday Evangelism initiative, Massey explained.
Through Everyday Evangelism, faculty and students jointly go to different places across the greater Fort Worth area on a weekly basis, including college campuses, parks, shopping centers, and door-to-door, to share the Gospel. Massey said he has led teams to the six Buddhist temples in Fort Worth “to talk with the monks that are there” and share the Gospel with others who are there, as well. Additionally, Massey noted, he has taken a student to the Hindu temple on Fort Worth’s west side.
“This is really the primary way is to teach in the classroom and say, ‘Hey, let's go out and do it,’ and give students a cross-cultural experience right here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which has so many different people groups represented here from all around the world,” Massey said.
In addition to leading mission trips with students, Massey notes the “accessibility” of the Fish School faculty.
“Southwestern has always been known as having a culture of accessibility,” Massey explained. “I feel like that our primary role here is as disciplers - theological education is a form of discipleship. It is not just conveying knowledge, but it is helping students along who are called to serve God's churches to not just grow in their knowledge but grow their walk with the Lord.”
Calling it a “holistic perspective,” Massey added that “having an open-door policy is an expression … that we're here to disciple people.”
Massey’s desire, though, was not always to be a missionary or a seminary professor. Rather, his desire was to be a lawyer.
Massey’s father served in the United States Air Force, and though his father and mother were natives of South Mississippi, he grew up on Air Force bases along the Gulf Coast until he was nine years old when the family moved to Turkey for his father’s last tour of duty. Two years later they relocated to Louin, Mississippi, his mother’s hometown.
He majored in political science at Mississippi State University with aspirations to follow a “trajectory” to go to law school, he said. When he graduated from MSU, he already had a seat reserved for him at the University of Mississippi Law School in Oxford, Mississippi, however, seeds of the Gospel that had been planted in him as a young child began to bear fruit six months after he graduated from college.
In Feb. 1989, Massey said he prayed to receive Christ after he read Forgiveness, a book by Charles F. Stanley, longtime pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, Georgia, and 1957 Bachelor of Divinity graduate of Southwestern Seminary.
In “the first part of the book, he goes through passages of Scripture throughout the Old and New Testament about salvation in Christ,” Massey said. “And that's how the Gospel was really made plain to me by the Lord through his sharing of Scripture.”
Massey, who was named the inaugural occupant of the Charles F. Stanley Chair for the Advancement of Global Christianity in fall 2021, was able to share the impact Stanley had on his life in Sept. 2021 when Massey and other seminary officials traveled to Atlanta to meet with Stanley at the offices of In Touch Ministries, a global ministry Stanley founded in 1977. The In Touch Ministries Foundation provided the required $2 million in funding to endow the academic chair.
Over a lunchtime meeting, Massey honored Stanley for how God used him to come to Christ.
Massey recalled he shared with Stanley, “You don't know this, but you're one of the reasons I'm here. God used you to call me to salvation in Christ and now I'm here as part of a delegation from your alma mater to receive from you this gracious gift from the [In Touch] foundation to help us secure a future for our Ph.D. in World Christian Studies program.”
Because Massey “didn't make it to law school” following his salvation experience, but “went to seminary instead,” the trajectory God had for his life has impacted people globally and eternally – both in the classroom and on the mission field.
Massey said when students leave his classroom he wants them “to have a love for the Lord and a gratefulness for the grace of God and salvation,” “to have a love of Scripture,” “clarity,” and a belief that “they are part of the Great Commission,” recognizing “somebody has discipled them and they're called by God to be disciple-makers and they're called to equip the disciple-makers as well.”
Massey wants students to understand, “When the Lord said to His disciples and to the church, ‘make disciples of all nations,’ this is a command that Jesus has given to them as they are a part of God's local body, the church, and this is not something that can be delegated to others, but something that we're responsible for being a part of.”
Massey concluded it is a “privilege” to serve at Southwestern Seminary.
"Southwestern has been known for its culture of evangelism and missions and to be able to be a part of that through a school that has been dedicated to training in evangelism and training in missions is a high point of life and ministry for me,” Massey reflected. “For this to be my alma mater and to be an alum, it just makes it exceptionally privileged to be a part of that.”
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