Kelley, who also serves as an evangelism professor at the seminary, was recognized Sept. 3 along with Gerald Stevens, professor of New Testament and Greek, who marks 25 years at the seminary, and several others.
Tom Harrison, chairman of the NOBTS board of trustees and executive pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., offered a special word for Kelley and other faculty members celebrating anniversaries.
“As part of the trustees, it’s a great pleasure to recognize these men and women who have served here so faithfully,” Harrison said. “These men and women have sought to do that in each of our lives so that we can go out and be a greater part of the Kingdom of God.”
During his tenure at NOBTS, Kelley has served as professor of evangelism, chair of the division of pastoral ministries, director of the Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health and now president. He challenged those present to remain faithful to God’s call, even when that call is different than expected.
Kelley shared his personal road to serving on the faculty of New Orleans Seminary.
“I did not ever in my life imagine the role of seminary professor for me,” Kelley said. “I came to seminary to be an evangelist.”
Kelley said it was longtime professor Joe Cothen who first asked him to consider teaching.
“Now to be 30 years old and offered the opportunity to teach and be on the faculty of one of the largest seminaries in all the world was a great honor and a great privilege,” Kelley said.
Kelley said he wasn’t initially interested in the offer, particularly because it was not what he wanted to do in ministry.
But through talking with his wife Rhonda and with other mentors and counselors in his life, Kelley was convinced that joining the NOBTS faculty was God’s will. Still reluctant, he hit the road for the entire summer speaking at youth events. He didn’t return until 2 a.m. the day of faculty workshops.
“That was as long as I could put it off,” he recalled. “I’ll never forget that moment in the classroom two weeks after classes began when I had the experience of seeing exactly why God wanted me here and the realization that God had been preparing me all my life for this.”
Kelley contrasted his call to teach and serve at the seminary with New Testament and Greek professor Gerald Stevens’ story. Unlike Kelley, who stepped directly into a teaching role, Stevens did not experience an immediate open door to being a professor. That delay came in spite of Stevens’ profound conviction that God had called him to teach at seminary.
“He prepared all of his life for that calling, learning Greek and the New Testament, pouring his life [into his studies], because he knew God wanted him to be a seminary professor,” Kelley said of Stevens. “And God opened up a wonderful opportunity for him to sell cars—nothing close to his calling.”
Stevens later had the opportunity to be a collegiate minister, which was closer but still not what he wanted to do deep down. Kelley said he remembers eating dinner with Stevens at a New Orleans restaurant, both marveling at how God would open a door for Kelley at the seminary and not Stevens.
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