I first heard about Dr. Sam Simmons when our family lived a year in Africa. He was teaching at the Baptist Theological Seminary of Zambia during a sabbatical. The Simmons left the month before we arrived at the African nation where the heart of David Livingston is buried. During the convening years, I read an article Sam wrote about redesigning seminary curriculum around the five purposes of the church and his ideas resonated with mine.
I made a trip to California to visit with Rick Warren and discuss my idea of starting an online seminary. Warren, the author of the Purpose Driven Church, had designed his church around these five biblical purposes: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism. Warren was unable to meet with me that day, but his staff wanted me to talk with one of the laymen at Saddleback Church. That afternoon, Sam called me at my hotel and said, “Daryl, what’s up? I heard about some top secret project you are working on.” The “layman” turned out to be Dr. Sam Simmons, one of the most innovative thinkers in theological education.
We went out for dinner that evening and I shared my vision for Rockbridge Seminary. I would start a sentence and Sam would finish it. He would start a sentence and I would finish his very thought. Dan Southerland, who helped make this connection, said of the evening, “When you both were talking about a new seminary, goose bumps went up my back.” I think that was Dan’s way of saying he felt God’s presence. At the conclusion of our meal, Sam said, “I have been dreaming of doing this for many years, but it wasn’t until tonight that I see how it can be done. Let’s do it!” A few months later, Sam called and said, “I’ve resigned from my seminary post and I’m going to work full-time on our seminary project.” I said, “Sam, we don’t have any money budgeted for a position right now.” Sam said, “I know that. I’ll work until our personal savings run out and we get the seminary off the ground.” In a matter of months, we brought him on as our first paid employee.
I have learned many things from this co-founder of Rockbridge Seminary. I’ve learned how to risk it all for a cause that is greater than you. I’ve learned how to keep your focus on the main thing. He has edited my writings and made me better. He has challenged me to think outside the box. His life has been a gift to me.
Do you have friends who complete your thoughts? Do you have soul friends who are risk takers? Do you have soul friends who make you better? You are indeed blessed.