Over the years, Mike and Suzanne Shumock have gone from planting churches one person at a time to building them one beam at a time. And while their journey has taken them from one end of a continent to the other across three decades, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has been a common thread each step of the way.
The Shumocks first came to NOBTS in the 1980s, when Mike earned his master of divinity degree in 1984. But instead of settling in the South where he and Suzanne had been raised, they followed God’s call to plant churches in America’s Last Frontier: Alaska.
“We knew that we were going to do missions somewhere,” Mike explained. “And we had the opportunity to visit Alaska. We knew that’s where God was leading us.”
As church planters for the North American Mission Board, Mike and Suzanne knew that they would be carrying most of the load in ministry. But they agree that the training they received in New Orleans prepared them professionally and emotionally for the challenges of their new home.
“The things we were able to do together (at NOBTS) really helped,” recalled Suzanne. “For example, we took a counseling course that you had to take as a couple. That taught us how to communicate with each other. Because we were so far away from family, it was really important to learn how to build relationships.”
“One of the things I was able to do at NOBTS was to take all my electives in education,” Mike added. “I knew that in church planting I was going to be doing all of it. I even took music theory classes so that I could lead singing. If you know me, that might be hard to believe, but I did it!”
Eventually, God led the Shumocks back to the Lower 48—and back to NOBTS. This time, Mike earned his M.A.C.E. in 1990. Looking back on both of their stops in New Orleans, the Shumocks said that the seminary’s emphasis on doctrinal integrity has had an important impact on their lives and ministry. And they’re grateful that this emphasis remains a vital part of the NOBTS mission.
“It’s exciting that students are required to go out and minister in the city,” said Mike, who now serves as the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s strategist for its Mission Builders construction program. “It’s exciting to know that the emphasis is on being personal witnesses.”
“The seminary has the vision to see the possibilities to continue growing and meet the needs of New Orleans,” Suzanne added. “The emphasis is not only on being educated, but also to be trained, to have practical skills.”
In addition to the legacy of doctrinal integrity, the Shumocks recognize the impact generous donors had on their educational experience. Without support, they said, they would not have been able to afford their seminary experience. And they know that they aren’t alone.
“There are thousands of students who wouldn’t have been able to get that seminary education without the generosity of donors,” said Suzanne. “They are what makes it work. And that’s a very important thing for Southern Baptists to realize.”
In his current role with Mission Builders, Mike mobilizes teams of volunteer construction crews to build new church buildings or to restore older structures. He noted that he gets to see how God is working through church plants across the state, including New Orleans. He and Suzanne believe the seminary plays a powerful role in bringing hope to its home city.
“There are a lot of really good things happening in New Orleans, a lot of positives that you don’t always see in the news,” Suzanne said. “And the seminary community is part of that. They have a positive impact on the city, so we have to encourage our young folks to go to NOBTS and learn to minister.
“God still is at work in that city. He’s making a difference in NOLA.”