As a young pastor, Dr. Mike Goforth knew he needed something more. He wanted more education so he could do a better job ministering to the people in his congregation and sharing the gospel with those who still needed to meet Jesus. But he also knew something else. He couldn’t uproot his family and ministry with a move to a seminary campus.
So, Mike took advantage of a blessing God provided: The Huntsville, Alabama, extension of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College.
“Through the Huntsville extension, I found a way to get my education—to benefit from great classes and professors—without relocating,” he said. “As a result, I learned more about God’s Word and how to share it with a lost world. I discovered how to build strong, expository sermons and developed a deeper passion for missions. I received world-class training that I’ve leaned on every day for more than 40 years in the local pulpit.”
Mike currently serves as pastor of Sardis Baptist Church in Boaz, Alabama. It’s a congregation that he has loved and nurtured since 1999. And through his years of ministry, his connection to NOBTS and Leavell College has only grown stronger with time. What started out as regular trips to the Huntsville extension has transformed into active involvement across the life of the seminary—and a legacy of sorts.
He and his wife, Donna, have found a variety of ways to plug into the mission and ministry of the New Orleans campus. Plus, two of their sons now hold degrees from NOBTS—one from the Birmingham, Alabama, extension and one from the main campus.
But one of the unique ways Mike and his congregation have connected with NOBTS and Leavell College focuses on the Amazon River. Mike has a heart for missions, so it makes sense that Sardis Baptist has a long history of mission involvement under his leadership. After one trip to South America, a volunteer in the congregation developed a passion for the Amazon region. Before long, he had started a non-profit to sponsor more trips with lower costs. And with the church’s support, the ministry opened a thrift store to funnel money toward the trips and even bought a boat to take short-term missionaries from one river village to the next.
On one Amazon trip, Mike invited Dr. Ken Taylor, professor of urban missions at NOBTS and Leavell College, to join the team. Over time, Dr. Taylor continued making trips along the river, bringing dozens of students with him. The partnership has been a tremendous blessing for Mike personally and for the students ministering in those remote communities.
“We do Bible studies and work in those villages during the day, and we have meetings at night out in their city squares,” explains Mike. “It’s so neat to take those students from New Orleans into those jungle villages and teach them how to go door-to-door and win people to the Lord. That was a dream of what we wanted to do as we partnered with other churches, but we never dreamed that NOBTS would get involved.”
Mike’s experience with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College has also led him to connect with the school financially. The Goforths faithfully give to NOBTS and Leavell College because they believe in its mission and ministry. They have experienced it firsthand, and they have watched it play out in the lives of many young leaders who sat where Mike sat some 40 years ago.
“As you might expect, I’m especially passionate about helping young pastors,” Mike said. “I understand their joys and their struggles. And I know that without the financial support of NOBTS donors, many of them could not continue their education.
“That’s why my wife and I support NOBTS and Leavell College every month. I have seen the impact this institution has on its students and the world. I’ve seen how students take what they learn in the classrooms and apply it every day on the streets of New Orleans. And I’ve witnessed them take the gospel to unreached people groups, fulfilling God’s call on their lives.”
When Mike initially signed up to make those trips to Huntsville each week, he had no way of knowing how his decision would impact his ministry—and the ministries of those he has mentored along the way. But even as he appreciates what he has seen NOBTS and Leavell College accomplish in the past, he believes the school’s best days are still ahead.
“When you see the school in action, you realize it’s a neat place,” he noted. “New Orleans is a great mission field, and the school does a great job of going into the community and doing things for the community. The end result is that it helps change our country and the world as students go out and serve in different areas.
“I don’t know of a better way to invest in people who are lost with the gospel.”