From the time he felt God’s call to ministry, Dr. Bong Soo Choi only saw himself in one role. He wanted to be a pastor. He wanted to faithfully share God’s Word behind a pulpit and minister to people sitting in the pews.
And that’s what he did—until God changed his path.
In 2013, after several years of satisfying pastoral work in Pennsylvania and Georgia, no one was more surprised than Dr. Choi when the Lord moved him in a new direction—an academic direction that led to him to the faculty of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College.
“Throughout my ministerial journey, I have never considered myself to be anything other than a pastor,” Dr. Choi said. “But I still vividly remember what I shared with Dr. Chuck Kelley during my interview. I honestly and humbly told him that my heart was at my church and that I didn’t know why I was in his office being interviewed. Looking straight into my eyes, he told me that he wanted me to make other pastors like me. That was one of the scariest, yet honoring and humbling, experiences I have ever had. That was also the moment I was completely sold on teaching.”
Dr. Choi was born into a Christian family who lived 140 miles south of Seoul, South Korea. His ministry journey started at a Bible college in Seoul, followed by seminary studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary. He also earned a doctorate in New Testament and Early Christianity from Temple University. While at Temple, he spent four years leading a congregation just outside of Philadelphia.
After completing his doctoral degree, he and his family moved to a church in Georgia, where he eventually connected with NOBTS. Despite his initial hesitation, Dr. Choi has thrived in the role that Dr. Kelley envisioned for him. Now, as the director of the Korean Theological Institute (KTI), he helps Korean students discover the tools they need to lead and minister with excellence.
The KTI, based in the Atlanta suburb of Duluth, Georgia, awards both undergraduate and graduate degrees, offering classes online and in person. And, just as important, it lets Korean students receive the quality theological training that NOBTS is known for, but in a context free from many of the common obstacles they might face elsewhere, including language barriers.
“With KTI, students get the full benefit of the great academic discipline of NOBTS in their native language,” explained Dr. Choi. “Getting seminary training in English is a big challenge to those whose English language skills are limited. The KTI helps students focus solely on their seminary education, not on their limited English language skills.”
Dr. Choi also points out that for many KTI students, a call to ministry is a transition to a new career. And, in leaving their former path behind, they are incredibly committed to fulfilling God’s call for their lives. So, they are looking for a school like KTI to give them the level of training they expect and need.
“KTI’s reputation is high, both locally and nationally, among Korean Americans,” he noted. “The curriculum serves them well for their preparation, not only intellectually but also spiritually.”
Dr. Choi sees the fruit of theological education on a regular basis. He also understands that providing that level of training—in English or Korean—is only possible through the help of generous donors. The financial gifts given to NOBTS and Leavell College not only support the Korean Theological Institute, but they also make a kingdom impact in the United States and around the world.
“Most KTI graduates become involved in either a local church ministry or overseas missions,” he said. “So, donors’ giving affects so many lives—not just here and now, but forever. Their financial support equips more students to accomplish the Great Commission.”
While Dr. Choi never imagined himself as a professor, the growth and influence of KTI indicate God’s blessing on his work and ministry. And he will continue to prepare servants to walk with Christ, proclaim His truth, and fulfill His mission.