Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary And The Big Five

 Chapter 42

One hot day in August I served my last day with the United States Air Force and moved that same day into the seminary in Mill Valley, which became the Philpott family home for the next three years.

Many of my friends and acquaintances from my seminary days are mentioned in other parts of these memoirs—professors Clayton Harrop, Fred Fisher, Kyle Yates, and Francis DuBose—and there are a host of others. Dr. Graves, the president, watched over the seminary with a firm but graceful hand. 

There were a number of seminary students who became part of our ministry in San Francisco and Marin County. Among them were Terry Jenkins and Beverly Igo.

There were, however, the Big Five, as I have taken to calling them: Paul Bryant, Oliver Heath, Roger Hoffman, Mike Riley, and Bob Hymers. You can read more about each of them in the bios section of the book.

Paul and Ollie were involved very early, I recall in 1969. Both rock solid Christians with deep ties to Southern Baptists, they were bold risk takers, committed to Jesus, and capable of preaching, teaching the Bible, and doing direct personal evangelism—just what I needed. 

By the time they joined up, the number of converts in need of disciplining was growing. Our houses were expanding, and we needed leadership. This is what Paul and Ollie brought to our fledgling ministry. Both remain friends to this day, and they are still active in Gospel work.

Roger, Mike, and Bob were almost like a package. I got to know Roger and Mike when I returned to the seminary to do a Th.M. They were ready to go, actually wanting something unusual and different. Within a few weeks of meeting them, they introduced me to Bob Hymers, whose full name is actually Robert L. Hymers, Jr. He has too many doctoral degrees to list them here, and he is one of America’s great preachers. 

Bob was different from the rest of us, because he was a staunch fundamentalist and anti-charismatic to a degree. This was probably good for us, as it kept us from falling too deeply into some of the excesses that abounded at the time. 

All of the Big Five, except for Paul, are pastors of real churches to this day. What they brought to me was stability; they were people I could count on to head houses, pastor churches, preach, teach, and lead. They are all my friends today, though we have had our moments. You don’t need to know. 

I spent six years walking those seminary halls; wife Katie graduated with an MDiv. there; and son Vernon is a student now. But not for long. The seminary is moving to Ontario in Southern California in the summer of 2016, about the time this second edition of the Memoirs book is coming out. It is a wise move in my eyes, and I wish them well. You can bet I will be visiting from time to time. 

Students often have a love/hate relationship with a school, and I have been disappointed a time or two with GGBTS, but what a wonderful gift to have had the school and the many dedicated professors teaching right here in Marin. I will feel sad at having to say goodbye to John Shouse, Glenn Prescott, Rick Durst, Jeff Iorg and a number of others, but this is the reality. 

Conversion to Christ and the new birth are the great miracles indeed. Then discipleship, sanctification, and mentorship are all so necessary to the work of the Gospel ministry. The Big Five and the seminary will always have a large space in my heart.

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