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Called: Malcolm Yarnell

by Malcolm Yarnell July 26, 2021

Hello, my name is Malcolm Yarnell, and I’ve been asked to give you my testimony. I grew up in a military family and lived all over the United States, from Alaska to Maine, Indiana, Illinois, Colorado, Louisiana, New York, Panama, just a number of places, and we really didn’t belong to one subculture. My parents were somewhat faithful to take me to churches in the areas where ever my father was stationed. When I was about the age of seven, I heard the gospel for the first time clearly and recognized that I was a sinner, yet God still loved me in spite of my sin, and that Jesus died on the cross in order to pay the debt for my sinfulness, and that he rose from the dead that if I would believe in him, I could have eternal life. So, you bet I did believe in him.

After that, I continued to grow, both experiencing times of growth in the Lord and times of turning away from the Lord. However, the Lord was always faithful to me, even when I was not faithful to him. But at the age of 19, I had an experience after hearing the word of God preached powerfully in which I rededicated my life to the Lord. I did not immediately sense a calling into the ministry because I was introverted and still am. All of the ministers that I knew were very outgoing and charismatic in character, and I looked at myself and recognized that I am neither outgoing nor am I charismatic in character. I enjoyed the books, being quiet, and just listening. So, it was a shock to me when I began to realize, through the witness of other people, that perhaps the Lord was calling me into the ministry. I always thought my role as a finance officer was to perhaps become wealthy and support others. Yet, he called me into the ministry.  When I was called in the ministry, it was at Summer Grove Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana and at the same time, a lifelong friend Mark Forest, who’s now the senior pastor of the church where I attend and where I am the teaching pastor. 

Personally, ministry means total dedication of my entire life. Every second of every day to the Lord’s will. It means a surrendering of all of my desires and all my actions to the will of God. I try to perfect this life for God’s glory in the power of the spirit and by focusing on the word, receiving the message that I would give to others, and making sure that my teaching is entirely in line with the word of God to the best of my ability. Also, I try to keep my body fit. I think that’s important for fulfilling a ministerial calling. So, I exercise regularly. I also try to ensure that there is no sin in my life and have accountability, not only to my wife but my children who can speak to me. Of course, I hold them accountable as well and have a number of friends that where we can discuss the difficulties of ministerial life and other aspects of life, including being a father or a husband and so forth. Therefore, it really does mean every second and every energy must be dedicated to the Lord’s glory following the Lord’s will. And I surrender that to the Lord. I’ve always understood my calling of both preaching in the church and teaching others. Personally, preaching and teaching are not two different activities, but pretty much the same activity. So my sermons tend to be somewhat complex because I’m trying to get across as much truth as possible. Yet, my teaching also has an appeal to the human heart, asking people to repent of their sin and to turn in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ. 

After a few years, I recognized that if I’m going to be the best teacher possible, then I must go to seminary. So, I went to Southwestern Seminary for a master of divinity and continued to support my family through my financial work. After that, I received some counsel from James Leo Gerard, a famous Southern Baptist theologian, to attend Duke Divinity School, where I earned a master of theology in historical theology, focusing and writing a master’s thesis on royal priesthood or the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers in the continental reformation, emphasizing the works of Martin Luther, John Calvin, the Anabaptist, and others. About two years later, while I was pastoring during this time, I sensed the Lord was calling me to get further education. I had been involved in teaching missions in Russia and other places, so I enjoyed teaching. But I also felt that I needed to earn a doctorate. And my former pastor, Wayne DuBose from Summer Grove Church, encouraged me to apply to Oxford University. I told him, I’m just a boy from the swamps of Louisiana. I don’t think they’ll accept me and I don’t know that I qualify. He assured me that I did qualify and in his mind that I needed to try. Sure enough, they took me into the university and immediately into the doctoral program, which was unusual.

Wayne and an Episcopalian by the name of Thomas Wilson raised and gave money for me to afford and attend school there. So for three years, I put my mind to the plow and wrote a dissertation, and attended seminars. My dissertation there developed further the doctrine of Royal Priesthood, but went back into the Middle Ages and covered the royal priesthood as it was developed in the English Reformation. After that, I was interviewed by a couple of seminaries in the Southern Baptist Convention because I’ve always felt as a pastor that seminary education is for the sake of the church. I knew I needed to come back to Southern Baptist Fold. As a result, I began to teach at Southwestern Seminary. Then I was contacted and asked to become the academic dean and vice president for academic affairs at Midwestern, which I was able to do for a couple of years before I really realized, (even though I was good with administration) I wasn’t happy. I’m happy when I have the word of God and I’m opening it and teaching it to people. I’m also happy when I’m able to do that with ministers and aid them to be better proclaimers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, I returned to Southwestern Seminary in 2003 and have continued to teach there. It’s now 2019, and I’m currently the Research Professor of Systematic Theology and have written a number of books. You can look those up online if you’re interested. I try to write in a way that is scholarly, excellent, yet also practical that touches the human heart. 

So that’s who I am, and that’s where I am. God bless you.