At this year’s commencement ceremony, Dr. Marty Marriott, president of Maranatha Baptist University and Maranatha Baptist Seminary, had the honor of conferring the first Doctorate of Ministry to Stephen Russell.
Choosing a Seminary
Growing up in a godly Christian home, Russell heard the gospel and accepted Christ as his Savior at the age of six. As he served the Lord in various pastoral and vocational positions, he purposed to serve faithfully and provide for his wife and four daughters.
In 1992, he met Dr. Larry Oats, former Dean of Maranatha Baptist Seminary, through Fundamental Baptist Fellowship (now Foundational Baptist Fellowship). Desiring to enhance his personal growth and ministry, Russell sought to continue his education. His relationship with Dr. Oats influenced Russell to pursue a Doctorate of Ministry in Preaching and Leading through Maranatha Baptist Seminary.
Russel participated in the inaugural Doctorate of Ministry class, “Great Preachers and Great Preaching,” offered in January 2016. He enjoyed taking classes through Maranatha’s online and virtual options, which allowed him to work on the degree without being on campus in Watertown. The online format offered him the chance to connect with laypersons, pastors, and missionaries from around the world.
Grateful for all of his instructors within the program, Russell said he especially appreciated Dr. Fred Moritz who contributed a breadth of biblical knowledge, understanding of church history, and applications to the local church.
To fulfill program requirements, students must complete a final ministry project. As pastor of Central Baptist Church in Dothan, AL, Russell recognized a need for a clearer understanding of heaven.
He shared, “Several members of my congregation inquired about books which they had read, some recounting near-death experiences where people came back to describe heaven.” After extensive biblical study and research, his project, entitled “Seeking Things Above,” culminated in a thirteen-week adult Sunday school series to provide answers and clarity on the issue.
Looking ahead, Russell hopes the Lord will provide him with many more years of service. He continues to serve as pastor of Central Baptist Church, and he plans to pursue further writing and teaching opportunities.
Please pray for Dr. Russell who writes, “More than ever, I need physical strength and stamina, as well as wisdom and discernment to know how to lead our congregation. I also need sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Of course, after extensive study and reading about heaven, that ultimate destination is always before me.”
Thank you, Dr. Russell, for exemplifying a life and ministry that is “To the Praise of His Glory.”
Watch the 2019 Commencement Exercises videos on the MBU website.