BOWLING GREEN – The wireless microphone is a mere formality, entirely unnecessary when attached to Adam Greenway, the new dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The fiery yet refined Greenway has a reputation for presenting the Gospel clearly, simply and boldly. Some even dare to compare him to Graham, the famed preacher who held his crusades in coliseums to accommodate the massive crowds that came to hear him.
“I believe the Word of God is life-changing,” Greenway said, explaining his passion for evangelism. “I’m convinced that when a man of God, under the anointing of the Spirit of God, opens the word of God and proclaims the Good News of God, that people are going to be changed, broken lives are going to be restored, sinners are going to find salvation and Christians are going to find spiritual renewal. Nothing gives me a greater sense of sheer joy and delight than seeing people come alive because of what they encounter through God’s word.”
Settling in as head of the Graham school, Greenway, a world-class preacher, is making himself available to churches across the Southern Baptist Convention, no matter the size.
One of his stops last Sunday was at a small satellite congregation of a few dozen people meeting in the cafeteria of Plano Elementary School in Bowling Green. There he challenged believers to stand strong in the face of a growing animosity toward the Gospel.
“Friends, we live in challenging times; there’s no doubt about that,” Greenway boomed, drawing amens from worshippers. “But God has given us His Word and His strength. Are you ready to rise up and meet the need of this hour?”
Greenway’s voice reverberated off the walls and his fist pumped the air as he reminded worshipers at the Eastwood Baptist Church satellite that “whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Greenway, now a family man with a wife, Carla, and 4-year-old son Adam Wade II, started preaching as a teenager and by the time he was 17 was serving as an interim pastor at Southside Baptist Church in Frostproof, Fla., his hometown. After that stint ended, he headed to Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1998. He followed that with a master’s degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2002.
For his doctorate, Greenway, 36, chose Southern, where professors were immediately struck by his intellect. His fields of study there were evangelism and church growth as well as apologetics and philosophy. He maneuvered his way through the doctoral program while serving as senior pastor of The Baptist Church at Andover in Lexington, Ky. By the time he had his degree in hand in 2007, Greenway had been invited to join the faculty as an assistant professor.
“In my estimation, Adam Greenway is one of the most remarkable and gifted leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention today,” said Paul Chitwood, executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “His IQ is off the charts, yet, for a guy who is so stinking smart, he has a rare ability to communicate passionately and effectively from the pulpit to the pew. As a preacher, he calls to mind the young Billy Graham. As an intellect, Al Mohler has a new peer.”
Don Mathis, staff evangelist at Eastwood Baptist Church, describes Greenway as a brilliant man with an uncanny ability to remember everything he has ever studied or read. Mathis jests that Greenway is a powerful speaker despite his degrees.
“He doesn’t let his education get in the way of his preaching,” Mathis said. “He’s got a powerful delivery. He has no reservations about getting down among the congregation when he’s preaching. Obviously, his verbiage is unusually good, but he uses it in a way that really reaches the congregation.”
Greenway, former president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, describes a sense of awe in serving the Lord as dean of the Graham school. It’s a position that he never could have envisioned for himself, one that he credits entirely to the Lord.
“I’ve discovered that when God writes the script it’s always far better than the best plans or desires that we could choose for ourselves,” he said. “I never could have ever dreamed that I would be doing what I’m doing today apart from the sheer grace and mercy of God. And I’m thoroughly convinced that seeking to obey him, following his plan and his path, is not just the best in terms of what God desires, but it really is the best for us. There’s no more fulfilling place to be than in the center of God’s will.”
Greenway is leading the only academic graduate school that Graham has permitted to be named for him. That in itself brings a sense of great responsibility.
“It’s an incredible trust, a sacred trust,” Greenway said.
It’s one that Graham gave his blessing to shortly after Greenway became dean last year. Greenway drove to Graham’s North Carolina home and visited with Graham to be, in a sense, personally commissioned by the elderly evangelist to uphold the school’s legacy of faithfulness to the Gospel.
As they chatted, Greenway leaned in and put his hand on Graham’s chair. “He immediately put his hand on mine,” Greenway recalled. “Talk about being blessed. He told me to be faithful to Jesus and preach the Word. That has been my prayer.”
In demand in other realms of Baptist life, Greenway also serves as chairman of the board of trustees at LifeWay Christian Resources, publisher for the Southern Baptist Convention based in Nashville with influence throughout the evangelical world, and has become a “vital strategist” for the operation.
“To put it simply, Adam is one of the smartest people I’ve ever known,” said LifeWay President and CEO Thom Rainer. “I often seek his guidance and wisdom in numerous areas. He is such a quick thinker that he is able to evaluate a situation and offer alternatives very decisively and wisely.”
Inside Plano Elementary, Greenway held his Bible aloft, looked into the faces of an attentive congregation, and bemoaned the doubters in the world who insist there is no such thing as absolute truth.
“Every person who says that wants you to believe it’s absolutely true,” he said before lifting his Bible aloft and thundering: “This is truth. Every bit of it is truth. It’s not a falsehood. Not fiction. Not fabrication. The Bible speaks only truth.”