Q & A with Todd Bates

The News Magazine of HCU

1. Please tell us about your background.

I was born in Alabama and grew up in Orlando, Florida in a very traditional, Southern home. We went to church most Sundays, said our prayers before meals and at bedtime, and were expected to represent our family well; but, my faith commitments were primarily superficial and lacked any substantive depth.

As I grew older and engaged life more deeply, I began to question the strictures of my upbringing. When I didn’t receive answers that really satisfied me — quite frankly, I am not sure any answer would have satisfied me — I decided to trust my own judgment and live as I wanted to. As I look back on that period of my life, the answers I received were not necessarily bad answers. I simply wanted to live as I wanted to live and, well, you know how that usually goes!

Late in my collegiate days, I experienced a time of deep conviction of my sin. God allowed me to catch a glimpse of His holiness and see myself in light of it. It was as though God pulled back the rock covering my heart and allowed me to see all the ugly, creeping things that lived underneath. I saw for the first time how sinful I was. I clearly remember thinking that God would be perfectly just to condemn me and I could not utter any defense. But, thanks be to God, at that moment, God enabled me to truly understand the grace He had shown in sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross. I flew to the cross!

From those days forward, my goal in life was to know God, the one who loved me so graciously. Every aspect of my life is influenced by that goal — endeavoring to receive all things as expressions of the love of God and seeking to love God in all things.

2. How does your pastoral experience influence your approach to academia?

Great question. Pastoring has helped me in many ways. It taught me to be patient with human frailty — my own and others’. We are all broken and in need of Christ. That vantage point gives a perspective on both disappointments and successes.

Being a pastor has also shaped my academic research and writing. No matter what the topic, one question that is always important to me is how this research helps people love God and love their neighbor more effectively. One of my greatest academic influences is St. Augustine, who was both profound scholar and involved shepherd. The model of pastor-theologian deeply informs all that I do.

The burden of caring for souls is a craft that demands all of you, but is dependent upon none of you. So, perhaps the greatest influence pastoring has on my approach to academia is the simple desire to be faithful. At the end of the day, have I honored God in my efforts, and have I encouraged His people to follow Christ more closely? If so, it was a good day.

3. What appealed to you about HBU and the School of Christian Thought?

First, I think it was Dr. Sloan’s vision of a comprehensive Christian university foundationally committed to the liberal arts. The challenge to work out the implications of our central confession, “Jesus Christ is Lord,” in a university setting was deeply appealing.

Second, it was the opportunity to work with such great scholars. My colleagues are some of the best and brightest scholars in evangelicalism. To work shoulder to shoulder with them to fulfill the mission of Houston Baptist University in the service of God’s Kingdom is a profound blessing.

Finally, the privilege of serving God in the heart of such a great city. Houston is a dynamically complex city that presents many opportunities and challenges. The challenge of shaping the next generation of Christian leaders in such a dynamic setting is an extraordinary honor.

4. In what ways do students benefit from an education at HBU?

Students at HBU benefit from a great core curriculum that enlightens and enlivens minds with the great truths that have enriched human lives throughout the ages. The skills developed through these core classes not only equip students for courses in their major, but also enable students to be lifelong learners. In their majors, students are able to work closely with skilled professors who are experts in their fields and genuinely care for their students.

Outside of the classroom, there are tremendous opportunities to build community through “Kaleo,” our campus discipleship initiative, Baptist Student Ministry organization and many other campus groups that serve our students. Special events bring extraordinary speakers to campus and allow students to interact with nationally and internationally renowned speakers.

5. What are you looking forward to for the future?

I am excited about the potential of HBU’s Houston Theological Seminary! Our seminary offers a high level of academic preparation in biblical scholarship together with a high level of competent practice in effective church ministry. Our collaborative partnership with Second Baptist Church offers our students the best of theory and practice. This, again, at the heart of a great city like Houston is a tremendous opportunity to serve the needs of the Church for the glory of God and the good of Houston.

Another area that offers exciting possibilities is our Classics and Biblical Languages department. Our classics program offers tremendous potential for impacting the Kingdom of God through classical Christian schools. Dr. Steven Jones regularly speaks to schools in Houston and around Texas. His passion for the classics is contagious! The department is also launching an MA in Classics and Early Christianity. This degree focuses on the world into which Christianity was born and the New Testament was written. Dr. Jones and Dr. Tim Brookins are the lead faculty members for this degree, which is unique among evangelical universities.

I also anticipate the continued development of partnerships with ministries that serve the city of Houston. From church-planting, to prison ministries and ministries that meet the needs of the poor, homeless, hungry and trafficked, HBU and the SCT is deepening and expanding our commitment to love God in loving our neighbors.

These are just a few of the exciting things the SCT is developing in an effort to live out our central confession, “Jesus Christ is Lord,” by offering a Christ-centered, biblical education for the Church, the academy and our city.

Visit HC.edu/ChristianThought.