This semester Dr. Ron Pate celebrates two years as the Director of the Birmingham Center. Many students know him as professor, but there is much more that you may not know about him. Did you know that he once rode his motorcycle to Sturgis? Recently, Dr. Pate agreed to share some things about himself to allow NOBTS students to get to know him a little better.
Where did you grow up? I grew up in the southeast corner of Alabama known as the “wiregrass” or “tri-state” area. We lived in several small Alabama towns (Gordon, Pansey, and Ashford) before settling in Dothan, Alabama, the Peanut Capitol of the World for my later elementary and additional school years.
Tell us your testimony. I attended a small, rural, Freewill Baptist Church with a half-time preacher until we moved to Dothan, Al. where I became an unsaved member of Calvary Baptist Church and was baptized and proceeded to avoid attending for most of my elementary and Jr. High School years. At almost 16 years of age, I was visited by some young people who told me what it meant to be a believer, and I committed my life to Jesus Christ and was saved.
Briefly describe your call to ministry. How long have you served in ministry? Shortly after my salvation experience I began to sense a call to ministry. I already had college plans and future work plans but felt God leading me to let the work plans go and seek a summer ministry position before going away to my freshman year of college. That was confirmed by some of my adult leaders, current circumstances, and my first paid ministry position as Summer Youth Minister in Springboro, Ohio before returning home and beginning a religion major at Samford University in Birmingham. I have been in active ministry service for forty-four years.
Tell us about your wife and children. I married my high school sweetheart from Dothan, Patricia Johnson, in my second year of college, after several years of dating. We experienced a miscarriage of our first child after waiting six years then Christopher was born after seven years. He was such a handful that we waited another nine years before having Caitlin. Christopher is 34 and self-employed in the area of computer building, repair, and etc…. Caitlin recently turned 25 and is a Pharmacy School Student at Auburn University.
Where do you serve in ministry? How long have you been there? I have been the Senior Pastor at three churches, 9.5 years in New Orleans while at seminary, 12 years in the south suburbs of Chicago, and for 16 years at Hilldale Baptist Church in Center Point, AL in the Northeast Birmingham Metro area.
How many years have you been at NOBTS Birmingham as a professor and director? Why do you enjoy teaching here? I began teaching at the Birmingham Extension Center in August of 1999 at the invitation of Dr. Bob Hall, Director and a member of my church. So I have completed 15 years of service as an adjunct professor and 2 years as the Director after Dr. Hall retired. I love working with the variety of students we have at the Birmingham Center; different ages, different denominations, and different ministry callings. The variety keeps me young and challenges me to keep learning and growing as well.
What is your favorite hobby? I have been through a variety of hobbies based on location and health issues. I loved fishing when I lived in New Orleans and Chicago. Golf was a real treat until swinging the club became a challenge as did a decent score. For the past 20 years my favorite hobby has been riding motorcycles. It takes my mind off everything else and has helped me travel across the country, averaging 500 miles a day for nine days in a row on one trip.
What is your favorite class to teach? Proclaiming the Bible
What was your favorite class as a seminary student? Proclaiming the Bible, because it combines two of my favorite subjects, Hermeneutics and Homiletics. I love the study of the Scripture and making it come alive with personal application for life-change today. God has given us the Words of Life and we get to be used by Him to interpret them to contemporary society. What could be more exciting than studying, discovering, and communicating the truth of God and watching it change people’s lives.
Besides the Bible what was the last book you read? I have just finished Connect and VELCRO Church which both have to do with enlisting volunteers, involving people in ministry, and doing the work necessary to help those you reach for church stick with Jesus and His Church.
What is one piece of advice you would give students about their years in seminary? Enjoy the learning experience by planning ahead, reading ahead, and writing down everything you learn so that you don’t have to write it down again later. Make seminary a lasting resource that you can easily upgrade by writing down what you study and learn.