As I get to know the Central Baptist Theological Seminary community, I want you to hear some of the amazing stories that I am hearing. To share those stories with you, I am “interviewing” students, alums, faculty, staff, board members, and supporters and sharing an interview on my blog, THIS IS CENTRAL. I invite you to join me on the journey of meeting members of our Central community.
Today’s interview is with Jeff Langford, coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Heartland and a member of Central’s board of trustees.
PD: Jeff, tell us about your Central origin story. How did you come to be connected to Central and to serve on its board of trustees?
JL: As an undergraduate at Central Missouri State University (now University of Central Missouri), I took several classes with Dr. David May. Several years later, Dr. May began teaching at Central, and I got to know Central at that point. Since that time, my admiration for the school has only grown, because of the faculty and staff I’ve come to know but also because of the positive impact Central has had on ministers and churches I respect.
As a part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, I have always been grateful to have a partner seminary right here in my own backyard. So, I was really honored to be asked to serve on the Board of Trustees. After getting to know the other Trustees this last year, I feel even more grateful and honored to be part of Central.
PD: Tell us a bit about your life’s journey.
JL: I was born in the state of Nevada and grew up in Clinton, Missouri. My parents were very active lay leaders in the small Southern Baptist churches of my youth, and they were great role models. I was very serious about my Christian faith growing up; it has always been an important part of my life and identity.
My wife, Sara, is a graduate of William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, and we decided to settle in Liberty after living in Lafayette, Indiana, for the first seven years of our marriage. We became members at Second Baptist Church and have been very involved there ever since. Sara is a high school math teacher and leads the Stephen Ministry at 2BC. I teach a Sunday School class called Winepress and have served as Chair of Deacons, Church Council, and in other roles.
Sara and I have three children–all boys. Our oldest, Ian, is married to Sarah and works at Honeywell here in the KC metro. Our middle son, Seth, lives with his boyfriend, Cole, in Warrensburg, Missouri. He is a paraprofessional at an elementary school in Warrensburg. And our youngest, Isaac, is a senior at Liberty North High School.
It’s interesting that you use the word “journey,” because that’s my least favorite faith metaphor. Partly because it’s overused and partly because the journey image feels too linear and too narrow. I try to live my faith in more three-dimensional and less self-focused ways. Rather than encountering the grace of God along a path, I try to experience God’s presence in an immersive way–God surrounding and infusing every moment and space.
PD: What do you believe are Central’s best gifts and greatest strengths?
JL: I know this will sound cliché, but I think Central’s best gifts are its people. As I’ve gotten to know more of the staff and professors, I’ve only grown more and more impressed. Each one is incredibly gifted, passionate, and dedicated. And the Central graduates that I’ve known have been equally impressive.
For me, Central’s greatest strength is her creativity. I’m not sure if this is part of Central’s history or if it’s a more recent development. Either way, I think Central has done some amazingly creative things with technology, multi-site cohorts, and community engagement. For a school with Central’s rich heritage, these kinds of nimble approaches are really extraordinary.
PD: What is bringing you joy in this hard season of COVID? What hobbies, activities, adventures, family connections are keeping you healthy?
JL: I am an introvert, so being told to stay away from large groups of people is not really a problem for me. I get energy from doing projects around the house and spending time with my family–and I have had extra time to do both during the pandemic. But I have missed being able to go out to eat or to concerts with our close friends.
I enjoy watching and analyzing Chiefs football and doing the New York Times Crossword. Actually, I’ve gotten hooked on a new game called “Spelling Bee” in the NYT Crossword app. It’s one of the things I do while I drink my morning coffee.