Connections: Kermit Bridges
Sept. 14, 2014
Discerning God's Priorities
Kermit S. Bridges was selected in December 1999 by the Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) board of regents to serve as president following the retirement of Delmer R. Guynes. During Bridges’ tenure as president, the university has continued to grow numerically and expand academic offerings. Significant expansion of new facilities since 2000 accounts for half of the university’s under-roof square footage. Bridges spoke recently with Scott Harrup, Pentecostal Evangel managing editor.
evangel: What would you identify as the latest hallmarks of SAGU’s growth?
KERMIT S. BRIDGES: Over the last several years, we have experienced significant on-campus growth and been able to expand our facilities. We are very close to capacity in the dorms this fall. Last year’s dorm count interestingly landed right on the nose, 1,000 students, which was a record. We are closer to 1,100 students this fall, which will necessitate us very quickly moving into a plan to develop a new dorm.
During the last 10 years, we have been able to construct two new dorms, each of them housing approximately 230 students. We have completed a 30,000-square-foot fitness center. The real miracle has been the construction of the 80,000-square-foot Hagee Communication Center. The Lord miraculously provided funds along the way.
evangel: You talk about God’s provision. Why is a commitment to God’s leading so important in our Assemblies of God colleges and universities?
BRIDGES: As with the other institutions in our Fellowship, we are committed to a group of core values that are more than just a creatively designed statement on a piece of paper. They drive our decisions, and they distinguish who we are. We are committed to a Bible-based education.
Every one of our majors, whether church ministries or a business major, will include the 24 hours of our Bible and Practical Ministries curriculum.
We see our chapel services as opportunities for spiritual formation and Pentecostal distinction. We encourage speakers to allow time and encourage students to respond at the altar.
Altar response is a significant part of who we are. We encourage the exercise of spiritual gifts and take time in services for their operation. We are doing everything we can to point students, whether or not they come from a Pentecostal background, toward the operation of spiritual gifts in the church and toward Spirit-guided and directed lives on a personal basis.
We have statements on missions-mindedness and servant leadership. We encourage all of our students to participate in ministry trips and missions trips. We are about four years into a 10-year goal of sending ministry teams to 261 target destinations, including every country of the world.
We strive to make a spiritual atmosphere more tangible for our students. When they complete their time here, we want to know they have had multiple opportunities to develop a vibrant relationship with Christ.
evangel: You enjoy a unique personal heritage. Talk about the influence your parents, former General Treasurer James Bridges and Joyce Bridges, have had on the Assemblies of God and on your life and ministry.
BRIDGES: I’m very blessed in terms of my family and the influence they have had on me and how they have shaped my life. That influence stretches beyond my parents to include my grandparents on both sides. Dad and Mom and all four grandparents were ordained AG ministers.
Some people might think it was inevitable I would become a credentialed minister. But never at any time did my parents put pressure on me to become a minister. I have endeavored to take that same approach with my sons.
It is such a rewarding experience to have people come up and talk about how they miss my dad, about the influence he had on their lives. I found in him a constant source of counsel, guidance, and example.
God wonderfully used him to serve the church, to serve people, and this Fellowship affirmed what God was doing through him by appointing him to positions of influence. Dad never took that lightly. He considered it a tremendous responsibility and was always careful to be accountable to those who had put their trust in him, but ultimately he remained accountable daily to his God.
That has influenced me significantly, and I do my best to live out that kind of life in terms of my responsibilities here at Southwestern and with everyone on our team I have the privilege of leading.
evangel: In your years of working with young people and their educational plans, what would you identify as the fundamental life goal a high school senior should keep in focus?
BRIDGES: First and foremost — total surrender to God. The more a student develops the ability to prioritize and pursue God’s plan, God’s will, God’s purpose for life, the more he or she will discover nothing else matters. Of course, the Holy Spirit helps us discern God’s will, so I encourage young people to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to allow the Spirit to empower them and lead them every single day.
To take that in another direction scripturally, I believe you must determine to be a Proverbs 3:5,6 man or woman. Trust God first in everything, and do not merely rely on your intellect and gifts. Acknowledge His hand at work in every area of your life.
I am convinced if you do these things, you never have to doubt that God will be guiding your every step. I have seen these truths proven throughout my life. That’s not to say I have always delivered on every one of those areas I just mentioned.
But God is gracious, and He helps us. Any young man or woman who will exercise that kind of trust in God will see Him take them into some incredible places as they ultimately develop their gifts, talents, and skills toward that particular life path God leads them to follow.
evangel: With so many demands on your time, how do you balance your commitment to your ministry with your commitment to your family?
BRIDGES: Anyone in ministry acknowledges the challenge of maintaining the right balance between ministry and family. I certainly do not claim to have achieved that perfect balance, but I have worked hard to adjust my schedule to spend time with my wonderful wife, Jan, and to be present for big events in my sons’ lives.
James, our oldest, is a junior at Southwestern this fall. He currently is a history major. Forrest, our youngest, has started his senior year in high school. He seems to be on a track to pastoral ministry of some kind.
The man or woman who does not learn how to say no to one more call, one more assignment, one more event, may very well wake up one day with regrets without remedy. My parents were great models for me in striving to avoid such regret by prioritizing their relationship with each other and their children.