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Mat Saxon has not

taken an easy route to a

seminary degree.

our years ago the Columbia, South

Carolina native was a manager

for a Moe’s Southwest Grill in Columbia

and with his wife Nicolette was starting

a family. On Sundays he was a Sunday

school teacher at Shandon Baptist

Church, and sometimes wondered if he

should be preparing more Bible studies

and fewer burritos. In other words, he was

sensing the call to ministry.

“I very much enjoyed (teaching), and

thought it would be great if I could

pursue that.”

But pursuing that would require a Master

of Divinity (M.Div.) degree, and Saxon

didn’t even have a bachelor’s degree;

not to mention the challenges that come

with already having a full-time job and, at

that point, two children. But CIU alumnus

and former CIU staff member Jeff Miller,

who was one of Saxon’s Sunday school

students at the 6,000-member Shandon

Baptist Church, saw the ministry potential

in Saxon.

“He had so much background and so

much context and understanding (of the

Bible),” Miller said. “It was just very obvious

that he had invested the time outside

of formal education to develop those

skills. He was even teaching his youngest

daughter the Hebrew alphabet. There was

always this internal motivation and a desire

and a hunger for the Word of God.”

So, Miller recommended Saxon check out

CIU, and apply directly to CIU Seminary

& School of Ministry without first earning

a bachelor’s degree. That takes a little

doing. Accreditation standards limit the

number of non-baccalaureate students

to the seminary and the candidate must

prove the ability to withstand the rigors of

graduate-level work by writing a lengthy

essay on a theological topic.

But seminary dean Dr. John Harvey

also saw the potential in Saxon. In

an email with “CIU Today,” Harvey

said he is impressed with Saxon for a

number of reasons:

maturity beyond his

years, ability to do

graduate-level work

without a bachelor’s

degree, juggling

full-time employment

and school, and

for preaching skills

that earned him

the annual Vance

Havner scholarship,

awarded to a student

on recommendation

from the faculty.

“It is fairly common

to be able to write one or two of these

comments about many of our students,”

Harvey noted. “But it is rare to be able to

write all of them about one student.”

So, how has Saxon gone about managing

Moe’s and a Master of Divinity degree?

“Not watching a whole lot of television,”

Saxon says with a laugh. “I guess time

management is a pretty decent strength

of mine.”

He describes the first couple of semesters

when his wife was working a night job and

he would, “Race home after work and she

would hand the baby off ... at 8:15 I would

put the baby down and get the Hebrew

book out.”

Saxon deflects praise of his academic

abilities, and instead credits a supportive

and “excellent” wife and points to two

components of CIU that helped him make

it through. One of those components is

the flexibility of the M.Div. program.

Master of Divinity degrees are available

both on campus and online, which

became especially crucial for Saxon when

Moe’s promoted him to district manager.

That meant moving to Charlotte, North

Carolina around the same time his third

child was born.

“You could keep having children, change

jobs and change cities and keep moving

forward at the same pace,” Saxon said.

Saxon also credits the guidance of caring

CIU professors.

“CIU is strong both academically and

spiritually,” Saxon said. “I’ve seen

professors make themselves available.”

Saxon was especially touched by the late

Dr. Bill Larkin who passed away in 2014.

Larkin taught a couple of Saxon’s online

courses, and Saxon remembers seeing

the well-known professor on campus as

Larkin was battling pancreatic cancer just

months before his death.

“Larkin had a note on his door that said,

‘If you have any questions you can call

me’ and it had his phone number,” Saxon

remembers. “Good grief, I don’t know if

I’d do that.”

If all goes according to plan, Saxon will

have earned his degree by the end of

this summer. But unlike some graduates,

Saxon is already in full-time ministry at

the place where the call to serve began.

In the fall of 2013 he resigned from Moe’s

and became the minister of young adults

and prayer at Shandon Baptist where he

shepherds over 300 members, trains lay

teachers, develops leaders and organizes

various venues for prayer.

Looking back over the last four years,

Saxon says God has been faithful to

complete what He began.

“Waiting on the Lord can sometimes

seem unreasonably long, but when He

shows up, it sure is worth it.”


Mat Saxon hands out prayer guides at Shandon Baptist Church

where he is the minister of young adults and prayer.



CIU Today