Understanding Other Cultures
Is Dedicated in Honor of
Sam and Trish Simmons
Sam Simmons is a cofounder of Rockbridge Seminary. He served as the Chief Learning Officer, Professor of Global Studies, and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program from 2003-2016. The dedication of the course “Understanding Other Cultures” was made possible by the Board of Trustees, family, and friends of the Simmons.
After finishing a degree in psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Sam Simmons began working for IBM as a systems engineer. He was living in Memphis, Tennessee, and one of his accounts was with the University of Tennessee at Martin. It was there that he met and fell in love with a computer programmer by the name of Trish Curry. They were engaged in just two weeks and married three months later.
While their courtship was a whirlwind, their call to ministry was a gradual process. The young couple were members of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, where Sam became a deacon. Trish knew before Sam did that they were called to vocational ministry, and with her encouragement Sam immediately quit IBM and enrolled at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. He was later licensed and ordained to the gospel ministry at Bellevue Baptist.
While a seminary student, Sam worked as the seminary’s business manager and later as the registrar. On weekends, the Simmons would drive two hours to pastor the Hayes Crossing Mission Church in Sardis, Mississippi. After Sam completed the Master of Divinity at Mid-America, the Simmons moved to Spur, Texas, where he served as the senior pastor.
The Simmons left the Lone Star State to return to Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary to work on Sam’s doctorate. While completing his Ph.D. in Missions, the Simmons pastored the Trinity Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee.
In 1988 Simmons accompanied Dr. B. Gray Allison, Pres. of Mid-America Seminary, and three other seminary students to China and Korea. Along with visiting the city and area where Lottie Moon ministered, they visited an elderly Chinese Christian named Wang Ming-Dao. He had been imprisoned for his faith for over 20 years. His refusal to compromise set the stage for what became China’s house church movement. This experience only further fueled the Simmons’ commitment to evangelism and global learning.
Throughout their married life, Trish worked in the marketplace. She viewed her work as a strategy for ministering to people in the community. Her nickname is “honey bee.” Wherever they went, former colleagues would come up and give her a hug and express how much she had meant to their lives.
Before starting Rockbridge Seminary, Sam served as the Associate Professor of Missions and Practical Ministry at the Northeast Campus of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary and then the Associate Professor of Church Leadership and Missions at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. Sam’s passion for missions has led the Simmons to teach internationally, including stints at the Bible Seminary in Bonn, Germany, the Russian Pastors’ School in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the Baptist Theological Seminary in Lusaka, Zambia. He is the author of numerous periodicals and publications, including “Christianity in China: Organized to Guarantee Religious Freedom or to Insure Government Control?” Mid-America Theological Journal (Spring 1989):1-28, Explore the Bible Adult Learner Guide, Romans 9-16, LifeWay Church Resources, Winter 2005-2006, and “How Culturally Engaging Is Your Evangelism Strategy?” Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox, Issue #247, February 22, 2006.
In his white paper entitled, “The Truly Innovative Seminary,” Simmons proposed changing the traditional German seminary model of specialty disciplines (such as biblical languages or New Testament Studies) to a curriculum design focused on five biblical purposes for life and the church. Those five purposes are fellowship, discipleship, ministry, evangelism, and worship. He envisioned a new seminary that would integrate faith and life and equip church and ministry leaders in all five purposes. The goal of the curriculum would not ultimately be the attainment of knowledge, but the development of ministry skills. That vision became reality when he cofounded Rockbridge Seminary in 2003.
The Simmons began their service at Rockbridge without salary, living on their savings for six months. Sam wrote course content, designed the learning management course template, and developed the catalogue of courses. Later he wrote the self-study for accreditation and developed the Doctor of Ministry Program. His systems background at IBM was invaluable for developing and streamlining the processes and systems in admissions and registration. He has left an inedible imprint upon Rockbridge and theological education.
In recent years, the Simmons have been drawn to serve and reach the people of Bali. Their love for the Balinese people led them to adopt Suci, an adult daughter, who became a follower of Jesus. The Simmons are learning the Indonesian language. Sam has become certified to teach English as a second language, and they plan to invest their lives in helping churches and the SOS Children’s Home.