Today I am traveling to Jackson, MS for the funeral of Dr. Joe Cothen. Dr. Cothen was a professor of Preaching and Pastoral Work at NOBTS. He also served as Dean of the Graduate Program for a number of years and was the man who hired me to be a Professor of Evangelism immediately after my graduation.
I had the privilege of serving as the fellow for Dr. Cothen during my doctoral studies. I took every class he taught. He gave me the toughest final exam I ever had in all of my student years. My three days of written exams and my final oral exam in the ThD. Program were terrifying. This brilliant scholar was also an outstanding teacher and a terrific mentor. Dr. Cothen taught a generation of NOBTS students how to be a pastor and how to preach. His classes included the intensely practical.
Rhonda was checking on me one evening while I was grading papers for his pastoral work class. She was shocked to see one of the questions on the exam was: True or False: “Don’t mess with the WMU.” For real. On the intellectual side, one of test questions he gave me was to write an essay on the history of preaching from its ancient beginnings to the present day, including major dates, movements, books written, and profiles of the most significant preachers in every era. That was one question among others on the exam.
Dr. Joe Cothen embodied all the reasons why getting a seminary education can make such a difference in the life of a man God calls into ministry. He modeled a standard of excellence in all things, performance accountability, intellectual rigor, and above all things, personal godliness and compassion for people.
God has blessed me in many ways through my life and ministry. One of his most precious blessings was being shaped as a student, a professor and a man by Dr, Joe Cothen. Today we celebrate his life and ministry. The day will be long and the drive filled with memories. It is a journey that is a privilege to make. Thank you, Dr. Joe Cothen, for noticing me and making a difference in my life!
This photo was taken after my doctoral graduation. Pictured from left to right: Dr. Cothen, me, Dr. Harold Bryson, Dr. Landrum Leavell, and my dad Charles S. Kelley, Sr. These men profoundly impacted my life for God’s glory!