With little knowledge of English, German student Andy Baier took a sabbatical from his career at Volkswagen and moved his wife and children from Hanover, Germany, to Fort Worth, Texas. For six months, he and his family lived in Fort Worth, while he learned English on the campus of TCU.
Ultimately, Baier wanted to study theology in the College at Southwestern’s Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies degree in order to improve his ministry at a local church in northwest Germany. But his drastic decision to put off his career, uproot his family and study theology in a then unknown language began with a decision to follow God wherever He may steer his life.
Baier grew up in a pastor’s home and believed everything that his father taught about the Christian faith, but as a teenager he refused to submit his life to Christ’s Lordship. At age 16, however, a Christian friend who was only a few years older than Baier helped him see how the Christian faith should impact every area of life.
“The thing that led me to Christ was (my friend’s) life,” Baier says. “His life was so Christ-centered and Christlike that I said, ‘This must be real.’ He led me to Christ through walking with Jesus, and he let me see how it works to have a personal relationship with Jesus—even as a young guy.”
This friend showed Baier that “you can be a Christian even in an atheistic society, even in a society that rejects the whole faith, a society where Christianity is only a religion and nothing more.”
After accepting Christ’s claims on his own life, Baier confessed his faith through baptism. Many Baptist churches in Germany, he said, are dependent on volunteer leadership, so he soon began to preach and oversee various ministries within the church. Five years later, he married his wife, Anna, and they began their family. In the meantime, Baier prepared for a career in the automotive industry and took a position as a department leader at Volkswagen. They were living the “American Dream” in Germany.
“We came to a point, probably two-and-a-half years ago, that we saw ourselves living in a very materialistic way, even as Christians. Our focus was so much on building up a career, … building a house, building hobbies,” Baier says. They realized that Baier had spent seven years earning industrial degrees, but he had spent no time preparing for ministry—even though his responsibilities in the church were ever increasing.
Through Ephesians 2:10, Christ once again called Baier and his family to surrender to His Lordship and to let Him steer their course: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (NKJV). After reading this passage, they asked themselves, “Did God create this life for us, that we should walk in this kind of life?”
“This hit us very hard,” Baier says. “We came very shortly to the point that we said, ‘No. This is not what God prepared for us. This is what we created for ourselves to have a good life.’”
For this reason, Baier and his wife surrendered to Christ’s Lordship, committing to follow Him wherever He would take them. God’s will became clearer when Baier’s uncle, a south German pastor, returned from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he had spent a year in study.
“He told us many, many things about this year, and about how his faith grew. This year was so rich for him,” Baier says. “And from this point on, the deep wish rose in our hearts, ‘We have to go and study God’s Word.’”
Once the Baiers realized where God was steering their course, they faced several obstacles: They had many duties at the church, and no previous minister had studied theology. What would they say? And how would their families respond? Also, although Volkswagen customarily allows employees to take up to an eight-year sabbatical for study, would they allow Baier to take off so that he could study theology?
Baier managed to overcome each obstacle, by God’s grace, and his family moved to Fort Worth with the support of his church, family and company.
“We had never thought that God would change our lives in this way,” Baier says. “Our focus in life is changing.” Though he makes no claims to perfection, Baier says that he feels his family is learning to focus on the eternal and to place Christ in the driver’s seat. They moved to Fort Worth in 2010 and, while living on campus, added a third child to their family. Also, Anna Baier takes certificate courses for minister’s wives while Baier pursues his bachelor’s degree.
According to Baier, the B.S. in Biblical Studies is well rounded. Humanities courses develop his mind and his understanding of the contemporary culture, while courses in apologetics, ministry and Bible study teach him how better to serve the church. Also, courses like The Virtues of Godly Character strengthen the student in his own faith.
“It is wonderful,” Baier says. “It is a lot of learning. It is a lot of reading. Many things have changed in our thinking.” The program not only builds the mind, but the whole person, and even what he has learned so far has made the degree worthwhile.
This summer, Baier and his family will visit Germany, where Baier will lead evangelism and revival programs at his church, applying the lessons that he has learned from Southwestern. They will then return to Fort Worth so that Baier can complete his degree. Then, although he can return to his position at Volkswagen when his sabbatical is complete, Baier and his family ultimately desire to trust God and follow Him wherever He steers their lives.