Volume 17, Issue 2
Look Where God Has Brought Me!
by Becky Hobbs
When Mark Seeley was in high school, he thought he might be an artist. In college, he thought he might be a radio broadcaster. In seminary, he thought God wanted him to be a pastor. Later he thought he should be in insurance or banking. But today he's none of those things and glad of it. Through a marvelously woven set of circumstances throughout his life, God has brought him to RTS/Charlotte as Vice-President for Development, ready to use all his experiences to the fullest.
"When I look back on my life, I am awe-struck at the tapestry of God's providence," marvels Mark. "It is incredible how each place has prepared me for the next. The insurance years were necessary for me to work in the bank trust department. The knowledge I gained there prepared me for the kind of work I do now. God has also given me the opportunity to know RTS intimately -- graduating from the Jackson campus, then working closely with the seminary in Orlando for several years, and now living in Charlotte."
"He has the ideal background for his job," says Luther Bigby, Business Manager at RTS/Charlotte. "As a graduate of RTS, he knows the seminary; he has also worked in the trust department of a bank and had experience in the non-profit sector. I like the way he prays for current and future donors, asking that God would move in their lives in the way He sees fit. That tells me he isn't depending on himself to come up with people to support the seminary's work."
Bob Bailey, Vice President for Advancement for RTS, says, "I am really pleased to have had a part in bringing Mark to the seminary because he blends so well with the entire development staff and rounds out our needs. His personality and background in banking, estate planning, and deferred giving are distinct assets to RTS."
Born in Medina, Ohio, some thirty miles south of Cleveland, Mark grew up in a Christian home. His father was a life insurance agent and his mother a homemaker. Involved in the church since he can remember, he doesn't know a time when he did not trust Christ.
In high school he was an avid bicyclist and sang in the concert choir, which won numerous awards. He also loved art and served as an apprentice in an art studio his senior year. But an honest appraisal of his gifts showed him that God was not calling him into that field. Although never rebellious or wild in high school, Mark admits he didn't apply himself and did just enough work to get by. Studying simply wasn't a very high priority for him then.
After graduation he entered Cedarville College in Cedarville, Ohio. Moving away from home and becoming more independent had a positive effect on Mark, as he began for the first time to apply himself to his studies and realize that he could achieve academic excellence. He also took positions of leadership and became involved in campus life, winning a seat his freshman year on the Student Council.
He decided on a radio broadcasting major and was the first freshman to do newscasting at the college radio station. But during that first year, Mark met James Grier, his philosophy professor, who influenced him profoundly, as well as godly students who exhibited many fruits of the Spirit. As he became more and more excited about the Christian faith and more committed to Christ, he moved farther and farther away from broadcasting.
Consequently, by the end of his freshman year he changed to a speech major, which allowed him time to take numerous extra hours of philosophy, Greek, German, and Western Civilization courses. It was in a speech class in 1973 that he met his wife, Nancy. Four years later they married --on the same day they graduated from Cedarville! Between his sophomore and junior years, Mark had begun to sense a call to the pastoral ministry but was uncertain. He knew, however, that he wanted a seminary education, so in 1977 he entered RTS/Jackson.
While working on a Master of Divinity degree, he gained valuable experience by filling a pulpit for two years at a small church in Alabama and serving as an assistant for the head of the Old Testament Department. During those three productive years, Nancy also worked full-time in the library.
WHAT ARE MY GIFTS?
After graduation Mark accepted a call to be Assistant to the Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Naples, Florida. His major responsibilities were in the areas of youth and discipleship. Under his leadership, the college and career group grew from a mere six young people to over thirty in just two years' time. Although he enjoyed teaching the youth and cultivating the college and career group, Mark came to realize that God was not calling him to the pastorate, and he began to pray about the direction the Lord would have him take to use his gifts and abilities.
Leaving Naples in 1983, the Seeleys moved to Wilmington, Delaware, and lived with Nancy's parents for nearly nine months. Friends encouraged Mark to try insurance, which he did, eventually moving back to Medina and going into business with his father. But he was still dissatisfied. Although naturally gifted in the field, winning sales recognition and making good money, Mark knew the job was not for him.
"I didn't like it," he recalls. "I loved working with my dad, but I was uncomfortable with the job."
After four years, Mark went to work in 1988 for a Dayton, Ohio, bank in the personal trust and estate planning division. Finally he had found something to enjoy! Relishing the new challenge, he gained a wealth of knowledge in the tax and estate planning process. But the sense of fulfillment was short-lived. Just as he was becoming proficient in his job, in 1990 he was laid off in a company downsizing.
For the next fourteen months Mark was unemployed, a state of affairs which shook his faith to the core but taught him some important divine lessons.
"It was one of the most pivotal points in my life," confesses Mark. "At times I never felt more close to the Lord. Even though the situation was very difficult, it was the first time that I could sit back and consider some crucial questions, such as: What am I good at? What have I enjoyed doing? What are my gifts, abilities, and work patterns? What job does God have for me that will use all of this?"
Interestingly enough, while Mark was at the bank he had been a loaned executive to the United Way. That's when a business keeps a person on the payroll but for eight weeks the employee works full-time raising funds for the United Way campaign. Mark recalled that he had loved his two stints of service in that capacity; he had reveled in the mission involved in the work, in the knowledge that he was laboring for a cause greater than the institution. In a flash of understanding, God showed him that here was where he needed to be -- in the area of fund-raising and planned giving.
Therefore, he actively began to search out opportunities to use his gifts. In December, 1991, God led him to Ligonier Ministries in Orlando, where he became the Director of Planned Giving. So began a little over five fruitful and rewarding years with that organization, at the end of which he had advanced to Executive Director of Development, overseeing all of Ligonier's fund-raising. One of the most important lessons Mark learned during that time was that the best way to raise funds for an institution was to build personal relationships with people and help them learn the goals of the organization.
A PASSION FOR MISSION
In 1997 he became the Vice President for Development at RTS/Charlotte, fulfilling a dream he's had for ten years. "The timing was right, and God opened a door for me here in His good time," says Mark. "I enjoy getting to know people and sharing the mission and vision of RTS. In philanthropy one meets fascinating people. Fundraising is not a science, it's an art. God moves in different ways in everyone's heart; one never knows from where a gift is going to come."
"I can see why he does well in development," says Dr. Charles Hill, Associate Professor of New Testament at RTS/Orlando. "He is so likable that anyone would welcome his presence. Part of the reason for his appeal is the fact that he genuinely cares about the people he knows. In describing Mark's character, I think of the qualifications Paul gives for church leaders -- plus a great sense of humor! It was a sad day for us when the Seeleys left Orlando, but I know that Mark has wanted to use his abilities to help RTS for a long time."
"I'm delighted he's joined the team," says John Muether, Librarian and Associate Professor of Theology and Bible at RTS/Orlando. "I can't imagine a more earnest representative of RTS. Armed with a seminary degree, Mark is very theologically reflective. He is passionate about ideas and believes that they have consequences. He is quite committed to the ideas that the seminary represents."
Mark is grateful that God has allowed him to be a part of furthering His kingdom by telling others the story of RTS. "I know that my work is directly affecting the Body of Christ," says Mark. "I'm bringing in resources to train men and women to become leaders in the church. My efforts are providing the fuel to ignite the mission of RTS. I don't have a goal as to how much money I will bring in or how many people I want to see. I just try to forge new relationships and maintain old ones in order to earn the right to ask for an investment in RTS."
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Last updated 2-1-99.