Barefoot said mentors, job experiences, family values and his seminary students prepared him for politics. He has worked as a policy adviser to the North Carolina House majority leader and serves on several boards and committees that relate to education, health and the family.
Barefoot's parents work for the Baptist Children's Home of North Carolina. He continues his father's legacy of service by speaking to churches about an annual Thanksgiving offering for children and families in need.
"How amazing is it that Baptists in this state, collectively, have taken care of the needs of young children for over 125 years? What started out as an orphanage now looks to rebuild broken families," Barefoot said. "Baptists provide physical and emotional shelters for children but also tell them about Jesus. The focus is to find them an eternal home."
Initially, Barefoot had ambitions of attending law school but decided on a different educational path.
"After prayerful consideration I realized that what the state needed was leaders who were well-grounded in understanding the difference between right and wrong," Barefoot said.
He had a few friends in Southeastern’s ethics program, “and our conversations helped me pursue that path," he said. "Looking back, my experience at SEBTS served as a much more important preparation for political life than going to law school. I came to SEBTS believing in Christ but unsure and confused about the answers to many important ethical issues. I knew that I needed to be more than someone who just knew what the laws were."
At Southeastern, Barefoot studied under three ethics professors.
"David Jones, Dan Heimbach and Mark Liederbach each brought different perspectives and styles of teaching into the classroom," Barefoot said. "I really appreciated all three of them. My favorite class was law, religion and morality with Dr. Heimbach because it touched on the three academic areas that I am most interested in at once."
Barefoot said Southeastern also helped him develop in personal character and worldview.
"This training allowed me to cultivate a deeper biblical, theological and historical understanding of good and evil and how it is applied in the world today," he said. "However, I did not have a particular view forced upon me. Southeastern challenged me to think more critically than any other school in my life."
Barefoot is grateful for his time at Southeastern and for the support of the seminary community.
"It really helps to have people praying for us," he said. "Staying connected to the family of faith helps prepare you for the challenges you will face."
Barefoot met his wife while they both were legislative interns. They married in 2011 in Binkley Chapel on the SEBTS campus in Wake Forest, N.C., and they live around the corner from the seminary with their son Franklin. They are active members of Capital Community Church in Raleigh.
The senator encourages Southeastern students to contact him.
"My door is always open to SEBTS students," Barefoot said. "One piece of advice I have is to prayerfully consider how the Lord wants to use you and be open to the fact that He may take you to unusual places. I would feel more comfortable as a youth group leader or a missionary in Africa than as a senator."
But he recognizes the eternal implications of public service.
"The Lord has blessed us with a country where we govern ourselves," Barefoot said. "Christ's eternal work on the cross is the perfect example of justice and mercy, so why should we not be involved in a nation that is desperate for both?"
Ali Dixon is a news and information specialist at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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