Some of you may know that we have spent this past year seeking the Lord’s leading for our next season of life. We are deeply grateful to those of you who have prayed for wisdom and direction. It has been a difficult process, but earlier this week we made a decision. I have accepted TMC’s invitation to become the Associate Dean of Men in the Student Life department. I will be responsible for giving oversight and vision to the Deans’ Staff — the eight full-time Resident Directors, thirty Resident Assistants (student leaders), and the fifty-or-so students who sacrificially commit each year to serve as volunteers alongside the Resident Assistants.
This is a very recent and surprising development. We had been planning for some time now to transition from TMC and Southern California so that I could pursue a Ph.D. and finish my formal preparation for what we believe will be a lifetime of preaching, teaching, shepherding, and writing with an eye toward the mission field. I had never thought seriously about staying at TMC for any longer, never thought seriously about the Dean position, and had always explicitly thought that I would never want to be the Dean (and that no one else would want me to, either). Other pastures have always appeared much greener, and not necessarily for bad reasons.
But throughout this past year and especially during the spring, the Lord has used the plethora of research, applications, interviews, questionnaires, conversations, and counsel to guide us to the point where we were ready to consider this late-coming opportunity that we may not have considered before. Although virtually all of our thoughts and energies were focused on opportunities outside of our current circles, and although there were several individual pursuits that were very attractive (solid Ph.D. programs or fitting ministry positions), no full-orbed picture of our future had become clear even into late April. I wasn’t excited about sacrificing significant priorities for only one piece of the puzzle, no matter how good that particular piece might look. We were asking God to provide a holistic situation where I could study part-time in a quality Ph.D. program, provide for the family (preferably through a full-time ministry position), use our gifts in church ministry, adopt more children, and prepare for the strong possibility of going to the mission field in five or six years (post-Ph.D.). By the time I was asked to consider the Dean position several weeks ago and then formally asked to commit recently, the Lord had formed a comprehensive picture in which all these priorities could potentially work in harmony.
We are excited to remain members at Placerita Baptist Church and to begin serving there in new ways. We’ve desired to serve more in the past and have been asked to help with particular ministries, but the combined pace of resident college ministry and TMS classes has meant saying no far more often than we would prefer. We respect the PBC leadership immensely and enjoy the spiritual family atmosphere. There’s lots of potential for growth, but the foundation and stability is there. The elders’ heart for missions and the way the church treats its missionaries is a significant reason why we’re excited to stay and invest at PBC during this next season of life as we ourselves prepare for a potential ministry abroad.
Since a Ph.D. in biblical studies has been my top priority in this transition, I have applied to the unique Ph.D. program at Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pennylsvania. In 2001 BBS launched their “external residency” program which allows the student to travel to Pennsylvania up to three times per year for intensive week-long classes. The six weeks before and after each class are filled with research assignments and in-depth online interaction with fellow students and professors. I am hoping to study under their highly-esteemed (and apparently very challenging) New Testament professor Rodney Decker. I had an intense, rapid-fire, one-hour phone interview on Friday, and should find out in about a week whether or not I’ll be allowed to move forward into the written qualifying exams. Other Ph.D. programs are stronger in particular areas and are very difficult to walk away from, but I believe that BBS’s program can be a good fit for our life, priorities, and some specific academic preferences. In the always-possible event that BBS rejects me, I may be making another surprising announcement here next week. :) You might pray that this type of decisional whiplash doesn’t occur (i.e., that they accept me).
For those of you unfamiliar with Student Life at The Master’s College, our goal is to cultivate authentic biblical community in the dorms at TMC so that the students grow not only in their biblical knowledge but their heart for people, relationships, discipleship, and service. Time and again I have seen TMC’s comprehensive education (doctrine + life) bear fruit in the church, in the world, and among the nations. I can stay because I believe in the ministry that God has established here and because I know that it ultimately serves the church and impacts the world (which is what para-church organizations should do).
I know that some are surprised (or even disappointed) that we’re staying. Some may think that we’re only jumping at a promotion, as though the offer of a new or “higher” position is an inherently God-ordained reason to stay where you’re at. But my years as a Resident Director have not been a stepping stone, and what appears to be a promotion in earthly terms is usually a call to carry heavier burdens and die in new ways. I could not commit to this ministry in good conscience if I did not believe God were calling us here. And in my mind a promotion is not the equivalent of a calling.
Some have asked if I’m “excited.” I can say yes because because I know what they mean, but it’s definitely not the word I would choose right now. Right now I am adjusting to the soon-coming reality of what this ministry will entail. The strength is not there right now, but I believe the Lord will give mercy and grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). The potential at TMC is staggering and I long that it be used for the things that matter most.
5 thoughts on “What We’re Doing Next”
I am happy to hear this news. You are a great man and will have a great impact on the lives of TMC students.
Exciting news! Thanks for sharing it. Be sure to let us know about the PhD program, OK? God’s timing is indeed perfect.
Wow, Gunner. Amazing timing, and in many ways, very fitting. Praise the Lord for your faithfulness. I can say that if I were an RA again, I would be blessed and privileged to be under your leadership as the Lord teaches you in this new chapter. We’ll be praying for you as you embark on this new adventure. Keep running hard… I believe that you’ve got some good training for it, and a good coach to bring you to the finish line. Blessings.