Monday, May 2 was a strange day on the campus of Southern Seminary. Something was missing. In the weary hum of late spring, things may have felt normal, and our students and faculty and employees may not have noticed immediately. But there’s a big gaping hole in the fabric of our institutional life.
Jeff Dalrymple is gone.
His last day was this past Friday.
He’s also the best servant-leader I’ve known in my six years working at one of the largest seminaries in the world.
Being a servant-leader is not as simple as being a servant, and not as simple as being a leader. Blending the kindness, selflessness, humility, hospitality, and hands-on ministry of a servant with the boldness, decisiveness, confidence, accountability, and high-up vision of a leader is as difficult as it is rare.
Jeff Dalrymple is this blend. He embodies this blend.
There are few people whose transition from Southern Seminary would make our community more sad for ourselves or more happy for him than the promotion of Jeff Dalrymple. He is faithful, kind, consistent, friendly, and the epitome of Christian servant leadership. His first line when he answers his phone encapsulates his life and ministry. I can hear him even now: “Jeff Dalrymple, at your service.” Or: “Gunner Gundersen! How can I help you?”
Since 2008, two years before I arrived, Jeff has been a walking sprinkler of hospitality, known and loved across the campus. You can’t get near him without being touched by kindness, generosity, hospitality, quality, and professionalism. I’ve never heard a bad word about him or had a bad interaction with him, and our ministries and activities have intersected constantly over the past six years.
We’ve been on camping trips together with our sons. We’ve been on road trips together to conferences. Our families have hung out together, and we’ve shared countless meals with any number of groups that Jeff’s assembled (and paid for).
At work, there have been hosts of decisions to make, thorny issues to navigate, abundant crises to handle, complex policies to enforce, multitudes of people to serve, and significant resources to steward. Jeff has handled it all with grace, wisdom, and efficiency, and has never treated someone as small. He made Southern Seminary better, not just through organization and professionalism and quality and aesthetics, but through Christian love and kindness and hospitality.
When I see guys like Jeff leaving our institution, I feel the weight that everyone who knows Jeff feels. You wonder who can replace him, and you know that no one can. You question how things can be the same without him, and you know they won’t be. But then you think about all that God must have planned, and you settle into the old reality that God loves sending faithful servants into new fields in fresh seasons for full harvests.
I am thrilled in anticipation of all that God will do through Jeff Dalrymple as the new President of Crossings Camps. I know he’ll do well, I know they’ll do well, and I know that through them, the gospel will multiply. That’s how much I trust Jeff, his character, his leadership, and his service. I’m sad he’s leaving Southern, but I’m thankful for the gospel multiplication that God must have in store, and I stand in debt of the legacy he leaves behind.
If the greatest among us is the one who serves, then this is a great man. Our loss, their gain, but kingdom first. Godspeed, my friend.