Fifteen Years, One million Miles and a New CentennialDecember 15th, 2023
It has been the singular honor and joy of my life to serve as President of Asbury Theological Seminary. I cannot even begin to express how meaningful it has been to steward this sacred mission of “spreading scriptural holiness throughout the world.” We have experienced an amazing abundance of God’s grace during this pivotal time in the history of the Seminary.
Yesterday, I announced to our community that June 30, 2024, will bring my Presidency at Asbury Seminary to a close. This will mark 15 years of serving this beloved ministry. It is a well-rehearsed point of history, which we as Wesleyans love to tell, that John Wesley and Francis Asbury both traveled 250,000 miles on horseback to spread scriptural holiness in their day. I have never ridden a single mile on horseback for Asbury, but, in the spirit of the amazing founders of our movement, I have had the privilege of traveling one million miles on airplanes in service to Asbury and the larger mission of the church. I have had the privilege over the last 15 years of meeting thousands of our amazing alumni all over the world. I have preached in churches on every inhabited continent. Asbury Seminary now offers degrees on four different continents! What a blessing this has been in my own life, and I am at awe of the grace of God towards Asbury in these years. Asbury Seminary was founded in 1923, so it has been a particular joy to bring Asbury to 2023 and to the celebration of our first centennial as a “planting” of the Lord. H. C. Morrison, the founder of Asbury Seminary, said back in 1923 that there was no greater need in the world today than a seminary committed to the grand depositum of Wesleyan faith: universal grace, full salvation and the full Trinitarian vision of historic faith. This is just as true today as it was 100 years ago.
During a recent extended time of prayer, the Lord brought me to John 21, which records the third time Jesus appeared as the risen Lord to His disciples. This was the moment when Jesus gave them a new direction in their lives. The Lord met them in the morning and told Peter to cast his net on the right side of the boat. The result was 153 fish! God gave them a new calling to serve Him, and their full apostolic ministry was launched. We don’t believe they ever fished again. Isn’t it amazing that the last day of their fishing career was the greatest day of their fishing career! But God had a new plan for them. God spoke to me and told me that the time had come for me to cast my “net” to a new side of the boat. I asked the Lord what was the next calling for me, and He told me, “We’re not going to talk about that right now. Just abide with me and I will reveal it to you.”
In July I will continue during the interim period as the Professor of World Christianity until a new president is named. I have never lost my love for teaching and forming students. I know that my calling has always involved three core things: preaching the gospel, helping to bring the gospel to those who have not heard, and training leaders for the church. I believe that my next calling will somehow involve those elements, but I do not know how or when it will fully unfold. Julie and I are still young (at least we feel like we are!) and want to dedicate at least a decade or more in full-time service to the Lord. But we don’t yet know what that will be.
Regardless of what my next assignment is, my love for Asbury Seminary and for its mission remains undiminished. Serving Asbury has been God’s greatest gift to me, and I am humbled beyond words that He entrusted the stewardship of this wonderful ministry into my hands alongside countless leaders throughout Asbury whom I admire and am privileged to work with, whether Trustees, faculty, staff, our supporting friends, or alumni.
I would go so far as to say that, despite the blessings of God on Asbury Seminary during this season, the greatest days of Asbury still lie ahead. As the first American missionary Adoniram Judson famously said, “The future is as bright as the promises of God!”
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