Over the last two and a half years, Alaska Bible College had the great pleasure of having Dr. Dan Jarrell serve in our Student Development department. He is now stepping into a much-deserved retirement, taking a sabbatical trip this summer with his wife Kathie and daughter Molly. I sat down to have one more conversation before he took to the road.
Having a lifetime of service to the Church in both pastoral ministries and in academic settings behind him, Dr. Jarrell was in the process of transitioning to retirement from ~20 years at ChangePoint Alaska when the opportunity to join our team here at ABC arose. “The Student Development position opened up, and that included some teaching.” Teaching has been Jarrell’s greatest passion. “I’ve always enjoyed the college classroom. After I graduated from Western, I was the Dean of Men at Multnomah College and taught homiletics there. I really enjoy that smaller group that asks questions, dialogues and interacts around ideas that way. I actually enjoy that more than I do preaching, because I love the back and forth interaction. So really, the desire to teach is what sealed the deal for me.”
One of the classes Dr. Jarrell taught during his time here was Introduction to Servant Leadership, a foundational class for all programs here at ABC. When I asked about his process of shaping the class, Jarrell said, “honestly, Servant Leadership was difficult in some ways because there’s not all that much to be said. It’s about who you are, about walking with Christ and being a servant, not a leader. Even Robert K. Greenleaf, who coined the term, his essay was not called “The Servant-Leader,” it was “The Servant as Leader.” So servant was the noun, leader was the adjective. So I wanted to center that class around the concept of character first.” Jarrell said that he had taught the same content to the context of leading a family or business, etc. while pastoring at ChangePoint and adapted that initial work to the academic level of the college classroom. “It was all just fascinating to me; it was great to teach that class.”
Open your mind to discover truth. Education is about busting paradigms. It’s not just about information or what hermeneutic you use or what theological disposition you hold, it’s about learning how to think…
I asked him about his main takeaways from his short time here at ABC. “You know, I think the biggest takeaway for me has to do with a sense of thankfulness for the quality of students coming here. It gives me a sense of hope for the Church. I think we have students here that are as high a quality as you’re liable to find anywhere. Young people that really desire the Lord and want to serve his Bride as they become more like him in their character. On the other side of that coin, the need for broadening, even among the sharpest students. In class, when you’re looking at the scripture differently than they’ve heard it all their life, you see the light come on for them and this sense of wonder and adventure come out, and they begin to think bigger, and take more ownership of their faith. And this college is a great place to spark broadened thinking in students, while remaining within the guardrails of orthodoxy.”
In light of all that, does he have any words of advice or guiding principles for incoming students to ABC (and Bible college students in general)? “The number one thing for them is that they don’t know what they don’t know,” he said, “there’s a huge world opening up to them at college and most think they’re coming here to get something. But a place like this, you become someone. Life’s about being over doing. Students can come here wanting to get something so they can go and do something. They don’t always have it as a goal to change as a person. But education is about being and becoming. So I would tell them, I’m gonna challenge you to let go of who you think you are and become who God wants you to be. And let go of what you think he wants you to be. Open your mind to discover truth. Education is about busting paradigms. It’s not just about information or what hermeneutic you use or what theological disposition you hold, it’s about learning how to think, and this is a safe place to learn how to think because it’s within orthodoxy, and there’s people close enough to you that if your thinking is in serious error, they’re going to challenge you on that. I want students to broaden their thinking: college is a place to expand, not become more narrow.”
It’a a wonderful thing in my eyes that the guy who was more than instrumental in the development and leadership of the largest church in Alaska did not disdain serving at a small school like us, continuing to pour into young people whom he owed nothing to when he could have easily (and justifiably) called it quits and hung his hat on a remarkable lifetime of service. Perhaps it’s because he didn’t see serving others through teaching as just something he did, but as a part of who he is. I’m sure the last ones to take a class from him weren’t the last ones who will learn something from him. We’re praying blessings over you, Dr. Dan!
– Cameron Peters, Director of Communications