“Dear Dad, I’m thinking about dropping out of college, so I can do something significant for God instead of wasting my time going to school.” So started my freshman letter to my father.
It seemed to me that going to college and possibly to graduate school was too much work, too much money, and a waste of too much time while living in a world that needed Jesus. I figured I could invest my life better in a community rather than on a campus.
My father wrote back, with a letter that changed my life. Although I did not save it, I certainly remember its contents.
When I was about your age, I weighed the same decision. I was passionate
for ministry and wanted to quit school. I asked for advice from Dr. Donald Barnhouse, pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Barnhouse told me that if he had 10 years to live he would spend nine in preparation and one in ministry. He was convinced he would accomplish more
for God in that one year than he would have accomplished in nine years of
ministry with only one year of preparation. He advised that sharpening the axe before chopping the tree means you’ll have chopped more wood by the end of the day.
Higher education wasn’t easy for my dad. His parents attended grade school and no more. He dropped out of high school when he was 16. When he believed in Jesus and was drawn to ministry in his late teens, he decided to go back to school. The journey was hard—Bible school at night, back to high school with teenagers in the fledgling church he started, and then college, seminary and graduate studies. It took him more than nine years but led to an amazing lifetime of ministry. He served in missions and evangelism, pastored a large metropolitan church for 33 years, and became a college president.