Faith in the Fog
Christopher Plekenpol (ThM 10)
I am married to Adrienne and am the Lead Pastor of Wells Branch Community Church in Austin, TX. While at Dallas Seminary, I had the incredible opportunity to write three books and start a fourth. The classes with Dr. Grant opened my creative eyes to the possibilities of teaching truth that applied to the lives of everyday people. While there I wrote, Faith in the Fog of War Volume II, Stumbling Souls: Is Love Enough?, and Is Love Wrong? After graduating, I continued my writing and wrote Dating Basic Training for young adults trying to decipher who their mate might be.
Every week here in Austin I have the opportunity to teach truth to my congregation and to actively love them and the community well. We are a granddaughter church of Hill Country Bible Church led by Tim Hawks. It has been amazing to be a part of a church plant planted in 2009. The lead pastor, Todd Wortham, died less than 2 years into the life of the church, and I was called to replace him in February of 2012. It was challenging time for the 60+ adults that decided to press on and continue the church. Now, although only 4 years old we are looking to continue the incredible tradition of churches planting churches in Austin, TX. Our church of around 300 adults has raised up a church plant team and are looking to send them out fully funded in 2016.
There are several memories that ruminate in my mind during my time at DTS. I remember weeping in Dr. Hendricks' class. BE101 was the first class that I attended and I was excited that Prof was the professor. He made the Bible come alive in a way that moved me to want to teach truth in creative ways. I remember being in Dr. Kreider's class when he made me think about the Trinity in such a new and powerful way. The Trinity took on humanity. It may be an insignificant thought, but I think during the hard times of life I still think back to that and am just amazed at how our God loves us.
I also remember meeting Chuck Swindoll for the first time. It was really embarrassing. I had listened to Dr. Swindoll for several years while in the military. In fact, during my lunch breaks in the military I would run to the car and get back to back sermons on the radio. Tony Evans followed by Chuck Swindoll. I didn't realize that Chuck had imparted so much to me until I went to shake his hand. I wanted to give him a copy of my first book, Faith in the Fog of War, and I couldn't get the words out. I just teared up, hugged him, and sobbed for a moment. As my shoulders shook, kindness fell from his lips, "The war must have been hard." All I could do was nod. But in reality it was as reconnecting with a long lost grandfather whose words I had treasured and meditated on day and night while trying to figure out my faith in a fairly godless military. Chuck had been a mentor to a man he had never met.
DTS embodies the motto, Teach Truth and Love Well. While in seminary I befriended a gay activist who had made it his life's ambition to get the church out of Dallas. He had shown up at Fellowship Church (downtown) one day where Chris McGregor (DTS alum) was the campus pastor. I met Don soon after and listened to his story. Although he was in his early 50s he became a real friend. Not only that, I brought him to seminary to listen to chapel speakers. I brought him to Cafe Koine (as it was called back then) and introduced him to students and professors. Sometimes he would graciously ask a professor if he could sit in on a class. No one told him no. A lot of students would have their jaws drop as Don tried to shock them with his life stories and with his views, but eventually he was overwhelmed by the irresistible grace of Jesus. He became a Christ follower. He left a voice message for me while I was on the third floor of the library telling me he had accepted Christ. I couldn't believe it. I was so excited. I remember the strange looks from studying students as I did my little jig.
Every day, I asked questions of Dr. Holstein in my Sanctification class of how to handle the issue of truth and love. The answers were not always easy, but they were always clear. Teach truth and love well. Never compromise truth. Never compromise love. Don died of cancer about two years after receiving Christ. It was a great pain. But at the memorial service, there were those who had hated Christians for years who embraced born again, Bible believing, Christ followers because they loved Don so well in spite of differing on Truth.
I’m looking forward to continuing the DTS tradition of teaching truth and loving well. The confidence DTS gave me in God’s Word and the creative ways I learned to share it will continue to be the benchmark of my ministry here on earth. Whether speaking, writing or pastoring my heart is to pass that tradition on to the next generation of Christ followers so that they may teach truth and love well.