Visit this professor's page
Seeing evidence of God’s work in people’s lives is Dr. Chip Dickens’ “favorite thing in life.” So the seminary classroom is a place of great excitement for him. “I feel like I’m on the 50-yard line with front row seats … watching these students gives me great confidence in the church of the next generation.”
One of the newest members of Dallas Seminary’s faculty, Dr. Dickens is chairman of the new Biblical Counseling department, which will be established in July this year. (Biblical Counseling was previously part of Pastoral Ministries.) “This is really a dream of mine—it’s obvious that God was leading us because I never would have imagined that it would come true.”
He did not grow up in a Christian home, and his only experience of church as a boy was occasionally “sleeping though a musty mass” with his mother, who had grown up Catholic. When he was invited to a Baptist church by a high school friend, his first response was, “You know I don’t do church.” But after reconsidering he asked, “Do you think this would be a good social move for me?”
Although he went with all the wrong motives, he continued to attend regularly and was ministered to. “The Lord used the preaching and the body to stir up some things in me—my parents were divorced by then and I was really searching spiritually.” A few years later, he realized that all of the classmates he had gone to church to impress had since quit coming.
But Chip’s interest in the things of God continued to grow. He had a pocket New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs that he read constantly. One time he even remembers reading it between halves of a basketball game, while the coach wasn’t looking. “This was the first time I had ever read the Bible, and even though I had no idea what it meant I was really hungry for it, as though my life depended on it—and it did.”
At 18 years old, he had cleaned up his life significantly—he was a model citizen and a good student, but he had never made a decision to accept Christ. He knew there was something missing, but no one had ever walked him through the plan of salvation—they never questioned if he had a real relationship with God.
One day when he was leaving the church service, he stood in line with everyone else to shake the pastor’s hand and say, “Good sermon.” The pastor took Chip’s hand and held it for a while … then he said, “We should talk, shouldn’t we?” Chip was horrified that the pastor had found out that he was just going through the motions. “Part of me was scared, but at the same time I was excited that someone was finally going to tell me how this thing works.”
The next night the pastor came over to Chip’s house with three women from the church who been his teachers and had known him when he was less than a model student. “I was expecting them to sit there and list all of my faults—like some kind of intervention.” But instead, the pastor just explained the gospel to him. “The Lord was so kind and generous—it all resonated in my heart and I asked to receive Christ that night.”
Then, Chip’s mother, brother, and sister, who had listened to the discussion from another room, came in and said they wanted to accept Christ too. A few weeks later, all four of them were baptized.
Chip went to college at Texas Wesleyan University, where he played basketball. He also met his wife, Rebecca, there. She had grown up in a wonderful Christian family—her father and both grandfathers were preachers—and they “grafted” Chip in. In his childhood years, he had learned how not to do family life, but Rebecca’s family modeled for him how to love each other as a family.
As he grew in his faith, Chip felt confirmed and called to ministry. He assumed that everyone in ministry was a preacher. “I enjoyed preaching and teaching, but I also knew I had other gifts and I wasn’t sure how they fit.” So, as he investigated the possibilities, he began to pursue counseling as a fulfillment of his calling.
Chip and Rebecca were married in 1991 and both began graduate school, Chip in counseling at Southern Methodist University and Rebecca in mathematics at Texas Women’s University. At SMU, Chip was often the token Christian in his classes and was regularly called on to defend his faith. “My advisor was always asking me God questions, and some of the professors were even antagonistic with me in class—it was a good experience for me to explain Christianity in a secular, psychological realm.”
When he started the program, he expected to end up in a private counseling practice, but once he started teaching he fell in love with it. After finishing his master’s and doctorate, he began looking into schools across the U.S. “The only place Rebecca and I decided we didn’t want to go was Los Angeles.”
He sent applications to some smaller schools and letters to Wheaton and Biola asking if they knew of any schools that might be interested in hiring someone like him. Biola responded immediately, inviting him to teach there—in Los Angeles. So, they went to California and loved it. “God was so kind. We didn’t know a single person, but Biola became our family.”
The experience helped him grow professionally and personally as he lived, served, and ministered with people who had been his heroes, many of whom were trained at DTS. He also did a lot of traveling during this time—teaching in Hong Kong, Austria, and Sri Lanka.
Toward the end of his time, he developed a gnawing desire to serve the church as a counselor. He left Biola and moved back to the Dallas area to join a church, where for four years he learned what it means to be “in the trenches” as a pastor. “I’m glad to know what it’s like to experience the joys and challenges.”
But his real love was still teaching, and his last few years in the church, he felt the Lord was leading him back into academics. He and Rebecca even considered going overseas to teach in Vienna or moving back to California to teach at Biola again.
That’s when Dallas Seminary contacted him to teach as an adjunct biblical counseling professor. And last June he came on as a full-time faculty member and was asked to lead the changes as Biblical Counseling became its own department. And although he is new, the rest of the faculty has been exceptionally encouraging and welcoming. “I remember one day being early to chapel and going up to the platform. Sitting there were three older gentlemen—Drs. Hendricks, Pentecost, and Toussaint. They just welcomed me and made me feel like a part of the team—what an amazing team!”
The mission of Dallas Theological Seminary is to
glorify God by equipping godly servant-leaders
for the proclamation of His Word and the
building up of the body of Christ worldwide.