I am a second year student at DTS and also work here as a web developer. (I can be reached at John Dyer) A few years ago I never would have expected to be a student here or even doing web development, but it’s fun to look back and see how God has gently orchestrated every step, even when I had completely different plans.
I was born in San Antonio and, other than a few years living in Mississippi when I was very young, I grew up there. My dad is a pathologist and a retired Air Force colonel, and my mom is a professional photographer. I like to think that I got my intelligence and nerdiness from my dad and my artsiness and humor from my mom.
Neither of my parents were Christians growing up, and both came to know the Lord in college. They met while my dad was in medical school for the Air Force. Although my mom is the oldest of seven kids, because they were all Catholic, none of them came to my parents’ Evangelical wedding. This was one of the first of many somewhat difficult experiences God put in my life that eventually turned into something good. My family’s Catholic background has given me a better understanding of the Catholic-Protestant divide and made me more sensitive to people who come from Catholic backgrounds.
One night, while sitting in a grocery store parking lot with my dad (in our lime-green station wagon with wood paneling on the sides), I asked him how people got to heaven. What I understood from his response was that I couldn’t go to heaven by myself—I needed Jesus to help get me there, and I needed to pray and tell Jesus that I wanted him “in my heart.” When I got home, I crawled up on my top bunk and prayed to Jesus. And I did so several more times over the next few days, since it was so much fun.
Unfortunately, while my dad was a big influence on my early spiritual life, pressures with work and family eventually led my parents to a marriage counselor who—get this— counseled them to divorce. The whole experience was difficult for an elementary student and only when I was older did I learn the whole story which is too long and complicated to tell here. But just like the experiences with my Catholic family, I have found that God used this to shape me, allowing me to identify with people who are experiencing similar things.
Until high school, I went to a private Christian school in San Antonio, complete with ugly uniforms and just enough legalism to convince me that being a Christian meant that I get to go heaven and everything else pretty much stinks—you have to sit in a pew every Sunday and Wednesday for the rest of your life. And sometimes they might even ask you to serve.
Although I never got into much trouble, my life showed so little Christlikeness that I began to wonder if I were truly saved. One night, I asked my mom about it. She gently asked me a series of simple questions about what I believed. I answered yes to each of her questions (which were laid out like a Gospel presentation), and afterward she told me that because I had already trusted in Christ’s death and resurrection for my life’s salvation, I could be certain that I was saved, even though I didn’t always feel like it. That lesson—that I could trust what God said in his Word about people who believe in the name of Christ, instead of my feelings and actions—made a deep impact on my spiritual life.
I always enjoyed school, but I often slept there too. One day, my chemistry professor, Dr. Wedig, suggested I look into the Texas Academy of Math & Science (TAMS). TAMS is a program offered by the state of Texas through the University of North Texas that allows high school students to enter college two years early. I was very excited about the program because, like my dad, I wanted to go into some kind of science field and possibly become a doctor. The show “Doogie Howser” was popular at the time, so going to college at 16 seemed pretty cool, and I thought I looked very mature for my age. I applied and was accepted toward the end of my sophomore year of high school, and I was very excited about going.
That year a leader from my youth group, Scott Buchanan, started working really hard to build relationships with me and with the other guys in my grade. He opened his house (with a pool!) to us every Sunday night and that summer turned into one of the best of my life. I still wasn’t really walking with the Lord at that time, but the time Scott spent with us really affected me and probably kept me out of a lot of trouble. It was a difficult decision for me to go to college after having so much fun that summer, but at my parents’ advice and prodding, I drove 300 miles from home to start college at 16.
When I got there, I was excited at the chance to start over with a new group of people. Although some part of me had always wanted to live for the Lord in high school, I never seemed to be able to get out from under the peer pressure. At UNT, I started over and began attending Denton Bible Church (DBC). For the first time, I heard a teacher (Tom Nelson) who made Christianity seem like a worthwhile intellectual endeavor. Previously I didn’t see much value in learning the Bible or theology. It just didn’t have the same kick as biochemistry. But Tom made it seem like you’d be stupid not to want to learn the Word. There were very few Christians in the TAMS program, so I took a few classmates to church with me. Three of my closest friends to this day are guys who became Christians while attending DBC with me. One is now on staff at DBC and also attends DTS and another is beginning his Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Texas.
After completing the two years at TAMS I had the option to go to another college. I wanted to go to school at either Pepperdine University or Duke University. My parents weren’t able to support me very much, and although I received some scholarships, they weren’t enough to put me through school. So, disappointed, I set off to attend Texas A&M. Although I didn’t want to go there at the time, looking back God led me to the best place I could have been. At A&M, I started working with the youth group at Grace Bible Church. The youth pastor there was incredibly gifted, and he taught me how to lead Bible studies and how to disciple students. I also began working in a lab at A&M doing molecular biology research. I chose a double major in biochemistry & genetics because I wanted to go to medical school and be a missionary doctor. I had a great time in the lab and got to publish two papers, with titles like Chemically induced dimerization of dihydrofolate reductase by a homobifunctional dimer of methotrexate and Resistance to methotrexate due to AcrAB-dependent export from Escherichia coli, before I turned 21! This experience helped me answer a lot of creation-evolution questions and also gave me some insight into the sometimes fiercely atheistic science community.
Because of the TAMS program I was able to graduate from A&M a year early. Rather than go straight to medical school, I wanted to use this bonus year to do something cool and interesting, like go overseas or maybe try medical missions. Before I graduated, Grace Bible Church in College Station asked me to come on staff and head up their junior high program for two years. Since I knew the kids already and loved the staff, I decided it was perfect. After my first year there, the youth pastor was called elsewhere and I was put in charge of the entire youth group. The summer between the two years I had committed to Grace Bible, I began gathering my medical school applications. I had done everything I needed to go to a good school—I had a good GPA, good MCAT score, and good experience. But as I stared at the applications, I realized that as much as I like math and science and as great as it would be to be a doctor, I just like teaching Bible a lot more.
In the back of my mind I had always thought about attending DTS because I respected the men I had known that attended there, but for some reason I hadn’t wanted to. Once I realized that what I really wanted to do was teach the Bible, I immediately applied to DTS and began taking an extension class in Austin while I was still at Grace Bible.
I also knew that I needed a skill with which I could put myself through seminary. I began learning to make simple web pages and then taught myself web programming. During my time at Grace Bible, I began doing freelance work and later started a little web development company.
When the time came to move to Dallas for seminary, I worried about finding new clients, how I would put myself through school, where I would live, and all the other pre-seminary questions we all ask. Within about a month, some college friends called and said they were renting a house very close to DTS and they needed another person. And another college friend told me that DTS had just hired a company to revamp their website and was looking to hire a web developer to maintain it. Up to that point, I had a few doubts as to whether DTS was the right school for me, but seeing God putting things into place and lining everything up was wonderful confirmation.
I had a great first year at DTS and got do some fun things in my job. One of the most rewarding was developing the website used for the seminary’s new online courses. As a youth pastor, I often said, “The janitor who cleans the church late at night is just as important as the guy up here speaking.” Now that I’m that guy behind the scenes (instead of a janitor sweeping late at night, I code away in my office all day), I’m having fun being a part of something that I know will have a broad impact in the lives of people I may never know.
There are many more stories I could tell—of family members coming out the closet and going into cults (though thankfully never at the same time), 12-year-old youth group kids selling pot, the time I had a patent on a molecule, the time I watched our family car get stolen out of our driveway, but they all bring me to the same conclusion … God strategically allowed things into my life to shape me into someone who loves Him and wants to serve Him with my life.
I’m still not sure what I’ll be doing when I graduate, but I think I’m finally starting to trust that God is wise and true and gracious—and that, just like He’s done my whole life, He’ll be sure to lead me right where I need to be.
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.