Last Day in the Office: Reflections on Working for Dr. Mohler

Last Day in the Office: Reflections on Working for Dr. Mohler January 11, 2008

For the last three and a half years, I have worked on campus at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. For the last two and a half years, I have worked in the President’s Office, and a year and a half of that time has been devoted to research for an upcoming book on Christian manhood. Today is my last day in the office. It has been a privilege to work for Dr. Al Mohler. My day in and day out work involved lots of reading, compiling of outlines and quotations, and attending the radio show. I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I have learned a great deal from him. I have not written much about my experience on my blog, as I have not wanted to appear (or be) proud, and I have not wished to be seen as obsequious or slavish, two traits I personally abhor. Now that I am leaving Louisville, however, it is appropriate to speak publicly about Dr. Mohler in an effort to share what I have learned from him and to honor him as a mentor in the faith.

Dr. Mohler has taught me the importance of thinking theologically about all of life. Carrying on in the vein of men like Francis Schaeffer and Carl Henry, Dr. Mohler thinks theologically about everything. There is nothing that I know of that he does not view through his theological lenses. He even talks about his dog in theological terms. I’ve heard him recount on a number of times his thoughts on “Baxter the beagle,” and each time he illustrates the uniqueness of humanity in comparison to animals (though he never fails to state his love for his dog). Dr. Mohler has, fundamentally, a curiosity about anything and everything. He reads and researches tirelessly and thus is equipped to instruct on a great many topics of interest. In working under him, I have acquired a similar drive to learn and to think in biblical terms about everything. Too many of us see spiritual things in spiritual terms and everything else in earthly terms. Dr. Mohler has taught me to think of all things in spiritual terms, and my life is all the richer for it.

Dr. Mohler has taught me the importance of gender as it relates to the Christian life. Many Christians think about Christianity from a sexless standpoint–that is, every text applies in the same way to all people, regardless of gender. I have learned from Dr. Mohler that gender (sex) is the fundamental reality of life. There is nothing more basic to our earthly existence than gender. Our bodies are determined by it, and, importantly, so are our spiritual lives and daily existences. Dr. Mohler has passed on to me and many others the importance of emphasizing gender and fulfilling the roles given to each sex. He has encouraged me a great deal in the quest each man faces to identify and define his manhood, and has given me ideological and theological markers by which to understand manhood–marriage, the cultivation of a family, the performance of God-glorifying work, meaningful contribution to society in a variety of ways. Many Christians touch on these ideas, but Dr. Mohler has helped me to see that the Bible makes much of such things, and that we should do the same in attempting to fulfill our individual, gender-based discipleship under Christ in the context of a corporate body.

Dr. Mohler has taught me the value of hard work driven by a vision for life and a belief in truth. If you spend much time around him, you know that a wasted moment and Dr. Mohler rarely meet. He has a relentlessness about him, a desire to take intellectual and spiritual dominion over all that he can. This is a biblical desire, even if it can be difficult for Dr. Mohler (and for all of us) to balance at times. Though we all fall short in many ways, I have been profoundly challenged by Dr. Mohler to avoid a passive, weak-willed, lazy existence. When one sees a man working hard and enjoying it, one is driven to do the same thing and to rebel against a culture that glorifies laziness and masculine weakness. Dr. Mohler is a strong man, a man of oak, and I desire to emulate him in living hard and well for the glory of God. He is a courageous man, a man who stands for what he believes, and he has taught me the importance of contending for the faith in a fallen world. Dr. Mohler is not ashamed to speak up for his cause, and he does not shrink back from conflict when it is necessary. He is not in such a hurry to make friends that he compromises the faith, though I also know that he often makes friends of his enemies, though he and they disagree to the point of bitterness. Watching him remain personally warm to those who disagree with him has helped me to see that burning bridges is not a necessary part of contending for truth. I hope for myself and many young men that we will practice this in our own lives.

In the midst of a busy life, Dr. Mohler finds time to show kindness to people. Thus I have learned from him that a Christian, whether a pastor or lawyer or homemaker or farmer, must always prize people. The point of our existence is not to make a name for ourselves. We are to love God and our neighbor. Too often we minimize the first, forget the second, and substitute in a third–“love oneself above all else.” I can remember Dr. Mohler calling me from vacation to tell me the day before my wedding that he was proud of me and praying for me. I will remember that for a long time. I learned from that act that even a small gesture has the power to deeply affect another person. There have been other acts of similar kindness, and I will remember them as well. For example, it has been a great encouragement to observe Dr. Mohler handle callers of all abilities and backgrounds on his radio show. He is unfailingly kind to callers, and I have listened many times as he has led a timid caller through the paces and helped them to articulate their thoughts. He does not embarrass his listeners, and he easily could. That means a great deal. More than this, he loves his wife and family a great deal, and I have been impacted by his concern for them. He truly honors and ennobles his wife and clearly holds her in great esteem. It is right that he do so, but many men do not. I want to be a man like this, who strengthens and dignifies those around him, leaving them desirous of honoring him in all situations. Loyalty can be blind, but it can also be won out of a history of godliness and kindness, as it is in my case and many others with Dr. Mohler.

I have picked up a great deal from Dr. Mohler and could write much more about my brief time with him. I could mention, for example, his quick wit, his courtesy to guests, his love for students, his courage, his ability to take a joke and poke fun at himself, and his boyishness. Perhaps there will be a day when I can write more. I hope it will come. Dr. Mohler is not a perfect man, and I have seen his weaknesses as well as his strengths. He can drive himself quite hard, he must balance his accomplishments with the need to be humble, and he can get a bit testy at times. I’ve seen him scorch an intern a time or two, though, of course, I was never in such a position (ahem). In the end, Dr. Mohler is a man just like anyone else. He is gifted, he is godly, he is a sinner, he is redeemed by the blood of Christ. This last point is, as it is for all Christians, the central fact of his existence. Being around a man of such focus has caused my time at Southern to be one of great learning, change, and growth. I count Dr. Mohler as the chief catalyst in these things. For his kindness, his investment in me, his continual exhortation and instruction, I am thankful to God.

It all wraps up now. My desk is cleared, my goodbyes are said, and I’m just about to begin a new season of life and ministry. I will really miss Donna, Wendy, and Tricia, the office “ladies,” the office head, Jason Allen, and my good friends Tyler Wittman, Drew Dixon, and Matt Crawford, a man I respect and trust. I am very sorry to part ways with Greg Gilbert and Matt Hall, my fellow history devotees. I have been blessed to share friendship with these men and have learned a great deal from them both. Greg has been something of an older brother to me and has a great many talents to steward and Matt is a good friend and a future historian of renown. In sum, it is hard to leave work and a work environment that one loves. I have seen firsthand in this job how work that is close to one’s heart need not be dreary or dreaded; instead, it may be a source of great blessing, an opportunity to use gifts and share fellowship in the service of Christ and the advancement of His kingdom. I will really miss this office and these people. It has been a sweet season indeed. As I go, I trust that I will honor the friendship of these people, Dr. Mohler’s investment in me these last few years, and far more importantly, the Savior who died for His church to save it and bring it into a place of unending worship, where all that one leaves behind is sin, sickness, pain, and the sadness of parting with those one loves.

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