Diversity Equips Benson for Role with Seminary

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BJU President Steve Pettit announced that Dr. Alan Benson will be the executive vice president for student development and ministry advancement, a role for which God has prepared him through his background.

Benson’s new position entails overseeing BJU Seminary in addition to the overall BJU student experience.

Read more about the new vision for BJU Seminary.

When Benson first came to BJU as a freshman in 1988, his major was not Bible or ministry related. “I was an accounting major with a computer science minor,” he said, “but somehow I managed to get signed up for preacher boys’ class.”

As a result of a message by Jim Van Gelderen during his sophomore year, Benson answered the call to the ministry. “I still remember it. The message was ‘The ABCs of Ministry.’ I left that class and changed my major,” he said. “I changed my major to Bible and added a history minor and really was on the pathway to ministry at that point.”

Benson met his wife Michelle the following summer at a Christian camp. Both returned to BJU in the fall, Benson as a junior and Michelle as a freshman. “We started dating her freshman year and just continued on the pathway to ministry from there,” he said. As a nursing student, Michelle “wanted to be equipped so that her husband, if he was going to seminary, he could get it done, and it wasn’t going to take seven or eight years,” said Benson. “So, from the very get-go, we were heading towards ministry.”

Diversity of Ministry

Benson grew up in a small church plant in Nova Scotia. His family had immigrated from Ireland in 1973 when he was 4 years old to an area heavily populated by Roman Catholics. “It was the Lord’s doing. He did it that way to get us there,” said Benson.

A church planter and alumnus from BJU came to the area when Benson was 11 and led the family to salvation in Christ. “All seven of us got baptized the same day in a river, and we became charter members of Antigonish Baptist Church,” he said.

After Michelle’s graduation in 1994, Benson embarked on a journey only God could design. He first served as youth pastor at a church in Wilmington, North Carolina. He then served as pastor in Winter Garden, Florida; back in Wilmington; and finally, in Schaumburg, Illinois. Benson accepted the position of vice president for student development and discipleship at BJU in 2018.

Said Benson: “My experience with ministry training is varied, but (so is) my perspective on ministry.”

Diversity of Training

Benson did indeed experience a miscellany of seminary training. In addition to his bachelor of arts degree from BJU, Benson has a master of ministry degree from BJU, a master of divinity degree from Louisiana Baptist University, and a doctor of ministry degree from BJU. He has also done coursework at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary and Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

“This new position for me, leading a seminary, is not just because I have ministry in my background, but even the way God has directed my ministry training. I’ve seen a lot of seminaries, had a lot of different connections,” said Benson.

Some of his training was done via recording. “I did classes from seminary at Calvary in Lansdale where I got VCR tapes,” said Benson. Some of his courses at BJU were two-week block courses in which the first week was recorded and the second week was in person. His courses at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary were traditional, in-residence courses.

“So just all different … which is really interesting because part of the future design — not just for our seminary but I think for seminary education globally — is flexibility,” said Benson.

BJU Seminary offers five modes of class delivery: in-residence, livestream, online, two-week module and evening flex classes. Said Benson: “God gave me a background of experience where I really experienced all of those in seminary training and see the value in all of them depending on what your status in life is. … There are people sitting live in our classes that are actually in Ghana today.”

Diversity in Harmony

“A seminary needs to be able to equip God’s servants for whatever setting they’re going to be in, and so that’s shaping, actually, our whole approach to ministry training, and God allowed me to live it,” said Benson.

When Sam Horn left the position of vice president for enrollment and ministerial advancement and dean of the Seminary and School of Religion at BJU, Benson stepped in “to keep the balls bouncing.” Under Horn, the Seminary had developed a three-year strategic plan and was making progress toward that plan.

Benson said he wanted “to just make sure that if they needed any fuel or anything at the executive level, or decisions that needed to get to the calendar,” the new deans of BJU Seminary and of the School of Religion got what they needed.

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“I’m just willing. If you ask me why I would say I’ve just decided I’m going to be willing. That’s really the why. So, people say: Wow, so this is kind of a big leadership role. And really, authentically, my heart says: No. Actually, if it’s a leadership role, the primary expression of that is cheerleader. That’s really what I feel like. That there’s just so many choice servants of God using their gifts, and I just want to cheer them along the way.”