30 September, 2023

Throwback Thursday: ‘How I Happened to Be a Minister’

by | 7 October, 2021 | 0 comments

In October 1943, Christian Standard shared approximately a dozen autobiographical sketches on “How I Happened to Be a Minister.” Here are two sketches by folks who served decades in Christian education—William Jessup and Dan Eynon.

William Jessup served as president of San Jose Bible College for many years. Some time later, the name was changed to San Jose Christian College. Finally, in 2003, the college’s name was changed to William Jessup University to honor the first president. In 2004, the campus moved to Rocklin, Calif.

Jessup didn’t have the initial vision for San Jose Bible College; credit for that belongs to Dr. Eugene Sanderson. Sanderson purchased property across from San Jose Teachers College (now called San Jose State University) and began making improvements to it. Then, in January 1939, Sanderson asked Jessup to carry on his vision for the school; Jessup agreed and he became president, with classes commencing for 14 students in September 1939. (More history of the university is available at Jessup.edu.)

Here’s Jessup’s essay.

_ _ _

I Fought Against the Ministry

By W. L. Jessup
President, San Jose (Calif.) Bible College
October 2, 1943; p. 7

I tried every possible way to stay out of the ministry. The more I fought against it, the harder it was to stay away from preaching. I can best sum up the reasons under four heads. I list them in order as they influenced my life.

The influence of godly parents is number one. My mother from the day of my birth prayed daily that I might be a minister. If you want to do the impossible, just try to get away from nineteen or twenty years of mother’s prayers. Mother always called me her preacher boy.

William L. Jessup and family. (Courtesy of https://Jessup.edu/about/history)

Mother wanted me to go to Eugene Bible University, which I did just to please her. I went for one semester and quit school. I found a job and worked for a cement contractor—and what I mean, I worked. I have never worked harder in all my life. During those long days of work I had time to do some thinking and began to think that maybe Mother wasn’t so far wrong, after all. So when the school year rolled around I quit my job and went back to Bible college. This time I really found the Lord and things began to take on a different color.

Soon after returning to Bible college I took a great liking to Veltie Pruitt, a professor in the Bible college. His life was a constant example to me. Even at this time I was still not so sure about preaching, but he insisted that I supply for him several different times. I did so against my desires, and from the supply preaching I was called to take over the church at Franklin, Ore.

Soon after my taking over that church, another influence came into my life which helped me to continue in the ministry. This was the influence of a godly, Christian girl [Carrie] who became my wife. Had it not been for her patient, sweet, loving spirit many times during stormy periods in church work I would have turned from the ministry.

The fourth influence, interwoven with all of the above, has been the pull of lost humanity. When I surrendered completely to Christ it was my desire to turn the world upside down for Him. The Christ of God gripped my life. I saw the error of denominationalism and I was challenged by the simplicity of the New Testament church and the need of preaching New Testament Christianity free from all sectarianism and ecclesiasticism. I was also challenged by the purity of the early Christians and the need of preaching holiness and separation from the world today.

My one desire now for the rest of my life is to challenge and help other young people to be real servants of the Christ both in the message they preach and the life they live.

_ _ _

The second autobiographical sketch was penned by Dan Eynon, who graduated from Cincinnati Bible Seminary in 1929 and began his career at the school in 1953. He was known for preaching the book of Acts and preparing preachers for the ministry, according to a history of the college written by Jim Lloyd.

_ _ _

Little Boy in Coal-mining Town Had the Ambition

By Dan Eynon, Huntington, W.Va.
October 2, 1943; p. 8

. . . A native of the little coal-mining town of Bergholz, in the hills of eastern Ohio, as a small boy I never entertained any serious doubts as to what I wanted to be—a minister.

DAN EYNON (from the 1969 Cincinnati Bible Seminary yearbook)

It is impossible to analyze my desire without taking into consideration the influence of a mother and grandmother, interested definitely in the church. I am compelled also to pay tribute to F. M. Cummings and others, ministers of the Bergholz Church in my boyhood days . . . [Eynon proceeded to mention many folks from the church and area].

When I was thirteen years of age, B. R. Johnson came to Bergholz to conduct an evangelistic campaign, and at that time I made the good confession and was baptized. In 1923, when I was a Junior in high school, the home church gave me $65 and sent me as a delegate to the Ohio State Christian Endeavor Convention, at Toledo. At one of the evening sessions a call was sounded forth for lifework recruits. I simply had to go forward and volunteer for full-time Christian service!

After graduating from high school in 1924, I worked for a year in the Goat Hill coal mine. In the fall of 1925, Prof. R. C. Foster, of Cincinnati, came to Bergholz to be the chief speaker at our annual church rally. He learned that I desired to become a minister and encouraged me to enroll in Cincinnati Bible Seminary. My answer was, “I would like to go to Seminary, but I don’t have enough money.” Professor Foster replied, “Draw what pay you have coming from the mine and come down. You’ll get along all right.” That was on Friday, and on the following Lord’s Day afternoon the church, at a special service, set me aside for the ministry. The sermon was delivered by Brother Armstrong, an eighty-five-year-old retired preacher who lived in Wellsville. I shall always remember how that elderly saint of God pointed his finger at me and charged me to “preach the word!” On Monday the Bible school held a surprise party and gave me a very generous “dollar shower,” and on Tuesday I went to Cincinnati. The professor was right—the Lord took care of me—and for five and a half years it was my privilege to sit at the feet of some of the most able and consecrated Bible instructors in the brotherhood.

That’s my story, and I can see the hand of God behind it all and I breathe a quiet prayer of thanksgiving to Him. Amen and Amen!


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