By Chris Moon
Chris DeWelt is moving on to the next chapter in his life. But he’s not going to slow down—at least not much.
“There’s always plenty to do,” said the longtime director of intercultural studies at Ozark Christian College who retired from that position at the end of 2021.
A fixture at OCC in Joplin, Mo., since he began teaching there in 1999, DeWelt estimates he saw more than 2,000 students move through his introductory missions course.
He quit counting how many of his students actually ventured into cross-cultural missions during that time, but he guesses it’s more than a couple hundred.
Now, as he turns 70 years old this month, DeWelt is moving on.
He said he plans to help out in leadership with the Mustard Seed Network, a church-planting group in Japan that is led by several of DeWelt’s former students.
DeWelt also plans to teach several online courses at Ozark and work with the college’s new graduate program. And he will help out at College Press Publishing, too.
“Retirement scares a lot of guys, especially guys in ministry,” DeWelt said. “I never looked at life that way.”
Instead of wondering what to do next, as some ministry types do, DeWelt said he has a lot of things he’d like to do. The challenge is narrowing it down and being bold in moving forward.
“When Jesus shows up, he always tells his disciples to ‘fear not,’” DeWelt said.
FROM JOPLIN TO CHILE TO JOPLIN
An Ozark Christian College graduate himself, DeWelt and his wife, Carol, first ventured onto the mission field in 1974 in Santiago, Chile. They spent eight years there, working in church planting, evangelism, and leadership training.
They came back to the United States to work at College Press Publishing, which Don DeWelt, Chris’s father, started. Chris DeWelt worked there for 17 years before he assumed leadership of OCC’s missions department in 1999.
But how did his deep interest in missions develop?
DeWelt said his parents always had big hearts for missions. And Ozark did as well. Missions always has been woven into the fabric of the college.
But, said DeWelt, “More than anything, it was a desire to see the Great Commission carried out.”
DeWelt said he’s always loved teaching. He’s been a Sunday school teacher and church elder for years. Leading the intercultural studies department at Ozark was a natural fit.
“I love teaching, and I love students, and I love the content. Those three things come together very well when you have that opportunity,” he said.
The well-traveled DeWelt frequently goes on mission trips with students. He also has hosted an ongoing mentoring group at his home since the beginning of his time at Ozark.
“It is very energizing to see students who really want to learn and want to know what is on your heart,” he said. “I am not shy about sharing that.”
A HEART OF GRATITUDE
Looking back, DeWelt said he’s happy “that I was able to be involved in anything that mattered for eternity.”
DeWelt said he planned in advance to retire at age 70 as a way to give clarity both to himself and to Ozark.
The college already has named DeWelt’s replacement—Brice Wurdeman has taken over as director of intercultural studies.
Now, in addition to continuing some of the things he’s been doing for years at Ozark and College Press, DeWelt is looking forward to how he can help the Mustard Seed Network in Japan.
DeWelt said he won’t be moving to Japan, but he has traveled there about 15 times in the last eight to nine years. The country is very secular, with less than 1 percent of the population considered to be evangelical Christian.
Still, the Mustard Seed Network has planted six churches in less than 10 years, DeWelt said.
“In Japan, that’s a big deal,” he said.
Some key leaders of the network—including Andy Rodriguez—were DeWelt’s students.
In a farewell video Ozark released for DeWelt, Rodriguez said DeWelt was one of the first people he met when he came to enroll for classes at Ozark about 20 years ago.
Rodriguez said DeWelt “instilled in me a passion and love for Jesus and an urgency to reach the lost and make disciples and plant churches.”
DeWelt said he’s happy to be able to continue in ministry in whatever form it takes.
“In some ways, ministry is not about what we do. It’s about who we are,” he said.
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.