Dr. Gary VanderPol
Assistant Professor of Justice and Mission
Dr. Gary VanderPol will join the faculty of Denver Seminary in the fall of 2012 as assistant professor and director of the M.A. program in Justice and Mission. Dr. VanderPol received a Th.D. in missiology from Boston University, an M.A. in philosophical theology from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, and a B.A. in history from California State University, Stanislaus.
Before coming to Denver Seminary, Dr. VanderPol taught at the Evangelical Seminary for Pastoral Education (ESEPA), in San José, Costa Rica. He has served as co-pastor of Evangelical Covenant churches in Cambridge, MA and Oakland, CA, and has fifteen years of missionary experience, both overseas and in diverse urban contexts in the U.S. Dr. VanderPol has written and presented papers in the areas of justice, missiology and economic discipleship in church and academic settings. His dissertation, The Least of These, analyzed the growth of evangelical relief, development and justice work among the poor over the last sixty years.
"I was born into a Dutch immigrant community in Michigan and grew up attending a Christian Reformed church and elementary school in central California. In high school, after several years of traumatic family strife and adolescent angst, the good news that Jesus Christ died for me and loved me penetrated my soul for the first time. During a youth summer camp sponsored by a large Baptist church, I “went forward” to publicly commit myself to Christ; nine months later I was back at the altar again, this time to dedicate my life to full-time Christian service. Ever since, I have sought to discern how God’s Spirit was leading me to live out this call, while still remembering that God always has unexpected surprises in store for even the clearest ‘callings.’
"Currently, I think my call to ministry includes three main components. First, I want to be both a scholar and a pastor. While the institutional structures of academy and church often make it difficult to integrate scholarship and pastoral ministry, it is my deepest desire to bring them together. I believe I am most effective when study and direct service in the church function dialectically in my life, with each informing and inspiring the other.
"Second, the goal of my desired pastor/scholar vocation is to serve as a resource for the evangelical church as it strives to be faithful in mission. This focus has motivated my dissertation, entitled Lazarus at the Gate: American Evangelical Mission to the Poor, 1947-2005. In it I analyze the changing themes in American evangelical approaches to poverty amelioration. From its postwar emphasis on paternalistic charity, disaster relief, and gift-giving, popular evangelical discourse has expanded to include concepts of economic development, participation, and empowerment; a growing minority also advocate structural change and speak in terms of social justice. Since one of my primary teaching goals is to inspire another generation of evangelicals to emulate Jesus’ love for the poor, I have found it immensely helpful to critically engage the previous two generations.
"Third, I believe that God has called me to be sure that my ministry is one that flows out of an intimate relationship with Him. I never want ministry to become merely a vocation or a profession, but an act of joyful obedience motivated by the love I am receiving from Him in prayer and other spiritual disciplines. I also pray that God will empower me to convey this attitude to whomever I am privileged to minister to—whether students, parishioners, or missionaries."