Leading Wisely from "Behind the Walls"

  • Natalie Corbin
  • Aug 28, 2009

At 72 years of age, Dave Cauwels’ (M.Re., ’61) life experience and devotion to the Lord makes him an unmistakably wise leader. A graduate of Denver Seminary, and mentored by many including Dr. Vernon Grounds, Cauwels has gained much insight in to what it means to lead wisely. His is a humble definition that is rooted in living outside of oneself, “a lifetime of faithfulness, a lifetime of being available, a lifetime of being teachable, and living biblically.”

It is with these very principles that Cauwels and Chuck Colson began Prison Fellowship. Although birthed out of Colson’s passion for prison ministry, Cauwels was approached by Colson to serve on the board. Cauwels did just that and discovered he too had a passion for those in prison. “From there on, I not only had a passion for evangelism, but I had passions for people and especially people in prison.” 

Cauwels states that a wise leader must “keep one’s eyes on the Lord,” and “live biblically.” Examining his own life Cauwels reflects, “I try to think biblically, I try to live my life as a faithful servant, an available servant, as a teachable servant. And I think I learned that at Denver Seminary. I think the best thing that I got from seminary was: ‘What does the Bible say?’” 

Prayer and steadfastness also characterize wise leadership. “I have a ground rule about life,” explains Cauwels, “I don’t talk to people about Christ until I talk to God about those people. So, I think prayer is a real aspect of leadership in God’s Kingdom and to be very steadfast—day after day, month after month, year after year.” Cauwels learned first-hand about steadfast living from Dr. Vernon Grounds, who he describes as, “my greatest mentor. He has been very steadfast in living his life for Jesus.”

Mentoring relationships are part of wise leadership for Cauwels. Mentoring keeps one teachable, as he described, “I had many, many mentors. First of all was Vernon Grounds who was my first pastor when I was 9 or 10 years old. And then since then I’ve had guys like Chuck Colson, Carl Henry, Howie Hendricks, Lauren Sanny, Ray Buker… as mentors to teach me to be very, very faithful, to teach me to be available, to teach me to live a lifetime of being teachable. I think one of the things that stood out because of the mentors in my life, is that still at nearly 73 I’m extremely active in mentoring men, sharing with Christ…most of my first 20 years was in mentoring business men all around me.” It is in the mentoring spirit that Cauwels is able to lead and mentor men in prison and grow the church “behind the walls.”

Today, retired from the world of business, Cauwels continues to be an example of wise leadership. He continues to pursue the passions God planted in his heart many years ago, visiting prisoners every week. “If you want to see what God is doing, just look at what He’s doing behind the walls—the church behind the walls.” Cauwels also has a heart for the nations, “I really have a passion for India and China and to see what God has done there—China in the last eight years and India in the last 13 years—is unbelievable. It really is unbelievable.”  Simply stated, Cauwels humbly reflects, “I’m just trying to participate in what God is doing across the street and around the world.”