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The only person in his family to make it past the eighth grade, Dr. Bill Lawrence was determined to go far in his education. He knew college was in his future, and he hoped seminary beyond that. At Philadelphia Biblical University, one of Bill’s professors pointed him toward Dallas Seminary through his stories about the students and faculty.
“What I heard of was godly camaraderie: guys living together, having a wonderful time, ministering together, growing together, learning together, and I was very challenged by that,” he said.
Eight years later, after receiving his master’s and doctorate from Dallas Seminary, Dr. Lawrence moved to San Jose, California, to start South Hills Community Church. There he fulfilled his childhood dream to be a senior pastor.
“We saw some fun things happen there—things that were good, and pretty unique. I realized God had blessed us and it was special. The relationship we had with the elders especially was powerful.”
After 12 years he passed the baton to another pastor, and God brought him back to Dallas Seminary as a professor in the pastoral ministries department. Dr. Lawrence loved teaching, but after five years he began to miss things about his pastoral position.
“I was missing the elements of leading: decision-making, working with a team, and my relationships with those over me.”
So he decided to look for another job until a certain date, and if he didn’t find one, he would buckle down stay at the Seminary. He looked into many pastoral opportunities, but nothing worked out.
About that time Dallas Seminary was developing a Center for Christian Leadership (CCL), and Dr. Lawrence was involved in its initial planning. He stayed in Dallas teaching and helping with CCL for two years, at which time the executive director got burned out and decided to move on.
“I knew that the job was going to open up, so I went to Donald Campbell and Howard Hendricks, and told them I was interested … I ended up serving there for 12 and a half years.”
His job there involved redefining the purpose for CCL and reenergizing it by building a team, developing programs, fundraising, and building a leadership council filled with people around the country. He also created new ministries such as Leadership Evaluation And Development (LEAD), which has been a major boost to the center.
Although he is no longer involved with the CCL, leadership is still his passion.
“I have a burden to try to help people understand how God forms leaders—I don’t talk about leadership development, I talk about leader formation. I feel that frequently we [as leaders] take on the skill area because that’s the easier area to do, and you can get the job done. But the reality of the matter is, you have to ask the question, ‘What about the leader in leadership?’”
Dr. Lawrence is in the process of starting a new organization called Leader Formation International, which will involve training leaders around the world.
He also is currently serving as the interim pastor for Northwest Bible Church in Dallas, along with teaching in the pastoral ministries department at Dallas Seminary. He and his wife, Lynna, have three boys, Kent, Joel, and Kyle.
The mission of Dallas Theological Seminary is to
glorify God by equipping godly servant-leaders
for the proclamation of His Word and the
building up of the body of Christ worldwide.