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Neil Ashcraft (ThM 58) is still learning

by Dallas Theological Seminary on May 1, 2013 in Profiles

My life as a Christian for the last sixty-four years can be characterized as a “learner.” “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me” (Matthew 11:29). The influence of DTS upon my life began when I first learned how to be saved at Mount Hermon, California, at a high school Easter conference. The speaker was a YoungLife leader from Dallas, Texas. Two years later, when I felt the need to enroll in a Christian college—Biola College in Los Angeles, California—I began to learn about the heart of the Bible message from key professors, all graduates of DTS (J. Vernon McGee, Gerald Stanton). As a student at DTS from 1954 to 1958, my life was influenced by all my professors, but certain ones made a profound lifetime impression (John F. Walvoord, Howard Hendricks, and Donald Campbell).

Graduation from DTS led to four years in France where I learned to plant a church in a different language and culture; again the DTS influence continued through men like Ray Stedman, Roy Zuck, and Merill Unger. Returning to the USA (precipitated by the illness of our third child), I learned to pastor a small, but growing, young church, encouraged and blessed by the preaching and personal time with DTS professors each summer at the Mount Hermon Conference.

A call came to come back to Dallas, Texas, in 1970, as an associate pastor at Scofield Memorial Church. Becoming the senior pastor in 1972, I learned to pastor an older, historic church (we celebrated 100 years in 1977). Now the influence of DTS on my ministry was amplified each Sunday morning as I would look out at the congregation and see at least six of my former professors from the seminary!

In June of 1977, I retired from the pastorate at Scofield Church after twenty-seven years with the plan not to stop ministering, and to keep on learning to do a variety of ministries. My first call was to serve as the chaplain to the Chaplains at Marketplace Ministries, a wonderful and refreshing opportunity to minister in the business world. At the same time I was asked to begin assisting churches going through a pastoral change. During those years I was asked to join the alumni department at DTS, serving as Minister-at-Large, visiting with Dallas Seminary graduates in the DFW area, and talking with others all over the world. For ten of those years I was also leading a Sunday evening worship service at a Dallas retirement center. When I retired from Scofield Church, I never planned to retire from ministry. Now I was busier than ever, but doing service in all the ways I loved most.

The year 2012 started out rough: my beloved wife and ministry partner for fifty-seven years was seeing a different doctor each week. Joanna was admitted to Presbyterian Hospital with pneumonia on May 5. On May 9 (my 81st birthday), the oncologist came into her room and announced that she had Acute Leukemia, and that her death would be imminent! Joanna came to our home in Richardson under hospice care, and went home to be with the Lord just six weeks later on June 25. I was personally not only grieving deeply, but I was also sick. The next two weeks were spent in Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, with a very serious infection and a debilitating virus. I traveled to Pennsylvania to be with my son David (ThM 83) to again be hospitalized, and was then sent to a rehabilitation center with a special care unit, and then spent more time at David’s home in rehabilitation, flew to Sugar Land (Houston), Texas, for more rehabilitation with my daughter Pam and her husband Ron Bell (MA[BS] 87), and then finally came back home to Richardson!

During the first four months of 2013, I am frequently asked, “How are you feeling, and what are you planning to do next?” My usual answer is, “I am getting stronger, a little bit each day.” “Does that mean your ministry days are over?” No, I guess not! I am presently in the process of beginning a ministry at Fellowship Bible Church, Dallas, to assist Senior Pastor Gary Brandenburg and his staff as a part-time pastor of pastoral care! The influence of DTS will continue to be seen in my ministry, because I am still learning!