Meeting Jesus personally is the decisive foundation for everything He will do in, for, and through anyone’s life. Dan Boone was reared in a Christian home and grew up with a sense of being loved by God. His parents mentored him to deep Christian character, emphasizing service to humankind.
Boone’s sense of belonging and character development led him at a young age to say, Lord, I give you my life and want to be yours. Of course, little Dan Boone could not know all that being His would mean over the next 60 years. “I grew up in a context of commitment, of knowing who God is and that He loved me. I knew I needed forgiveness of my sins and began a dynamic, interactive relationship with God. I was called to preach when I was 13 years old and actually
heard an audible voice, something that has happened very few times in my life. I really thought there was someone else in the room saying I want you to preach the gospel for Me. I never tell people to seek an audible voice thinking that is normative for every Christian, but at a few junctures in my life, that voice has been deeply confirming with a sense of authority behind it. That call to preach was a never questioned certainty.
“In Mississippi they don’t wait long to get you in the middle of what God has called you to do. During my junior and senior years of high school, I pastored the New Salem Church of the Nazarene. This dying church was close to being closed, but a gracious leader allowed me to test my call. For two years, I drove 30 miles each weekend, held Friday night youth programs, visited people on Saturday, and preached on Sunday.
“The choice of college was never a question for me. A generation of Boones had attended Trevecca Nazarene University before me, and I was proud to follow in their footsteps. There, I was shaped by a rigorous education, chapel services, great mentors, student government leadership, and the beginning of lifelong friendships. During my sophomore year, I heard E. Stanley Jones describe a life completely surrendered to God. Following chapel that day, I knelt beside the metal frame bed in my dorm room and experienced what he had described—complete surrender—and was later supported by such mentors as Mildred Wynkoop and Ray Dunning.
“I met Denise, who became my wife, at Trevecca, and all three of our daughters, Amy, Ashley, and Abby, grew up on Christian college campuses, graduated from Christian universities, and have provided us with multiple grandchildren. At Trevecca Denise and I established friendships that are the core of our relational wealth today. However, if I could have a ‘do over,’ I would wish to have stayed in closer contact with some of my high school and college friends. Pastoring plus university presidency is so relationally taxing that relationship space I’ve had is occupied with that.
“One of God’s greatest gifts is my wife, Denise. She is an unapologetic extrovert with a relational capacity that dwarfs most small villages. As a stay-at-home mom, she invested her life in our three daughters. Their maturity, poise, faith, and beauty can be credited to her choice to make family a top priority. She has also made our house a home for 17 students who have lived with us during their college years. Her vibrant faith, humor, and spunk have made her a mentor and friend of university students. We will have been married 50 years this summer. She is the love of my life, the best friend I’ve ever had, the woman of my dreams, and without her I would be boring. She has invested herself in college students alongside me.
“Following our years as Trevecca students, I attended Nazarene Theological Seminary and completed a Master of Divinity degree and later a Doctor of Ministry degree through McCormick Theological Seminary. We moved to Raleigh, N.C. to serve the people of North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene, and I was ordained by Dr. William Greathouse, September 1, 1978. We relished rearing our two daughters, Amy and Ashley, in Raleigh and would have gladly spent our lives there if God had not further defined my calling. After eight years in Raleigh, I was invited to consider the pastorate of the College Hill Church of the Nazarene on Trevecca’s campus (now Trevecca Community Church). God was acclimating my calling to work with college students.
“It was my joy, for 20 years, to be a pastor to college administrators, faculty, and students. For the past 19 years, I have been privileged to serve as President of Trevecca Nazarene University.”
Beyond university life, the Boones are vibrant contributors to the greater Nashville community. “One piece of where we contribute time and energy includes the state-sponsored charter school system that the governor established. We have been involved in that and the ReThink Forward Board, the first state sponsored charter schools for freedom of educational choice in Tennessee. I have chaired that board for two-three years. One of these schools, Nashville Collegiate Prep, is in Davidson County; another one that has been approved will be Rutherford Collegiate Prep. The charters will grow into K-12 schools, consistent with offering quality education.
“Another piece of community involvement comes through Trevecca faculty who have been asked by Tennessee to provide training for the educational component of Alleviation of Poverty. They create training modules for people who are involved across the state.
“Additionally, Trevecca Community Church has lots going on that melds naturally into students’ lives. We have a Feeding Program for people who live in Trevecca Towers, a housing and urban retirement tower.
“Also, TNU’s Urban Farm works with and through the church and other organizations to assure that our neighbors have enough to eat. On the university campus, we have goats, chickens, a tilapia tank, fruit, vegetables, and in the summer, we have community gardens where we plant small farms. We are trying to introduce the next generation to gardening.”
A very personal contribution from this prolific writer is Boone’s authoring of 28+ books on a wide range of theological topics. One of his best sellers has been Answers for Chicken Little: A No-nonsense Look at the Book of Revelation (a layman’s walk through God’s Revelation), a book about hope in the persecution of the Roman Empire as related to the slaughter of the Lamb. Another book, Human Sexuality: A Charitable Discourse (originally written for college students in e-book format to accommodate frequent updating of notions on human sexuality), addresses deeply entrenched feelings that divide us. It models not the winning of the deal but how we enter moments of divisiveness, how we can talk about these topics and be friends, how we can treat people with respect. The primary audiences of the book are university students, pastors, professors who work in a Christian context, and the people of God who are willing to think carefully about the gospel in a conflicted culture.
How does a “call to preach with a never questioned certainty” fit Boone’s TNU life, a “calling to work with college students”? Entering another life story, Dr. Boone narrates the distinct impression that came during the family’s years in Raleigh. He relates, “The Lord impressed on me that He would greatly multiply my ministry where university students were being shaped and sent out into the world. So, for 20 years I pastored on college campuses, taught, served on boards of trustees, and learned what university is about; then, 19 years ago they called and said they’d like me to submit my resume for TNU. I laughed and said, ‘What makes you think I ever want to be a college president?’ ‘Well, we want you to think and pray about it.’”
“Denise and I didn’t have a specific leading that that’s what we were supposed to do. My thinking was that TNU had several great candidates that they could elect; however, we came to have a sense of ease and peace that we ought to put our name in the hat. I was surprised the morning they called and said, ‘You’ve been elected Trevecca’s eleventh president.’ I had never awakened a morning in my life thinking, ‘Oh, if I could just be a college president.’ I never pursued it, never sought it, never tried to get it. It’s just something the Lord dropped in front of us and said, ‘This is next.’
“I believe that throughout life, we obey and follow God and do the work that’s in front of us. The sense of being in one place and trying to get to another place, [climbing a ladder for success]—I’ve never had that experience. I was always at home wherever I was doing whatever I could; then, the Lord just kind of seamlessly guided us to the next step.”
The passion of Boone’s heart is “to think clearly and to live vibrantly the kind of life that empowers future generations to champion Christ-likeness as a way of life.” He has now been working with college students for 38 years, acquainting himself with generations from Busters to Gen X to Gen Y and now to Gen Z. “I see the need to recognize moments in culture when generations are changing—when they think differently, act differently, process things differently, and decide differently, and so I’ve really worked to be a student of those who are in front of me. I first want to understand, ‘Who are you? And how do you process life?’ Then, once I’m able to listen and discern some of that, I want to be able to articulate into their lives ‘this is how God might lead you, how you might understand what your life is to be about.’
“I’ve never believed that you can learn so much at any one time that that serves you for the rest of your life. Life-long-learning realizes the world changes; I want to see and discern and learn the changes that are going on so that I can best serve the people in front of me. Gen Zs are a hoot. I’ve had a lot of fun with this generation. They’re different, as different as any generation I’ve seen. Data tell us that Gen Zs are the most depressed, most anxious, most fearful, most suicidal, and the angriest generation that we’ve seen in American history—for lots of reasons. One person described them as the hollowed-out generation. Around the edges of who they are, there’s frenetic activity, but at the core of who they are, there’s emptiness—a hollow space—so, to be able to help them understand the way culture has shaped them and the pressures that are moving them to respond to life in those ways, [the highest degree of service] is to help them find the relationship with God that fills the hollow core. I tell people that they are a generation that we have thrown into an ocean of information—more than any people in humanity. But they’re dying for wisdom; they don’t know what to do with all the stuff they have access to. They’re drowning in this ocean, and they’re thirsting for wisdom to know how to put life together. One goal at Trevecca is to hire the kind of people who will be wise friends of students that come to college.
“Now in my 70s, I find myself reflecting on the intersection of Christian faith and the world we live in. I have a deep peace about the person God has called me to be and about the work God has given me to do. My deepest desire at this stage of life is to give enduring gifts to the next generation through acts of leadership, devotion, vision, and compassion.
“It is so vital to realize that in a world where our youth and college students are immersed in a culture that is leaving them drowning, there are colleges like Trevecca that are truly devoted to bringing a flourishing life and a vibrant faith to a generation of college students. Our future depends on it. It is critically important that Christian colleges exist and are in the work of helping bring a better generation to maturity. The workforce needs that and is looking for the kind of workers that we are actively trying to form right here on this campus.”
Praise God such colleges and such leaders as Dr. Boone exist.
Sheila E. Moss: author of Living to Matter: Mothers, Singles, and the Weary and Broken; Interrupting Women: Ten Conversations with Jesus; and international publications derived from teaching Bible and Christian ethics in Africa, Ukraine, Venezuela, and England; teacher of Bible classes for 35+ years; mother of five adult children and grandmother of eleven grandchildrenSunday