Joe Aldrich

Many people have influenced my life for the better, but few have had as much an impact as Joe Aldrich has. Joe is the former president of Multnomah School of the Bible. Joe has Parkinson’s Disease and is slipping fast. He’s been out of the public eye for many years now, even though he’s not that old (in his sixties). He was my pastor at Mariner’s Church in Newport Beach, CA, when I was the church’s first youth pastor (1970-72). Every Thursday we would get together to talk about the youth ministry. It was a real struggle for me and I needed a lot of help. That’s because I was a freshman in college! Joe had been a Christian Ed major in his master’s program at Dallas Seminary; I was, at the time, a Christian Ed major at Biola. I changed to a Bible major because of Joe. But the reason may not be what you might think: I learned much more from him about Christian education than I did from all my professors at Biola! I felt that I was getting such a good education from him about what CE was all about that I didn’t need to waste money on an inferior education in college. This is not meant to demean the CE program at Biola; rather, it’s simply to note that learning Christian education in a real-life setting, and learning it from a man who had been so involved in it that he at one time was an adjunct teacher of Christian education at Dallas Seminary, is something that you can’t compete with. When I switched to a Bible major, I was required to take two years of Greek. I took the first year while I was a CE major, but the second (and then third and fourth) after I switched majors. Joe had an impact in the direction of my life and career.

Now, back to Thursdays. Joe and I would meet for two hours every Thursday. But we didn’t talk about youth ministry for most of the time. For the first hour or so, Joe would bubble over about the sermon he was preparing. He was genuinely involved in the text, and it constantly changed his life. He first preached from Nehemiah. It was a multiple-month series. Joe would diagram the Hebrew text that he was preaching from each week, memorize the text in English, and wrestle with the exegesis of the text very seriously. I thought that if a man who had been a CE major at Dallas Seminary was diagramming the Hebrew text each week, then surely Dallas Seminary was the place to get a solid theological education! I learned, too, that Joe had memorized the Greek verb chart paradigms and could still recite them all at will as a pastor. Joe was the first DTS grad that I remembered meeting; he was one of the primary reasons I decided to go to Dallas for my education.

Joe was indeed an incredible memorizer. Once, when he was hospitalized for some injury or disease (I don’t call which), he was stuck in the hospital for a week. During that time, he was not idle. He memorized Ephesians!

After he shared his insights about the text he would preach on three days later—that were just emerging now—he would ask me about the youth ministry. He’d give me tips on how to deal with the kids, and lay out principles for youth work. It was pure gold. Then, we would pray. If anything, Joe is a man of prayer. We would usually pray for 45 minutes. If you’re keeping track, this means that Joe would talk about what he was learning from the Bible for an hour, we would talk about youth ministry for 15 minutes, and we would pray for 45 minutes. What I had expected was quite different from this breakdown, but in the end I saw the wisdom of dealing with ministry this way. Spend time in the Word and time in prayer. Those things should be our highest priorities.

I was a relatively poor student (grade-wise and money-wise) in college, but a recommendation letter from Joe got me into seminary. His influence was still large at DTS even after many years.

Joe had a wicked sense of humor. He was a great practical joker. When he was in the doctoral program at DTS, he and John Walvoord’s son (also in the doctoral program) did an incredible practical joke that should have gotten both of them kicked out of school! But Joe was wise enough to do this one with the son of the school’s president, making both of them immune.

Joe was also a very bright student. He earned all A’s at Dallas except for two C’s in Hebrew. His prof? Bruce Waltke. Joe got the highest grades in the two courses he took from Waltke. Students would take Waltke just to hear him pray in class—knowing that they would most likely fail the course. But it was worth the price to hear this man’s adoration for our Almighty God pour forth twice a week.

Joe also was and is an evangelist at heart. His book, Lifestyle Evangelism, is a natural outgrowth of who he is. When he and Ruthe were in seminary, they would rent an apartment where they served as apartment managers. And every week they would invite the folks in a different apartment over for dinner. After awhile, all of the people in the apartment would become believers! When that happened, Joe and Ruthe would pack up and move to another apartment complex where they would be managers, and they’d start the process all over again.

Joe is also a financial wizard. He and Ruthe would save the money that they would have spent on rent (as apartment managers, they stayed rent free). They did this for seven years—through the Th.M. and Th.D. programs. By the time they packed up and left for California, they had saved up $10,000. It was enough for a nice down payment on a house in Newport Beach, where the prices had not yet gone ballistic (that would happen a year later).

Finally, Joe had a strong sense of social justice. He was pastor at Mariner’s Church for seven years, then he became the president of Multnomah in Portland. He noticed early on that the men’s dorms were in terrible disrepair, so he urged the board of directors to do something about it. Meeting after meeting, they turned a deaf ear. So, Joe read up on the procedural rules for the board meetings and he noticed that the president had the right to choose where the meetings would be held. The next meeting was held in the bathroom in the men’s dorm! The funding to improve the men’s dorm was approved and the fixes were made.

Joe is the epitome of someone who is wise as a serpent, as gentle as a dove. He’s one of the great servant-leaders of our time. I always saw in him a person who lived out his Christian faith the way most of us breathe. His adoration of Christ was at the center of his life, and he has a strategy for how to maximize things to Christ’s glory. And even though we may have disagreements over some theological issues (e.g., Calvinism), I have learned much from this godly man. He has modeled what he often said: “Christianity is caught more than it is taught,” and “truth is not heard unless love is felt.” Thanks, Joe, for being such a servant of our Lord!

16 Responses to “Joe Aldrich”

  1. My prayers go out for Dr. Aldrich and his family.

    His book Lifestyle Evangelism is the first book that I ever read on the subject of evangelism. I read it in 1984(?) while stationed at Fort Ord, CA and teaching at our church, Trinity Baptist Church of Salinas, CA. My pastor at the time, Charles Cutney recommended the book, apparently while serving in southern CA he had met Dr. Aldrich.

    I was a very young 22 year old who thought he had his theology wrapped up like a Christmas present. Through that book and the mentoring of Pastor Charles I learned to love, not in theory but in real practical ways. I learned that the best place and most effective way to win others to Christ was in the foxhole that we were training in that week. Or maybe it was under the hood of a unit buddies car that needed repair – even when I knew nothing about cars, I was just there, lending a hand and loving like Chirst would.

    I recommend that book to anyone who can find it, my nearly worn out copy still holds a prominent place in my library.

    May God grant his mercy and grace to the Aldrich family.

  2. thanks for this Dan. Joe made a huge impact on me as a student at Multnomah and through his books and teaching. greatest memory was walking back to school after chapel and joe pulls up and asks me if i want a ride. it was only a 2-3 minute chat but i was amazed that he would want to spend time with a lowly student.

  3. What an inspiring tribute!….and so nice that it be written before his death. I’ll have to grab a copy of his book.

  4. Truth Unites... and Divides December 2, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Awesome tribute.

    I have Aldrich’s book too, but I just skimmed it. I’ll have to read it better next time.

  5. Thank you, Dan.
    I first met Joe in my first year at DTS, while he was completing his doctoral program. He and I went out shotgunning one Monday with Don Larmour, another DTS grad. That began a fondness for Joe that continues to this day. With the great influence so many of the profs had on me at the time, I have always believed the most influential person in my life while I was there was Joe Aldrich.
    I had come from a very rough background and had actually only known Christ for about two years when I arrived in Dallas. There were a lot of rough edges (flaws) in my life, and Joe knew it; but he took me under his wing and showed he cared.
    One thing I enjoyed a lot about him was his aphorisms. One of the best was, “The broader your comfort zone, the more opportunity you have to reach people for Christ.” Joe’s comfort zone was enormous, and many people know the Savior today because of that.
    Frequent have been the days since I first learned about his Parkinson’s Disease that I have prayed, “Lord, let me reflect in some way today the impact Joe had in my life. Help me to do something today that Joe would have done, had he not been sidelined so early in his career.
    Thanks again, Dan.
    John Scoggins

  6. John, you’re exactly right: Joe’s a master of communication, using phrases, aphorisms, etc. that are memorable and meaningful. I am delighted to learn of another brother in Christ who has been powerfully impacted by Joe. Thanks for your testimony.

  7. Dr. Joe, as he is called at Multnomah, is one of the reasons I decided to study at MBS. Multnomah exemplifies his spirit today- it’s a hidden gem in Christendom. Words that describe him are authentic, sensitive, Godly, prayerful and edifying. Any who took one of his classes will tell you that he was a professor who was real and made you want to be more like Christ. I thank God for brothers in Christ who are like Dr. Joe. They propel me to pursue Christ more. May God richly bless him and his family at this time.

  8. He is now whole! He went to be with Jesus on 2/12/2009.

  9. Wow, so this means that two of the men you wrote tributes of, died yesterday? What a bitter-sweet time this must be for you, Dan. I’m sure that you will grieve the passing of these two great, loving mentors in your life…. and maybe you won’t even be able to attend their services if you are leaving for Greece soon (?). I will pray that God will comfort you, and surround you with His peace. Good timing on your tributes.


  10. Daniel B. Wallace February 13, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Susan, I have to admit: I am devastated. I can rejoice with my mind, but not with my heart just yet. I was in California when I heard the news about Harold yesterday and Joe this morning. Two great lights have gone out. Each was one of a kind.

  11. Dan, reading your tribute to Joe brought a smile to my face and reading of his death brought great sadness to my heart. I was an intern at Mariners church for two years between 1972 – 1974. I inherited some of your kids- “Grog’s kids” as I use to call them. I spent a lot of time surfing with them and playing volleyball in Bill & Jan King’s backyard. I too cherished weekly meetings with Joe in his office. As part of my internship I was taking a Greek correspondence course from Moody Bible Institute. Joe would drill me on the verb charts. One memory of Joe stands out. I was sitting in his office one day expressing some discouragement about what I regarded to be the poor quality of some of the Bible study materials I was writing for the senior high kids. I had only been a Christian for two years and I was very new at this. He turned around in his chair and pulled a file out of his file drawer. It had my name on it. In it were several samples of my Bible study materials. “I don’t keep junk in my file drawers,” he said. I never forgot that. Today I am writing Bible study materials for inner city students in LA and California prisons. Joe loved barns. Several years ago I bought a beautiful photograph of a barn door in Colorado. I intended to give it to him. Sadly, I never got the chance.

  12. Daniel B. Wallace February 18, 2009 at 4:05 am

    Steve, that’s vintage Joe! He always knew the right thing to do to encourage someone!

  13. I really appreciated reading your personal profile of Dr. Joe. I know of him and have heard/read many amazing stories just recently with his passing. The Multnomah University community has been posting memories on their blog [Dr. Joe You Will Be Missed].

    I think I will head there and leave a link to this post as it is very much in line with the discussion there.

  14. Thank you so much for your reflections on Joe. Joe was responsible for the nudge that landed me at Multnomah Bible School in the winter of 1972. Little did I realize how life- changing this would be at the time. Like you and Steve Krantz, he has impacted many of us under his charge at Mariners Church in ways he never realized. My life was changed forever. Having never been the serious student type, Multnomah was the extent of my formal Bible training. But the real life Bible teaching that continued by servants of God like Joe has had an impact on my family and me to this day. We ended up planting in the Northwest 35 years ago and had the privilege of attending his memorial service yesterday. Once again we were taught by Joe’s life. We thank God as we remember him.

  15. John, are you THE John Stevens? Son of Bob and Naia, friend of mine in grade school and beyond?

  16. THE one and THE same.

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