Fifty-six years ago, a freshman at the University of Florida ate lunch with a couple of friends who took the trouble to share a tract with him. That freshman, Aubrey Malphurs (ThM, 1978; PhD, 1981), trusted Christ for his salvation.
“Right away, I realized that people around me—friends and relatives—were lost and needed to hear the gospel,” he explained. “At that point, I knew I had to go into some aspect of Christian service. There was nothing else I wanted to do!”
After graduating from college, Aubrey got married. “Susan and I met at a Christian youth ranch in Tampa, Florida. There were no ‘fireworks,’ however. Those came later when we both were attending a Bible college and we got to know one another better.” After serving for a year in the Navy, Aubrey got a job teaching high schoolers in the public school system in North Miami, Florida. “I finished at the University of Florida, got married, taught school for seven years, and planted a church, but my dream was to go to seminary.”
“I’d wanted to come to Dallas Seminary since about 1965—that long! I had been influenced by Dallas Seminary grads like so many other people, and I just wanted the kind of preparation that DTS had to offer,” he explained. In 1974, Aubrey, along with his wife, Susan, and their four kids—Greg, David, Jennifer, and Michael—packed up their things and moved to Dallas.
Training and Field Work
As a ThM student majoring in Greek, Aubrey worked as a chaplain part-time at a convalescent center near the campus, and then a food company hired him as an industrial chaplain. His son, David, wrote, “My father is an extremely hard worker who taught me to have a strong work ethic and the value of taking care of my family, which is probably the most important thing he showed me. At one point, Dad had three jobs while going to Seminary. He taught, worked as a chaplain, and at a loading dock downtown. Dad worked very hard to provide for us.”
After earning his ThM in 1978, Aubrey began his studies in the PhD program. During those three years, he taught full-time at Dallas Bible College, teaching a variety of subjects. With a doctorate in systematic theology granted in 1981, Aubrey accepted an offer by Dr. Tom Constable (ThM, 1966; ThD, 1969) to serve as the assistant director of Field Education at DTS.
During that time, Dr. Constable taught a class on church planting and, as his responsibilities shifted, he asked Aubrey to take over the course. “He became quite an authority on church planting, publishing several books on that subject,” Dr. Constable wrote. “He has been a help to countless numbers of church leaders through his consulting ministry and his books on church planting and church growth.”
A year later, Dr. Donald Campbell (ThM, 1951; ThD, 1953), the academic dean at the time, called Aubrey and asked if he’d like to be the director of admissions. The previous director, Roger Raymer (ThM, 1979), a longtime friend of Aubrey’s, had left to assume a pastorate in New Zealand. “I had never thought of doing that kind of work before, but I investigated it, accepted it, and I really liked it,” Aubrey explained.
While serving as the director of admissions at DTS from 1982 to 1986, Aubrey began to teach in the Department of Pastoral Ministries. “It has been a pleasure to have Aubrey as a colleague in the PM department,” Dr. Vic Anderson (ThM, 1986) wrote. “Regardless of any stresses in his life, he comes to the office with a warm smile and a desire to help others. And he has shown exceptional faithfulness in every area of his life—to DTS and its students, to his wife, and to the Lord. His personal disciplines are steady, even maintaining workouts at the Tom Landry Fitness Center several times each week.”
Teaching at the Seminary wasn’t the only thing Aubrey did. He served as an elder at Reinhardt Bible Church in Dallas, and he was later asked to step in as interim pastor by the leaders of Chapel in the Woods Bible Church located in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas. “They had a list of pastoral prospects, but it came to the point where the elders asked if I’d be interested in staying on as pastor. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I could serve on a part-time basis,” he explained. He didn’t do it alone. Two seminary students assisted him in shepherding the flock.
Aubrey also got involved in other ministries ranging from church planting and growth, leadership development, and strategic planning. In everything he did, he took the opportunity to bring others alongside him.
In his book Building Leaders, Aubrey writes about the purpose of building leaders. He believes a Christian leader is “a servant who uses his or her credibility and capabilities to influence people in a particular context to pursue their God-given direction.” Leadership development, he explains, is the importance of investing time to help establish “emerging leaders at every level of ministry to assess and develop their Christian character and acquire, reinforce, and refine their ministry knowledge and skills.”
Aubrey served as the director of Field Education at DTS when Dr. George Hillman first met him. Dr. Hillman was on the pastoral staff at a local church and was supervising DTS students while they were doing their internships. “I did not attend DTS as a seminary student, so, honestly, Aubrey was my first ‘direct’ contact with DTS—I had only admired DTS from afar. I can’t explain it, but Aubrey and I just really clicked with one another and developed a friendship over the next two years. We started meeting at a coffee shop in Lakewood maybe once a quarter. He had taken an interest in my doctoral studies and was willing to invest in me as a young pastor.”
Erin Stambaugh, who has known Aubrey for over seventeen years, shared that when he interviewed her for her job as an administrative assistant back when he was the Department of Field Education chair, he took a chance and hired her. Erin wrote, “I am forever grateful! He is one of the kindest and gentlest people I know, and his sense of humor is one of the things I love the most about him! His passion for investing in the future of our church leaders is unsurpassed.”
Breaking Through Barriers
Aubrey explains that he began to pursue all things concerning the church, knowing the need. “I read everything I could get my hands on, and there wasn’t a lot,” he explained. With all his research came numerous books and articles on leadership and church ministry. Dr. Hillman explains, “I read one of Aubrey’s church leadership books, Pouring New Wine into Old Wineskins: How to Change a Church without Destroying It, for my MDiv studies. I knew who Aubrey was, and I was impressed with the stuff he was talking about. In the early nineties, the leadership concepts we take for granted nowadays was honestly not being talked about in church circles. Aubrey was a true pioneer.”
When churches and leaders began to contact him with a desire for hands-on help in applying the processes in his books, particularly Advanced Strategic Planning, Aubrey founded and led The Malphurs Group. As demand increased over the years, more team members joined the group to assist a growing number of churches to become healthy and effective.
He explains, “We live in strategic times, perhaps worse than in a long time, where we see our churches dying, our pastors getting discouraged and walking away from the church, and so we need to strategically think about how we’re going to see this thing turn around.” Part of leading a church is helping it to know where it’s supposed to be going, what its mission is, what its vision could be, what its core values are, and coming up with a strategy to accomplish those things.
Aubrey has partnered with numerous organizations in the US and in foreign countries such as Russia, England, Philippines, Finland, Latvia, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and France. He has been a consultant and seminar leader for a wide variety of denominational organizations across the country.
Those who know him and have worked with him over the years describe him as humble, gracious, and an enthusiastic advocate for Christ’s community. Dipa Hart (ThM, 2004) explained, “Aubrey is well-known outside of the DTS world.” She rarely travels without someone asking her about him. “Within the academic and nonacademic leadership community, he is well-respected and is a pioneer in addressing issues of leadership from a biblical perspective,” Dipa wrote. “Because he is so humble, he doesn’t know the impact he has had on others. His books have guided millions of churches and people he will only meet in heaven. He has no idea that his reach continues to be global and powerful.”
“I feel like Aubrey is one of those people who is more respected ‘out in the field’ sometimes rather than here on the campus,” Dr. Hillman explains. “Aubrey’s material on ‘mission, vision, values’ was revolutionary in the church world. Aubrey was writing about leadership ideas before many others were. His legacy is in his books, which continue to be best sellers for pastors and church planters. There is a reason for this because it works and is applicable in so many settings.”
The many books he authored are still some of the best ever written on the subject of church leadership and strategic planning. “There is no way to adequately thank him for his life’s work and all that he has done as a professor at DTS,” Dr. Jay Sedwick (ThM, 1989) wrote. “He will have a lasting legacy of impact and influence for generations to come.”
Those who have worked with Aubrey over the years admire the way he has treated others. Dr. Phil Humphries (ThM, 1986; DMin, 1997) described him as “a kind, scholarly, godly, dedicated servant of the Lord who is passionate about his students, teaching and writing in the areas of strategic planning and leadership.” He adds, “I would like others to know that Aubrey is the kind of man you would want as your friend and on your team.”
“He is a true gentleman and treats others with respect and regard,” Dr. Sedwick shared. “Even though I was his student thirty-two years ago, when I became chair of the Educational Ministries Leadership department, he enthusiastically supported and encouraged my leadership as a true colleague.”
Aubrey’s enthusiastic concern that marked his decision to follow Christ characterized his vision to influence generations of leaders. Through the classroom, pulpit, consulting, and writing ministries, he has partnered with many “to draw out the best in them” for God’s glory and the ministry of the gospel.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Aubrey Malphurs retired in December 2019 after thirty-eight years of teaching and faithful ministry to the DTS family. His decades of service have led to a variety of experiences—teaching the Word, spreading the gospel, and serving others and God. In each opportunity, his enthusiasm, congeniality, humility, and concern have enabled him to serve his Lord in a most loyal way.