As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy,” (James 5:11, NIV).
Dr. David Lowery retires in June 2019 after forty-two years of teaching and faithful ministry at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has carried his family’s legacy over decades of service determined to endure whatever might befall him and has advocated for family, a commitment to Scripture, perseverance, patience, and mercy to his students. His love for his family—both at home and at DTS—compels him to teach others the true value of what it means to belong.
All in the Family
Three generations of Lowery men and women have experienced the grace of God and the ministry of Dallas Theological Seminary. David Lowery was part of the second generation to study at DTS. His father, Fred (ThM, 1954), a pilot, who served in World War II, moved to Dallas in 1950 to study at DTS when David was only ten months old.
Upon his father’s graduation from DTS, the Lowery family moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where David spent the majority of his early life. Fred’s first pastorate, beginning in 1954, was a three-church circuit in Lebanon County. For 27 years, from 1960–1987, he pastored the New Holland Evangelical United Methodist Church. Following his retirement, he pastored the Intercourse United Methodist Church for 16 years until his retirement in 2005.
Both David’s uncles, and Robert (THM 1956) and Paul (ThM, 1956; ThD 1979) also attended DTS. During David’s senior year at King’s College in New York, Paul cornered him at a family gathering to convince him to continue the family tradition.
David came to DTS in 1971. He explains, “[My dad and I] had a conversation shortly before I left and he said, ‘You know you have an opportunity to get a little more out of seminary studies than I did. You’re going as a single student. While you’ll have to do some work, you’ll still have, I think, much more time than I did to focus on your studies.’ He said, ‘I am very grateful for what I received even though I wasn’t the world’s best student. It gave me a great foundation for ministry.’”
David got married during his third year in seminary. His college sweetheart, Deborah, had just completed her studies at King’s College. They spent their first year as a married couple getting acclimated to living together in Dallas. She worked as a school teacher in the Dallas Independent School District, and with her income, she supported her family while David tackled his seminary studies.
“It was a great opportunity for me as a single student to focus on my studies,” David explains. “I got married my third year, and then I had a lot of time to study. I had a wife who got a job, and she was able to support me, and so it was the best of both worlds in terms of an opportunity to focus on what I’ve been called to do here as a student and to give myself to that.”
Later when David and Deborah moved to Scotland for David’s doctoral work, Deborah continued to teach at a Scottish school. Deborah retired from teaching for a short time to focus on raising their family, but fifteen years later, she returned to teaching. With the additional income, they created a means for their children to graduate college debt-free, and when the time came, Deborah offered to pay for each of their three children’s tuition for their first year of seminary.
During David’s time at DTS, Prof. Howard Hendricks (ThM, 1950) proved an influential figure. His class on discipleship motivated David towards church-planting. Right after graduation, David and Deborah accepted a call to serve as church planters for Valley Bible church in Middlebury, Vermont. They spent their summer establishing the church, with David preaching. At the end of the summer, they had to bid farewell to the Vermont church plant, and they moved to Scotland, where David started his doctoral work. They witnessed the Lord’s work in continuing to grow the church. Twenty-five years later, they returned to Vermont to celebrate the church’s quarter-centennial.
After graduating with his PhD, David returned to Dallas to accept a faculty position at DTS, and he and his wife began attending Midlothian Bible Church in Midlothian, Texas. Five years later, they received the call to participate in the planting of Waxahachie Bible Church in Waxahachie, Texas. Once well established, David and his family returned to Midlothian Bible Church, where David served as associate pastor. In 2011, David and Deborah joined Lakeview Community Church in Cedar Hill, Texas where their eldest son, Daniel, serves as pastor.
Like most ThM students, the most difficult parts of the ThM program for David included both the languages—Greek and Hebrew. Though it may surprise most people who know him now, he didn’t come into seminary as a Greek wunderkind. “No special aptitude,” he says of himself. He learned Greek and Hebrew the same as everyone else: by putting in the time and effort to grow. He chose New Testament studies because he knew it would prepare him for a life of pastoral ministry, but also because he enjoyed the members of the New Testament faculty. His advisor was Dr. Harold Hoehner, who would regularly invite his advisees into his home to mentor them for ministerial life. Dr. Hoehner’s wisdom and guidance directed David in his thesis work and proved influential in his choice of a doctoral program.
When David joined the NT department at DTS, he enjoyed leading students in discussions about the New Testament text. He served as an encouraging force for his students as they wrestled with the challenges of the interpretative method. David explains, “I have come to appreciate the importance of a particular trait that marks the people of God, variously translated ‘patience endurance’ or ‘perseverance’ (hypomone). It is remaining faithful and trusting God, in all the ups and downs of life, particularly illustrated in the ‘patience of Job’ (James 5:11). And related to that, I find the recurring portrait of our human weakness and the necessity of depending on God for strength a topic for daily prayer.”
David has served as a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Institute for Biblical Research. He contributed as a translator for the NET Bible and the 1995 version of the New American Standard Bible. He also wrote commentaries on 1 and 2 Corinthians for The Bible Knowledge Commentary as well as many other chapters for books and articles for other publications.
A Teacher of Humility
As a professor, David demonstrated humility in how he taught and how he modeled learning. Sten-Erik Armitage says of him: “Dr. Lowery taught me what it looks like to be a confident, faithful student of the Greek text while embracing humility in interpretation and discussion. He modeled a life saturated in the word of God and lived for others. It was a demanding, yet encouraging class. I’m thankful for the fingerprints he has left on my life as I teach and pastor.”
Another former student, Paul Shin, was deeply impressed by the articulate ways in which Dr. Lowery could explain the diverse views concerning the book of Romans. “The way he teaches the book of Romans is an inspiration for the way I want to teach Romans.” Dr. Lowery’s course on Romans course has gained the reputation of accomplishing the impressive feat of covering all sixteen chapters of the book over the semester. In addition to his teaching style, students have always appreciated Dr. Lowery availability. “He was always ready to accept us, students,” Paul explains. “He always made himself available to talk outside of class.”
As someone who himself had to toil to learn the Greek language, Dr. Lowery proved a blessing to every student who faced discouragement and fatigue. Shannon Reibenstein says: “Dr. Lowery got me through the midpoint of my Greek classes. Practically bypassing me, and more importantly reminding me of the purpose of all that work, and that despite the memorization fatigue, I could begin to do something with the language. He reminded me it was worthy-work. I’m grateful to him for that.”
But even outside the classroom, Dr. Lowery did not stop teaching. Dr. Jim Howard tells a story of how Dr. Lowery poignantly showed him authentic humility. As a seminary student, Jim was eager to expand his understanding of ministry life, and so he approached Dr. Lowery to seek his wisdom. Dr. Lowery responded with a question: “Are you busy Saturday morning?”
At 7 o’clock, Saturday morning, Dr. Lowery came to pick him up, with his two sons in the car. Without any idea of what he got himself into, Jim boarded the vehicle. From his home, they drove over to a nearby church. Dr. Lowery and his sons climbed out and in the trunk began unloading buckets, rags, and cleaning supplies. Dr. Lowery handed a bucket and a cloth to Jim, and they got to work cleaning the church. “The church can’t afford a cleaning staff,” Dr. Lowery explained. “Every Saturday morning, this is our way of serving.”
While they worked, Jim listened to Dr. Lowery speak to his sons about topics ranging from baseball to their own lives. It was a lesson in compassion, mercy, and humility in the life of ministry that Jim has never forgotten.
Upon retirement, David is expected to continue writing, and he plans to do some international teaching. In his free time, however, he and Deborah plan to travel to visit the great sites of beauty here in North America.
David has been a lifelong lover of gardening, fishing, and birding, but his love for camping began when he was a doctoral student in Scotland. While living there, his wife’s brothers gifted them camping gear, and they utilized it to explore the natural beauty around them in the UK, Scandinavia, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. When they came back to the United States, their love for the outdoors continued to grow, and they were able to take their children along.
Throughout his lifetime David has visited many beautiful places—some of his favorites have been Shenandoah Park, Tyler State Park, the Smoky Mountains, Big Bend, and Yosemite. He even was lucky enough to witness a meteor shower while camping in Sequoia National Park.
David and Deborah also plan to spend more time with their family. Each of the three children—Daniel, John, and Mary—carried on the Lowery family tradition and enrolled at DTS. Like their father, they entered as singles and got married while in seminary. Dr. Lowery had the pleasure to have all three of his children and their spouses in the classroom. With seven grandchildren (and one more on the way), the Lowery’s now look forward to the day when they will carry on the family legacy of persevering in studying the Word of God.