Growing up in a home without a religious faith, Alan took a world religions course and flirted with Daoism, but found what he was looking for when someone told him how Jesus Christ had changed their life. Once he anchored his spiritual quest in the gospel of Jesus Christ, Alan Padgett had a voracious hunger to learn more about the Christian faith.
Alan had scores of questions about his new faith, questions that he is sure drove his Sunday School teachers crazy. “I was really interested in the rational basis of this new religion,” he said. After graduation from high school, he was anxious to get to college and find more answers to his questions.
Starting Early with InterVarsity
But he couldn’t wait. Learning that InterVarsity offered a training camp for incoming chapter leaders, he signed up and spent several weeks before the beginning of his freshman year learning about discipleship and Bible study.
As a freshman, Alan was actively involved in the InterVarsity chapter at The Claremont Colleges. “At the time I was just hungry,” he said. “I started reading InterVarsity Press books and got involved in small group ministries. It was very helpful.”
Mark Branson, now a theology professor at Fuller seminary, was the InterVarsity campus staff at the time. Alan recalled, “It was a good thing I had him, I asked Mark a lot of questions.”
Mark remembers Alan as a thoughtful and engaging student. “His curiosity regarding Scripture, theology, and living faithfully in our culture led him to pursue increasingly rigorous theological work that was and is vitally connected to what it means for the church to be a witness to the gospel,” Mark said.
Staying Connected with InterVarsity
Before transferring to a Christian college, where there was no InterVarsity chapter, Alan took advantage of all of the training opportunities that InterVarsity offered. He especially appreciated the inductive Bible studies of the Gospel of Mark, led by Paul Byer, who pioneered InterVarsity’s inductive style of manuscript Bible study.
After settling on theology as a career, Alan enrolled at Drew Theological School and once again connected with Mark Branson. At that time Mark was leading InterVarsity’s Theological Students Fellowship, and Alan helped start a chapter at Drew.
Alan pastored several United Methodist churches in southern California before pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree at Oxford, and then teaching theology. He has taught at Bethel College and Azusa Pacific University, and he is currently professor of Systematic Theology at Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul, MN.
Alan is also still involved with InterVarsity. He has co-authored several InterVarsity Press books and speaks at InterVarsity events. He believes the intensity of his spiritual quest from a quarter of a century ago helps him to be a better spiritual mentor today.
He is thankful for a ministry like InterVarsity that listened to his questions and didn’t dismiss them. “I am glad InterVarsity is not a campus ministry that uses pre-programmed, pre-packaged answers,” he concluded. “I’m not surprised that more and more students are responding.”