His Life Testimony - Dr. Jim Russom
What’s in a Name?
As I look back over my life and the 51 years of ministry, I came to realize how the three words that comprise our College’s name reflect God’s mercy, call, and guidance of the Holy Spirit in my life - Nazarene Bible College.
The word Nazarene is very precious to me. In Matthew, we read that God told Joseph in a dream that it was time to go back to the land of Israel, because those who were seeking to kill the Christ-child were dead. And so, God led Joseph to take his family to a place called Nazareth. Matthew wrote: But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene." Matthew 2:22-23 (NIV) Bible scholars tell us that this is the fulfillment of Isaiah 11:1, or possibly a well-known prophecy that is simply not found in the Hebrew Scriptures. Either way, God led Joseph there where Jesus would be referred to in the New Testament as “Jesus the Nazarene.”
When I was 8 years old, Charles Busby, the Sunday School Superintendent of North Memphis Church of the Nazarene came to our door. He was inviting people to visit the church and/or to allow their children to ride their Sunday School bus to the church. I was so excited. Living with my grandparents most of the first 8 years of my life, I was used to going to Sunday School and Church. I loved it. My mother said “No.” My heart just sank. Then she said, “We have two cars now, tell me where the church is, and I will bring them.” Our home was not a happy home. My parents were on the verge of divorce. But just at the right time, servants of Jesus the Nazarene, came to our door, and the rest is history. Only a few weeks later, my father was gloriously saved. He was one of those persons we sometimes describe as “radically saved.” After two weeks of seeing my Dad, who was made a new creation in Christ, I knelt where my father had prayed and told God, “I want what my daddy has.” Then, the Jesus that I knew about, and learned about in Sunday School became my personal Savior. Suddenly, I did not just know about him, but I knew Him and He knew me. I gave my life to Jesus of Nazareth, the lowly Nazarene who gave his life for me. What is in a name? We exist to equip men and women to lead people from every nation, to Jesus. And now 64 years later,
“I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned unclean. How marvelous, how wonderful, and my song shall ever be; oh, how marvelous, oh how wonderful, is my Savior’s love for me.” (Author: Charles H. Gabriel, 1905)
I discovered through the teaching and preaching of the Church of the Nazarene, that God would not only forgive my sins, but cleanse me from all unrighteousness and sanctify me entirely. All of that I discovered when I became acquainted with the people called Nazarenes.
The second part of our College’s name is BIBLE. That word too is so very special to me. When living with my grandmother, I went to Sunday School and Church. She was a Sunday School teacher. She saw to it that I got a good biblical education. My parents did not attend church, but in every apartment complex we lived in, God had an elderly woman who had Bible story books. She would read them to me. I cannot remember their names now. I can still see their faces. But God knew them, and he will not forget their ministry to this little boy who loved to hear the Word of God. One of them gave me a book titled, The Story of Jesus. I still have it. It is old, the pages are worn and torn, and it is taped together so that it will not fall apart. I still look through it from time to time. On the last page, page 380, are these words. “As they saw the light rise into the sky and enter into heaven, they heard these blessed words: I am the resurrection and the life, and Lo, I am with you always.”
In the Church of the Nazarene, I had loving Sunday School teachers. I was introduced to Bible quizzing where I learned the Word of God and had fun doing so. The Bible has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. I say with the Psalmist: “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Psalm 143:8 (NIV)
Since the age of 8, I sensed that God had something He wanted me to do. I believed in my heart that God was calling me to preach. At the age of 15, in a marvelous time of personal devotions, God made it plain. I said yes and set my heart in that direction. I told the Lord, my parents, my favorite Sunday School teacher, “Mama Suggs,” and my pastor: “God has called me to be a minister of the Gospel!”
My first Nazarene pastor, Rev. Ira Campbell was pleased when I told him. He too had sensed the same thing. That is when I learned, if you are going to be a minister in the Church of the Nazarene, you will need to go to college.
COLLEGE: That is the third word in our College’s name. Our founders were committed to Christian higher education from the very beginning of our denomination. I am the first Russom we know of to graduate from High School. And certainly, the first to go to college and study for the ministry. I began my education at Trevecca Nazarene University (It was Trevecca Nazarene College back in 1967.) I am so grateful for a denomination that believes in higher Christian education. There at TNC, I met Susan who is my wife of 53 years. There I met Dr. John Alan Knight who taught me the deeper things of the New Testament. It was at Trevecca that Dr. Mildred Wynkoop would teach me “The Theology of Love,” and I gained a more relational understanding of sanctification and holiness.
My pastor in Nashville was Rev. Troy Slay. I will never forget the morning he invited me to join him at his home for breakfast. I had preached, sung, and played the piano at his church. We became good friends. That morning he said, “Jim, I sense that you really do not enjoy Nashville.” I replied, “I like coming to your church, I like my Bible classes at Trevecca… but I just don’t feel like this is where I am supposed to be! “He said, “See those two degrees on my wall. One is from Trevecca, and the other is from Vanderbilt. They both taught me how to be a good scholar, but I really did not learn that much about how to be a good pastor. You are so sure of your calling to be a pastor; I think you should consider attending Nazarene Bible College. Now that you are married, you will be accepted. Pray about it and see how the Lord leads you. We prayed, God led, and we packed up all we owned in a 1955 Dodge sedan and headed for Colorado Springs.
Susan’s parents were already enrolled at NBC and had completed their first year. Susan and I had not considered NBC because it was for “old folks.” I was so glad when I found out that I could attend Nazarene Bible College. I wanted to go to a Bible College and almost went to Mid-South Bible College in Memphis, TN. But God had made it plain that I should get my education in a Nazarene school.
It was here at NBC that Audrey Williamson taught me how to orally interpret Scripture. Dr. Williamson helped me fall in love with the Old Testament. Dr. Norman Oke, taught me how to better understand the doctrine of entire sanctification from a biblical and theological perspective. And Milo Arnold was used of God to help me see my call to ministry as a “Bold Adventure with God.” While a student at NBC, I went to the altar during a chapel service and the concept of sanctification became a personal experience and the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
In 1970, I had the privilege of being the marshal for the first graduating class of which Susan’s parents were members. In 1971, I graduated from NBC, the second graduating class, and went into full-time ministry. I felt in my heart that God had used NBC to prepare me for my lifetime call.
Never did I dream that one day I would be asked to be an adjunct professor teaching online for NBC. I was in that first group of online adjunct faculty in 1999. Then in 2003, I was asked to come to Colorado Springs to serve in the online department. However, I had just completed a major relocation and building program where I was pastoring. I had promised the church board, the district, and the Credit Union that I would stay for at least three more years after completing the building. I continued to teach online as an adjunct. Then, again in 2006, the invitation came to join the wonderful team in Colorado Springs. What a joy it has been to be a part of the faculty and team at NBC for the last 16 years. When I retire, I will have taught as an online adjunct for seven years, and as faculty for 17. That is 35 years of pastoral ministry and 24 years of ministry through NBC. Upon retirement, I will have completed 52 years of full-time ministry in response to God’s call on my life.
So, you see, Nazarene Bible College is not just a name… it is a place where men and women get to serve the Lord and build the Kingdom by preparing men and women to answer their God-given call. Norman Moore was right, when he shared in NBC Chapel from Hebrews Chapter Six:
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.” Hebrews 6: 10-11 (NIV)
I pray that all NBC faculty will remain true to their calling, true to the mission, and serve joyfully in their roles at NBC for the sake of Jesus the Nazarene and our beloved Church. NBC has a bright future, and I envy those who will continue to be a part of all that God has in store for NBC in these coming years. The future is as bright as the promises of God!
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)
Dr. James R. Russom, NBC Director of Pastoral Leadership and Pastoral Ministries Programs