Professor Jim Crain has been a part of the William Jessup University family for nearly 60 years and has taught at the school for the last 48 years. He has dedicated his life to teaching, guiding, and mentoring thousands of students throughout the decades, encouraging them to lead transformational lives for Christ in the workforce and within their churches and families. Jim has watched generations of students, each with their own set of challenges, walk through Jessup’s doors and have their lives transformed by God’s saving grace. His perspective and wisdom are priceless. We had the privilege of sitting down with Jim to talk about his journey with Jessup, his early years at the school, and his hopes for the future. Please join me in warmly welcoming Jim to this very special Q&A discussion.
Could you tell me a little about your background and why you chose Jessup (previously San Jose Bible College) for your undergraduate degree?
My first impression of what’s now Jessup was through a 19-year-old freshman at San Jose Bible College (SJBC) named Bryce Jessup and his girlfriend, Shirley-Jo Hulburt. It was 1954. I was ten years old. Bryce was the newly hired weekend youth minister at First Christian Church in Healdsburg, California. Jo was my Sunday school teacher.
In those days, it was common for young people to be encouraged by pastors, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, and parents to go to Bible college for a year before deciding on a permanent career path. Thanks to Bryce and Jo, that was an easy decision for me. In 1962, I enrolled at San Jose Bible College.
In 1966, I was one of the thirteen young men to graduate from SJBC. Soon thereafter, I was hired as the youth pastor at Central Christian Church in Portland, Oregon, where I also enrolled at Western Seminary. Before long, the youth group at Central was happily caught up in what has come to be called “The Jesus Movement”. The same spiritual revolution was happening up and down the West Coast, including at San Jose Bible College. Since it looked like a natural fit, I was invited to come back to the school as Professor of Practical Ministries. In 1971, my wife and I, and our four little kids returned to California. At 27, I was the youngest full-time professor ever employed by the school.
Do you believe Jessup’s mission and goal have remained the same throughout the decades?
Our mission and ultimate goal remains the same. William Jessup himself would be proud of the institution that bears his name. I sometimes wonder how concerned he would be about some of the changes that have been made since the Bible college era of our history, but I think he would be cheering us on, thrilled at the multiplied numbers of students and graduates who are helping to transform culture for Christ around the world in increasing arenas of human endeavor.
Every Jessup graduate should leave the university knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, fully committed to loving him and representing him with integrity in everything they say and do.” – Jim Crain
How are you helping students through your own life experiences and education become transformational leaders in the world?
I believe that life-changing truth is caught as much as it is taught. Christ-likeness is best learned from teachers who are Christ-like themselves. They practice what they teach. As Jesus himself said, life is sustained by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”. But that sustenance doesn’t happen just by listening to Scripture, but by doing what it says.
Of all the people who have had a transformational influence in my own life, it’s not what they said that impacted me the most, but who they were. They lived out what they believed in. It motivated me to do the same.
One of the things I’m known for in my years of teaching is applying the content of the course to friendship, romance, marriage, parenthood, and family. I tell a lot of stories about my wife, five kids, and ten grandkids. Some are funny. Some are sad. But they’re always honest.
Along with teaching, I was a pastor in one congregation for twenty years. Nothing quite shapes the life of a shepherd like sheep! It would be impossible – and irresponsible – for me not to discreetly share with my students what I’ve learned from those experiences.
Some people don’t know that I also served as the Executive Director of a concert production and radio ministry that introduced contemporary Christian music to the Bay Area in the mid-70’s. I learned how to negotiate contracts with musicians and concert venue managers, supervise disc jockeys, manage office staff, fundraise, and even create a few music videos. I don’t talk much about the “show biz” stuff in class, but it’s part of my mindset as I help them develop the people skills we all need.
You received the Alumni Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award from Jessup in 2015. What did this mean to you?
To be honest, it took me by surprise. I thought you had to be retired or dead to get an accolade like that. I usually don’t think much about the impact I’m having in the lives of other people. So, it was a wonderful thing to be acknowledged as having a “lifetime” of positive influence.
Picture Jessup 48 years from now. What do you hope to see?
I remember the day Jessup buried its very own time capsule in the grass in front of Crawford Commons. The plaque says the container will be dug up and opened in 2039, the 100th anniversary of the university’s existence. I happened to be standing next to Bryce Jessup that morning and I whispered to him, “Neither one of us will be here to see that!” We both laughed. And, you’re asking about 2069? Won’t Jesus have come back by then?!
Seriously though, the first thing that comes to mind would be to say that I hope and pray that Jessup will be as Christ-centered as we have always aspired to be. That as innovative as we will surely need to be to survive and thrive as an institution of Christian higher education, we will stay committed to our original mission – to educate transformational leaders to the glory of God.
Every teacher knows the time and energy it takes to create a course you are going to teach, starting with tons of research and repeated refinements. But, what follows makes it worth it – the fulfillment of actually passing on what you’ve learned to your students. That was surely my experience in teaching St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.
Back in 2014, after teaching Corinthians for 25 or 30 years, one of my colleagues asked me if I ever thought about writing a commentary. I hadn’t. He suggested I should. So, I did. Little did I know just how challenging that process would be, especially while maintaining a full load teaching my slate of courses at Jessup. Writing a book is exhausting hard work. The end result though was a 332 page exposition of Second Corinthians, published by Jessup Press. It was one of those things you do but don’t know how you did it.
Do you have retirement plans?
Not yet…which is an unexpected response to hear from a seventy-seven year old, I know. But I’m not much of a believer in traditional retirement. I agree with William Jessup himself who used to say that there will be time to take it easy when we get to Heaven. Right now, there’s work to do carrying out the Great Commission.