Many have started writing their personal recollections of him. I did not know him personally and was not his friend, but I met him on two occasions — the first of which had a significant impact on my life.
To the best of my recollection, that meeting happened in about 1982. I was a sophomore in college, and I was thinking about becoming a counselor and work in a high school. I wasn’t thinking particularly about counseling hard cases (I was fairly naive to the realities of life at that point) — I was thinking about befriending students and helping them think through long term plans and school options. I didn’t understand the role much more than that.
At the time, my father was a dean of a seminary in Florida and he had invited Jay to speak to the students on the topic of nouthetic (biblical) counseling. That week my father’s interest in biblical counseling and his concern for my chosen direction for vocation converged. He invited (encouraged?!) me to attend the lectures one afternoon. I was free from class, so I did.
I don’t remember what Jay taught that day.
But after the session ended and all the students left, my father introduced me to this man who, from an earthly perspective, did more to change the model of counseling for churches to a biblical framework than any other individual.
Dad “casually” mentioned that I was interested in pursuing counseling.
Adams quickly asked why I wanted to pursue that field. Then he asked where I was going to school. I was attending a secular university where I was taking psychology classes. He graciously and carefully commented that there was a place for psychology, particularly in making observations about behavior. But that there was only one place that offered answers for people’s lives — the Bible.
Then he quickly, and almost off-handedly suggested, “if you want to help people, why don’t you go to seminary and learn the Bible?”
And, to my recollection, that was about the end of the conversation.
But with those few words he had planted a seed that took root and began to germinate. I didn’t change the course of my studies that moment. I didn’t suddenly determine to go to seminary and prepare for the pastorate. At that time, I still wasn’t interested in pastoring. But that conversation was one of the first in a series of events which the Lord used to change the trajectory of my life, directing me first to seminary, then the pastorate, then certification with ACBC, then teaching biblical counseling in our local training center and overseas, seeing my wife get certified with ACBC and doing counseling with her, spending more than 30 years in pastoral ministry in one church (I can’t possibly imagine doing anything more joyful), and now approaching the completion of the process of becoming a Fellow with ACBC.
[Aside: the second time I met Jay Adams was at an ACBC (then the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors) national conference in Fort Worth many (20?) years ago. I attended one of his workshops and after it was over, introduced myself, and thanked him for his ministry to me those many years earlier, telling him “the rest of the story.”]
As I thought about Jay Adams this weekend, thanking the Lord for his life and ministry, I thought about the many people he has trained and influenced through his writing and speaking. I thought about God’s gracious providence in allowing me to meet this godly man. And I thought about the importance of timely, well-placed words, and how conversations that we may dismiss as “inconsequential” or “insignificant” may have profound and eternal implications.