October 8, 2020
Christopher Cornell Jr. serves as the Dean of Biblical Studies & Instructor at Plymouth Christian Academy in Canton, MI where he teaches and ministers to 11th & 12th grade students, including classes on Christian Ethics, Spiritual Formation, Jesus and the Gospels, Wisdom Literature, and Senior Capstone. PCA is a K-12 school offering a world-class education to students and families in Southeast Michigan.
Christopher is starting his second year at PCA, which is another testament to God’s unfolding plan. With two Bible teachers recently retired, Christopher now carries the responsibility of stabilizing the department. Christopher is married to his wife Carrie, whom he met during their time working at Spring Hill summer day camps. Carrie was an elementary music teacher for four years, and is now in her third year as the Children’s Ministry Director at their church.
Christopher graduated from Grace in the Fall of 2016 with a degree in Music, Worship, and Technology, but added he also “took all four semesters of Biblical Greek with P. Long.” Additionally, he graduated from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary with honors, Cum Laude.
Prior to Plymouth Christian Academy, Christopher worked as Lead Production Administrator at Victor’s Roofing in Canton MI. “It is an incredible testament to how God calls and how we can respond in faith. I had started as the Warehouse Lead at Victor’s Roofing, then was promoted to a Production Administrator, and then the decision became complicated. I had heard of the position at Plymouth Christian for a Bible teacher and was interested. Then, within the same week, I was promoted to Lead Production Admin and given a $5,000 raise and was told I would get another $5,000-$10,000 raise in one year’s time. That was it. I was set monetarily. I had done my first interview at PCA and thought about backing out of the second interview due to finances. My wife and I prayed, cried, and ultimately felt a mutual calling that this is what God had been preparing me for. I accepted the job with a pay cut, and I have not regretted it.” Christopher says that pouring into the lives of students, some who know the Lord and others who don’t, is the most fulfilling occupation he could have ever asked for.
During Christopher’s time at Grace, he was involved with homecoming on a flag football team, and says he most enjoyed the jazz ensemble and the gigs he played with Dr. Werkema. One of his memorable experiences was the travel opportunities that he participated in – the ETS regional conference in Chicago led by Dr. Phil Long, the final Red Wings game at The Joe in Detroit, and being on the first Grace winter study abroad trip to Dublin, Ireland.
There were two career influencing classes Christopher recalls taking at GCU that he will never forget. First was Ethics with Dr. Mat Loverin. “Being philosophical and existential in nature, Dr. Loverin helped unlock different aspects of logical and moral reasoning centered on the ethics of God’s Kingdom”, recalls Christopher. Christopher now teaches a Christian Ethics course every year at Plymouth Christian, and is able to guide and coach young adults to new depths of self-awareness and biblical reasoning. The second was Pauline Literature with Dr. Phil Long. It was the class that truly introduced Christopher to the various ancient contexts that surround the events in Scripture. To this day Christopher still vividly remembers his ‘aha moment’ that came in two phases – the question was ‘did Gentiles in Paul’s day have any conceptualization or knowledge of the Jewish Messiah?’ After talking with Dr. Long, he learned it was ‘nothing, or very little.’ Christopher says he then realized that “I am a Gentile struggling to fully grasp the Jewish-Messianic message of Jesus. I now get to unpack those same contexts and questions with students every year in my Jesus and the Gospels course. I love seeing students have their own ‘aha moments’ with their understanding of God’s Word.”
There were five professors that deeply impacted Christopher at Grace, but the most inspiring was Dr. Phil Long. Christopher says this was mostly due to Dr. Long believing in him, despite his lack of knowledge and experience. Christopher came to Grace as an under-educated student and his relationship with Dr. Long was ultimately the catalyst to higher thinking and eventually seminary and his ministry calling as a teacher. “Dr. Long inspired me because like myself, he came from humble beginnings without a Dean’s or President’s list GPA, yet God has called us both to pursue transformational knowledge and to share it with others.”
Christopher would like to encourage current Grace students, and anyone reading, that God’s plan for your life may look different than you expect and to be patient and wait on the Lord, as he is preparing you for your calling. “I was in my final seminary class when God opened the door for my wife to direct the children’s ministry of our church. They would not hire two spouses simultaneously, so I was left wondering what God was doing in my life. Ultimately, God’s plan was to use my experience in administration management to help lead the Bible department at Plymouth Christian.” Christopher concludes with “Trust God, because it will all make perfect sense on the other side of the transition years”. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
By Ami Walker | Alumni Relations Department
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