Never Miss an Opportunity to Say “Thank You”

  I first met Dr. Mal Couch in 1993, after returning to Texas from Moody Bible Institute, and at a time when I was unsure of where I would continue my Biblical education. Discovering Tyndale Seminary in a DFW Christian newspaper, I promptly visited the campus and became acquainted with Mal. After seeing that Tyndale had an unwavering commitment to God’s word, it was with confidence I committed to continuing my education there. Soon afterward, Cathy and I began attending Seminary Bible Fellowship (what has come to be known these days as Tyndale Bible Church), where Mal served as a pastor up until his departure from Tyndale in early 2006.

I came to know Mal as an encourager to those in whom he believed. He actively pursued people he believed could be of service – especially at the seminary. I watched as a number of prepared believers – men and women, received exciting ministry opportunities at Tyndale. It was a place where people were developed and utilized. That kind of environment doesn’t happen by accident, and I credit Mal for his commitment in that regard. I experienced that encouragement firsthand in 1997, when I was given an opportunity to teach at Tyndale. That same year, Mal recommended me for a similar teaching role at Southern Bible Institute in Dallas, and I was delighted to serve.

The opportunities to teach in the seminary classroom really helped me fall in love with seminary ministry. I realized that God could use what went on in those classrooms to touch the lives of many, many people even far beyond those walls. It seemed obvious to me that this was where the Lord would use me. And over the years God used a number of men to encourage me in my growth, preparation and service to that end. When I ponder those men by name, tears come to my eyes, as I am struck by the true embarrassment of riches from God’s hand. Some of those men are still serving our Lord on this earth, others of them have gone to meet him face to face, already. And as a matter of course, I have always felt a strong responsibility to communicate gratitude and to show honor wherever possible, to people while they are alive and remain. For now, Mal is alive and remains serving his Lord here, though as I understand it, he now has a medical condition that will soon be used of the Lord to bring Mal’s earthly ministry to an end. Now, as Mal would often say in his classrooms, “Let’s back up a step…”

Mal founded the beginnings of Tyndale Theological Seminary in 1988 and served as its president until April, 2006. His departure was a very difficult event, both for him and for all at the seminary. I imagine it was very difficult for him, in a sense, to witness what he had birthed grow to maturity to a point that it needed to be allowed to walk independently. I assume some of the heartache he felt was that of a parent watching their child go off to college or watching their newly married son or daughter drive off to a new and independent life. Sometimes new chapters hurt, and sometimes they hurt a lot. I know that particular transition hurt Mal, and as a consequence (if I diagnose correctly), he chose to make his departure from Tyndale a permanent one. Candidly, I regret that choice on his part (I have missed hearing from my friend these past six years), but I certainly understand it.

Nonetheless, since 2006, Tyndale has moved forward, always standing firm on the foundations Mal laid (commitment to literal, grammatical-historical hermeneutics and commitment to providing Biblical education to the common man, to name a couple). Still, even as Tyndale advances beyond the earthly ministry of its founder, I hope that none regard the Lord’s servants at Tyndale today as less tenacious in His service than Mal Couch has been. Mal modeled tenacity and determination. He modeled diligence. I suppose one could characterize Mal as a bulldog in the Lord’s service – with all that implies. Sometimes the bulldog breaks the good china, but you can always count on the bulldog to stand firm. I thank the Lord for Mal and men like him.  And those of us who benefited from Mal’s ministry should never forget that God uses people – flawed, unvarnished, regular, flesh and blood people – to do His work here on this earth. That is Mal, and that is each of us. We must remember love is not conditional based on our individual perfection or even agreement with one another. Mal and I certainly did not always agree, and to the best of my knowledge, neither of us is anywhere near perfect, but to this day, I am glad to call him a brother and to be his friend, and I look forward to eternity with him.

Should the Lord’s return be longer in coming than the earthly life spans He has planned for you and I, I suppose there may come a day when someone sees in front of a Tyndale classroom the plaque as I hung it, bearing the words, “The Malcolm O. Couch Meeting Room.” Perhaps that observer may ask, “Who is Mal Couch?” I would hope the answer would be something like this: Mal Couch is a servant of the Lord who helped prepare many, who led, and who demanded of others that they treat the word of God with respect, and was willing to teach them how to do it, if they were willing to learn. He believed anybody could learn God’s word, and he spent a great portion of his life helping people do just that. Thanx, Mal. I love you. See you soon.

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