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How Moody’s New Provost Learned to Lead by Serving
Dr. Dwight Perry has devoted more than 40 years to leadership in the local church, denominational work and academia, including three different appointments at Moody Bible Institute. He also has earned four degrees in education—and holds the distinction of being the first African American to garner a Ph.D. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Yet as Moody’s new Provost, Dr. Perry calls himself simply the “new servant leader of the education group.”
“Leadership,” he recently told employees, “is not about position; it’s about service.”
Dr. Perry gives three steps to consider as we learn to lead with a servant heart:
This model of leadership fits with the mission of Moody Bible Institute, where students are trained to lead like Jesus, with a servant’s heart.
Dr. Perry says he first learned about servant leadership from the proverbial school of hard knocks, back when he was a new pastor. “For those first 10 or 15 years of ministry, it was all about me,” he admits. “It was all about me building my kingdom. It was all about people looking up to me. It was all about me trying to impress. It was all about me wanting other people to please me.”
Then the problems started. “I hit the wall of burnout, the wall of discouragement, the wall of church split. And God began to show me something about myself.”
Dr. Perry points to 1 Kings 12, where the people of Israel urged Rehoboam, the successor to King Solomon, to lighten their load. So King Rehoboam went to the elders to seek advice on how to rule the people of Israel. “What should I do?” he asked.
Essentially the elders replied, “If you speak good words to these people and if you serve them, they will serve you forever.”
God used those words to get the attention of Dr. Perry, who says, “They said these wonderful things that have helped guide my ministry over the last 40 years!”
He adds, “I approach ministry not from the perspective of a position . . . but from the perspective of a servant leader of the education group. Pray for me as we transition.”
Dr. Perry has a long history with Moody Bible Institute and a deep understanding of Chicago. While pastoring in the inner city, he became Moody’s Midwest regional coordinator in 1986, overseeing continuing education classes and evening classes at seven regional campuses, including Moody Evening School in Chicago. In 1989 he became the first African American to serve on the national staff of the Baptist General Conference. He returned to Moody as a professor of Pastoral Studies in the undergraduate school from 1994 to 2004 and then served his denomination until 2016. Then he became the academic dean and professor at North Park Theological Seminary.
Now as Moody’s provost and dean of Education, Dr. Perry will provide administrative and academic oversight for anything related to students at Moody, including the undergraduate school, Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago and Plymouth, Michigan, and Moody Aviation in Spokane, Washington. He and his wife, Dr. Cynthia Perry, a recently retired professor, have four adult children and five grandchildren. Read more about Dr. Perry’s ministry.
Dr. Mark Jobe, Moody’s president, described the new provost: “Dr. Perry has the heart of a pastor, the experience of a seasoned leader, and the capability of a skilled educator.”