One of the newer members of Dallas Seminary’s faculty, Dr. Mark Heinemann (Th.M., 1978) is no stranger to the seminary classroom. He has taught Christian education and practical theology for nearly 15 years—in German.
Raised in a Lutheran home in Nebraska and Missouri, Dr. Heinemann said he was a “nominal Christian” growing up. He had respect for the Bible and for Christ, and attending a parochial school until eighth grade shaped his basic presuppositions and intellectual beliefs.
But it wasn’t until the summer before his senior year in college at the University of Missouri that he clearly understood the gospel. Leah, a fellow student who had become a Christian a year before, began talking to him about her faith. He started reading the New Testament and found that all the puzzle pieces and religious concepts from his previous training began to fit together. He even remembered Bible verses that he had memorized when he was young, and now they made complete sense.
“The Lord was working in my heart all along, but it wasn’t until I saw my need that it finally came together” Dr. Heinemann said.
He got involved with Campus Crusade and married Leah one year later. After graduation, they both joined Crusade staff and worked with students at Cornell University. Once Christmas during their time with Crusade, he and Leah attended a Christmas conference with a missions emphasis. The speaker challenged everyone to get up and walk to one of the many world maps posted on the walls. They were each to pick a country and commit to pray for the people there for the next year. “In the shuffle, Leah and I got separated and went to different maps, but when we came back together we found out that we had each chosen West Germany.”
After a couple of years at Cornell Mark decided to get more training at DTS and he and Leah moved to Dallas. They both worked while he took courses toward his Th.M., and after graduating, he pastored a church plant in Dallas for four years.
Meanwhile, as a result of praying for Germany, the Heinemanns had met a growing number of people with a German connection … some were missionaries, some were seminary students. While at DTS they even participated in a mission trip with one of the students to build a Christian camp in Germany.
After four years in the pastorate, Mark was convinced that God wanted him to change direction: “I felt a crisis of calling and decided I should work in business for a while to give us some space to figure out what our next step should be.”
Within a year the dust had settled, and they knew that the Lord was calling them to the mission field. So, Mark took a trip to Europe and met with ten ministries looking for an opportunity to do some type of discipleship ministry. “I was very glad I went. There is such a difference between writing letters and actually seeing what’s going on for yourself.”
While in Germany, he caught up with two of his German friends from DTS days who were teaching at a seminary in Geissen, and he was challenged to consider teaching. The seminary, called the Freie Theologische Akademie (FTA), was founded in 1974 by DTS grad Dr. Cleon Rogers. The school had been trying to find someone to teach Christian Education (CE) full time, but still hadn’t found a national or missionary to fill the need.
“It dawned on me that this was a very strategic opportunity for discipleship, but I didn’t feel prepared to teach CE, since I didn’t have a doctorate.”
Talking with Dr. Rogers confirmed this call, and after a month of praying about it Mark and Leah felt very strongly that the Lord was drawing them back to that opportunity. “Now that I look back on it, it was crazy … I was so unprepared to do what God was calling me to do.”
They joined Greater Europe Mission, raised their support quickly, and left for Germany in 1987. After language school, he began to teach—his first course he literally read from a script. Ironically, the course was on how to teach. “I was the worst example … it was a humbling experience.”
Dr. Heinemann says their time in Germany was even more strategic than they had expected—he had the opportunity to assist in the preparation of some “awesome servants of the Lord.” “We gained so much more than we gave and never felt like we had made some great sacrifice. We had no plans to come back to the States.”
But when his mother developed cancer, there was no other option. Providentially, a couple of the FTA’s own grads were able to teach the CE courses in his place.
The Heinemann family returned to the states and Mark became an adjunct professor at DTS. “I never thought in a million years that I’d be at Dallas Seminary.” He finished his Ph.D. at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 2003, then joined the faculty last July as a full-time associate professor in Christian Education.
Dr. Heinemann said he is excited about what the Seminary is doing to train future Christian leaders. “What people come away with from seminary has such a huge impact on their ministries. It’s great to be a part of that.”