Mar 7, 2006

Alistair McPherson: Get to know the “down to earth” Associate Dean of Men

by Marcelo Quarantotto



Driving around the Liberty University campus in Lynchburg, Associate Dean of Men Alistair McPherson contemplates where he wants to sit and chat. As he drives he doesn’t turn on the radio, but rather makes sounds resembling a techno song at a night club. He discusses the pros and cons of different locations, all the while speaking in different voices.  His antics continue and the passenger in his car attempts to stifle bouts of laughter, but to no avail.

After walking and driving to different parts of the campus, McPherson notes the high sun and pleasant breeze, and decides to remain outside for the interview and simultaneously enjoy the beautiful day. Liberty University welcomed Alistair McPherson as an Associate Dean of Men during the fall semester of 2005. In addition to this title, McPherson is a husband, father, second-degree black-belt, ordained pastor, makeup artist, counselor, friend and writer.

McPherson was born and raised in , a fact that reveals itself as soon as he begins speaking with his thick Scottish brogue. He also lived in other countries such as and .  While growing up, his family attended church irregularly. McPherson said, “I had no interest in Jesus at all.” In fact, he participated in forms of  occult from age 6 until he was 20. “I experienced an Ouija board while in primary school.  I felt like a power had come into me at that point, it was the strangest thing.  From that point on, I had an interest in that sort of thing.”

McPherson was 21 years old by the time he experienced salvation. “Basically, I had an encounter with God when I was staying with a girl in . I heard a voice say ‘get up from where you are and go back to see that girl in .’ The girl was a young woman who had just become a Christian. While in , I had met her twice and it was apparently enough for her to pray for me at Bible study.”

McPherson went back to to see this girl and she invited him to church. “At this church, I was reacquainted with the gospel,” he said. “The Lord began to open my eyes to the reality of Jesus and what a Christian life really meant.  Within a month I put my head in a pillow and said, ‘Thank you Jesus for dying for me,’ and that was it, that was my confession.

“The day after was like cinescope; everything was just different; I really knew that something had definitely, definitely transpired … I guess the Bible started coming alive to me.”

Following his salvation, McPherson went to a Bible school in where he met his wife, Deb. After marrying in 1989, he spent time as a makeup effects artist for Pinewood Studios and Shepherd Studios in .

In 1994, he earned a B. A. from Moody Bible Institute in Theology and Biblical Languages. Six years later, he went to Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham and received his Master’s in Divinity.

Between earning his M.Div and being hired at LU, McPherson spent four years as a salesman.

“I pursued the job at Liberty because I wanted to have a wider influence on people besides being a pastor … My passion is in relational evangelism, healing prayer, how to understand the soul, how healing of the soul comes about.          

“As an Associate Dean of Men, I feel as if I’m juggling two jobs: a counselor and judicial officer … Because of this, being a Dean can sometimes be an awkward job. However, I enjoy learning about students’ backgrounds and struggles. I believe I have something to offer a segment of students at Liberty.”

McPherson said the hardest thing about his job is seeing and having to enforce students to take some time off from school when they make mistakes they know are wrong.

“While it is hard to be a disciplinarian, no one in the dean’s office is that callous to discipline people with no regard for their well-being. The people I work with care about people a lot, otherwise, they wouldn’t be there.”

Although his job is hard, he finds it very rewarding. “The name of the game in the dean’s office is ‘reconciliation and restoration.’

“I like to make myself available to students in any way I can and to be able to listen and encourage them.  I look for an aspect of where God’s at work in their life and encourage and point them to that.”

 

This idea is what brought commuter student Joel Furrow into his office.  Furrow met McPherson while spending time with other off-campus friends at the Drowsy Poet during convocation this past fall.

When Furrow asked McPherson who he was, the reply came within his usual bright smile, pleasing accent and jovial attitude: “Oh, just some guy from .”      

“After we met,” said Furrow, “I felt a leading of the Spirit that caused me to believe that I needed to speak with him. I wasn’t sure what I needed to talk to him about, but I found out soon enough.” Furrow explained that his initial meeting with McPherson allowed him to see how approachable he was and had no problems pursuing further conversation.

When Furrow went to meet with him, McPherson immediately pointed out his necklace. The necklace was made of ivory and was purchased while Furrow served on a missions trip to . “When I bought it, I was told that the carved symbol was for good luck. When I spoke to Alistair, I found out something entirely different.”

As was explained to Furrow by McPherson, the pendant resembled the “OM” symbol universal to many eastern religions.  Also on the pendant were two smaller symbols. One being for the goddess of help, and the other was a symbol having to do with sexual immorality and was used in Baal worship.

“The wild part about the situation was that during that period in my life, I found myself under an unusual amount of temptation dealing with purity issues, issues that I thought I had conquered some time ago,” Furrow said.

Once McPherson told him what the symbols meant, he immediately removed the necklace from his person. “As soon as I took it off, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders, a weight that I had been carrying for quite some time. I felt a sense freedom unlike anything before. Alistair said that he also felt a burning sensation in his hands when he took the necklace away.”

Later that day, Furrow crushed the ivory pendant, burned the cord it had been hanging on and disposed of the remaining ashes at a cemetery.

“My experience that day opened my eyes to the spiritual warfare that is taking place all around us, and don’t think that we are protected because we are in the ‘Liberty bubble,’” said Furrow. 

Over Christmas break, Furrow was signed as a missionary with an organization called ChriStar. He feels if he hadn’t met with McPherson that day, then he wouldn’t have been ready to commit to the organization. “What I really like about Alistair is that he has a lot of book knowledge, but is very humble about it.  I didn’t feel like he was the one who had all the answers I needed to know, but he was able to guide me to Christ to find them. Everyone at Liberty could learn a lot from him. Needless to say, I am thankful for the relationship I have with him.”

McPherson enjoys being able to mentor students at Liberty, and strives to be a mentor wherever he is. 

“We cannot succeed in the Christian life without it (mentorship).  Unfortunately, we have substituted mentors for books on certain topics; we have systematized everything and have stripped away all power.

“Relationships are key,” said McPherson. “We live in a very individualistic society and we don’t understand what relationships are, and a lot of our society’s dysfunctions are the result. It is important to have strong relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ. You learn things in that process of sharpening and retain those memories that will help you to deal with sin.  Without those memories, we are left on our own and often to make mistakes.”

McPherson also places importance on reaching out to those outside of the Christian community.

“It’s incredulous that we are afraid to talk to non-Christians. If we took a bit more risks, we would see the power of God demonstrated. In 1 Thessalonians 1, Paul says ‘…our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.’ There is no power of God in sitting on a seat doing nothing. The best thing for Christians to do at this point in history is to listen and be quick to do it.

“Saint Francis of Assissi once said, ‘Preach the gospel to all the world and  if necessary use words.’ We have descended to abstract answering by giving words, important words, but we have been using them instead of demonstrating God’s power.”

McPherson’s past experience in the occult changed to a positive thing by making him intuitive of the spiritual realm. Something, as Furrow explained, that is largely overlooked by today’s Christians.

Associate Dean Alistair McPherson’s presence is highly appreciated and known among the student body of Liberty University.  Not even five minutes would pass in our interview without someone waving, shouting, greeting or throwing snowballs in his direction.

“I like to involve myself in the lives of the students on campus and to make myself available to talk to about whatever is on their minds,” said McPherson.

Contact Marcelo Quarantotto at mquarantotto@liberty.edu.


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