Carson to leave Liberty
Campus pastor trades post for local church
A white plate sits on a cherry-colored conference table, filled to the brim with chocolate chip cookies that are decorated with white icing and tiny pink and red heart-shaped sprinkles. A tri-folded piece of notebook paper lies across the top of the cookies.
The name scrawled across simply reads: Dwayne.
“Aw, man. I’m going to get sugar diabetes,” he said with a forlorn look on his face, knowing what the note’s words would say.
He gingerly opened the note and began to read. The note spoke of how much a couple of students would miss Senior Campus Pastor Dwayne Carson once he vacates his position at Liberty University.
“If I’ve read this once, I’ve read it a hundred times,” Carson said of the letter’s contents and the recent onslaught of encouraging notes and baked goods.
Carson’s 22 years at Liberty will soon come to an end as the pastor trades his college student centered post for a position at a local church in Westerville, Ohio. Carson will take on the position of Spiritual Director at Genoa Baptist Church.
Carson’s presence at Liberty will be missed greatly, Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr said.
“Dwayne has played a critical role in making Liberty’s spiritual life programs unique,” Falwell said. “When he told me his decision a few weeks ago, I told him that, while we hate to see him leave, I truly believed that, if he never worked as a full time pastor in a local church, he would always wonder whether he missed part of God’s calling for his life. He agreed.”
The decision to leave was a difficult one to make.
“I’m having that (bittersweet) emotion right now, maybe kind of the other way,” Carson said. “I’ve got a lot of people right now that are sad that we are leaving, but that’s how I felt all these years when people were leaving.”
The choice to move to Ohio was not made alone, as Carson also had to consider how thehe decision would impact his family.
“I’ve watched him take this journey slowly, cautiously, seeking the Lord, in order to find out where he can serve God to the fullest,” daughter and Resident Assistant Kristi Carson said. “I’m sad to move to Ohio, I’m sad to come back to Liberty and not have my dad here, but I know that this is an incredible opportunity God has given him so mostly I’m just proud to have a dad who would leave everything he’s known for 22 years to follow Christ. He’s an amazing example to me and my siblings.”
Carson’s presence at Liberty has been somewhat of a staple for many students, even those who were not a part of the student leadership team.
“Through my experiences with him in Student Leadership and just seeing him around campus, he always has a smile on his face and asks how I’m doing,” senior and former Spiritual Life Director (SLD) Danielle Cunningham said. “He is very much a father figure for me. He just has something that draws you in and makes you feel safe and secure.”
Carson has received similar comments from many students, expressing their sadness at his leaving.
“I had one student who said, ‘I can’t believe you’re leaving me,’ and I said when do you graduate, and he said ‘In May’,” so I said, “What were you going to do to me?” Carson said. “He said, ‘Well, I guess I was leaving you, too.’”
Although, the transition to a new place is a little bittersweet, Carson knows that this move is God’s plan, he said. Genoa Baptist Church has been actively pursuing Dwayne since 1999 by Senior Pastor Frank Carl.
“Frank Carl asked me to come to Genoa in 1999 to be his associate pastor — ‘to be my Joshua,’ he said.” Carson said. “I told him, I don’t think I’m leaving Liberty anytime soon.”
“In 2003, Frank brings some kids to Liberty for College For A Weekend, and we invite him over to the house for dinner,” Dwayne said. “Sitting on the sofa, he decides that he will preach a sermon to me on the values of Genoa Baptist Church. He preaches this sermon and says, ‘every head bowed and every eye closed. Alright, Dwayne, I want you to come forward and say you’re coming to Genoa.”
In November 2010, Carl again requested that Carson join his staff at Genoa. Carl begged Dwayne simply to come visit the church and see how the congregation was going, Carson said.
“Frank asked me if I was in a place where I could consider leaving Liberty, and I told him that I would consider,” Carson said.
On Jan. 17, Dwayne called Carl and said, “Frank, we accept your invitation to join your staff.”
Carson is mainly known for his influence on the Office of Student of Leadership, where he helped develop the SLD program and further the RA and prayer leader positions. Encouraging students to seek God in all they do as been one of Carson’s main mantras during his time at Liberty, telling the student leaders to pour into the lives of their group members
“God purposefully prunes his productive producer in order to be more productive and to reach his or her fullest potentional,” Dwayne told the SLDs in his last meeting.
He also challenged the SLDs to adopt 1 Thessalonians 2 for their lives, leaving them with one final challenge from founder Dr. Jerrry Falwell Sr.
“Pray as if everything depends on God,” Carson said. “Work as if everything depends on you.”