Maxie Burch arrived at John Brown University in 2011 to direct both the Graduate Ministries Program and the Link Year Program. But in the fall his job title will change to chair of the Biblical Studies Division.
The current chair, David Brisben, is resigning from the position so that he can return to full-time teaching and focus on researching and publishing before he finishes his career.
Burch said he did not plan things this way. Instead, God’s plan has unfolded in a way Burch did not expect. He said it has become something of a joke, with people asking him what hat he is wearing now whenever they see him.
Burch started teaching a couple of classes in the division during his first semester at the University after a faculty member left suddenly. In fall of 2012, the University decided to hire him to teach full-time. He said his time at the University has demonstrated that God will answer prayers.
“I wanted to teach at a university that had a good environment,” Burch said. “I love teaching, and I can do a lot of other things as well, so I wanted to find a place where I could serve, doing whatever was needed.”
For Burch, the best part of his job is working with the students. He said he loves coming to work every day.
“Yes, there is stuff to do,” Burch said. “But when your work is connected to your passion, you don’t notice that much.”
Senior Noah Archibald is in Burch’s Capstone Seminar in Christian Life this semester. He said Burch provided students a “chance to learn from someone who has gone before,” adding that the class had been a highlight of his core classes at the University.
“As a professor, Dr. Burch runs his classes like clockwork,” Archibald said. “But what we do in his class is anything but clockwork. Dr. Burch provides me and other students an opportunity to step outside of the grind of college life to think about our lives.”
As the new chair, Burch is looking forward to helping the division serve students, the church and the world. He said his goal is to continue moving the division toward growth that is both healthy and sustainable, particularly through marketing itself well.
“We have a great staff and a healthy curriculum,” Burch said. “We will work together to figure out how to best present our division to prospective students.”
Brisben said during his 12 years as the chair, he most enjoyed the process of selecting new faculty.
“When I started here, the division had 40 students and four professors,” Brisben said. “Now we have 220 students and 14 professors. It has been fun to be a part of that growth.”
Brisben added that Burch would do a great job as the new chair, in part because he has good administrative skills and works well with people.
“Burch is a lot like me in that we are both generalists,” Brisben said. “Whoever is the chair has to have a good aptitude for philosophy or youth ministry, too, not just for biblical studies.”
Burch said the whole thing is still rather surreal for him.
“I keep pinching myself to see if this is real,” he said. “I have been entrusted with an opportunity to lead, and that means a lot to me. Our professors are sharp people, good scholars and godly people.”
Burch wanted to give a shout out from the division to all of the students.
“We couldn’t do what we love to do without the students,” he said. “So thanks for trusting us and investing your time so we can share ourselves with you.”