The Investment Planner
By observing Rev. Clarke's life and ministry, this donor and others have been encouraged to invest their financial resources to help produce ATS graduates. Still others have been inspired to invest their very lives in ministry.
Whatever the type of investment, one thing is certain. Both are guaranteed. Both yield eternal rewards.
Do you know a better return on investment? Me neither.
Reverend Neal Clarke is a friend of Nyack College and ATS. He is also my friend. I am so thankful we can tell this story.
- Michael G. Scales, Ed. D.
By Bob Dickson
Those who don't know the reverend Neal Clarke will probably see his recent involvement in an anonymous gift to the Alliance Theological Seminary as remarkable.
It's just not every day that someone decides to give $200,000 to help train a new generation of missionaries and church leaders.
It's rarer still when that person chooses to remain unnamed.
But acts of Christian sacrifice and service have always taken place when Rev. Clarke is around. A semi-retired pastor and former personnel director within the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA), Clarke has spent his life helping believers invest themselves in God's kingdom.
Scores of missionaries around the world, if asked how they plugged into their specific field, will point to Clarke.
And just as many pastors will say the direction of their ministries sprang, in part, from his leadership and guidance.
For the part he's played in the lives of so many of God's servants, Clarke refuses to take credit. It's simply what God has called him to do, he insists. Helping others find their direction in ministry has always been the direction God gave him.
It's a direction he's faithfully followed for decades.
Clarke graduated from Nyack College (known then as the Missionary Training Institute) in 1957. In terms of pursuing a career in spiritual service, it was the perfect place to begin.
"A vast majority of us went directly into ministry," Clarke says of his graduating class. "The school had a real sense of vision to reach the world. I went through the process and felt the mission field was the place for me."
It was, but not in the traditional sense. By "missionary," Clarke figured he'd wait for God to open a door for him to serve in a specific part of the world. But God had something else in mind.
"I went to Gordon Divinity School," Clarke says. "I wanted to be trained as a missionary pastor."
Clarke's first pastorate was at an extension church in Bennington, Vermont. From there, he was called to Boston to serve at the Greater Boston Church of the Missionary Alliance.
"The ministry is still there in Boston," he says. "It's formed into an inner city ministry."
In 1973 Clarke moved to New Jersey to serve the Cranford Alliance Church. Later, he became the C&MA's Director of Personnel.
For two years, he met with young men and women who wanted to serve Christ in some capacity. It was just a question of where and how.
"What I did was primarily recruiting," Clarke says. "I visited colleges and seminaries across the country and helped plug men and women into the mission field."
Clarke's criterion for missionaries was simple. They had to possess a strong sense of calling and have vision and a ministry model that matched with the C&MA.
"I've always tried to encourage others to catch the vision," Clarke says. "Going into Christian ministry is a godly calling and not really a choice. You have to follow it and pursue it that way."
Clarke's understanding of calling—and his commitment to convey it to a new generation of missionaries—made a difference. To this day, he still bumps into people all over the world who are serving where he helped them go.
As to where Clarke himself would go, God has always called him back to the pulpit.
In 1978, he returned to Nyack to serve as the senior pastor of Simpson Memorial Church in Nyack. For 11 years, he faithfully shepherded the flock in what he calls to this day "a wonderful place."
In 1989, Clarke's journey in ministry brought him back to New England to become the Superintendent for the New England District of C&MA.
"I've always called New England my emotional home," Clarke says. "I went to seminary there, served as pastor to two churches, did youth work and became a superintendent there. God always calls me back to New England."
As superintendent, Clarke found himself in the familiar role of encouraging others. On a pastor-to-pastor basis, he gave general oversight to the C&MA churches across New England.
Clarke helped steer New England's churches for nine years before stepping away to serve local churches again. This he did in Dayton, Ohio and Champaign, Illinois.
He officially retired to Shell Point Retirement Community in Fort Myers, Florida, in 2005, though he spent several months in 2006 filling in for a pastor in Bangor, Maine and then preaching throughout New England.
God, it seems, continues to call Clarke to service.
"I've got my health," he jokes. "I can still do it."
As always, Clarke's passion is encouraging others to serve the Lord. It's what has marked his decades of service, and it is what led him to encourage one believer in particular to make a $200,000 gift to the Alliance Theological Seminary.
The anonymous donor was looking for a way to multiply God's kingdom, and when the question of where was put to Clarke, the answer was obvious.
What could be more effective than supporting a seminary like Alliance Theological?
"I wanted to help with the scholarship at ATS because that is direct ministry," Clarke says. "God wants us to reproduce ourselves as well as minister to the church at large. Supporting Alliance Theological Seminary is a powerful means of preparing the next generation of church leadership. Reproducing ourselves is part of what Jesus meant by 'be fruitful.'"
It's a command Clarke himself has obviously taken to heart, for a number of reasons.
"I've never been married, and maybe that's one of the things that keeps me interested in young people—to help their journey into ministry. I have no kids, and through the seminary I could help others go that route."
Not only through the seminary. It's what Clarke has always done. It's what he continues to do.