There is no one more focused on cultivating an environment centered on receiving and giving the Lord’s grace and mercy to the students, staff, and faculty of ACU Online than Dr. Christopher Cobbler. As the newest executive director for the Center for Vocational Formation and dean of vocational formation, Dr. Cobbler is working diligently to make ACU Online a place known for its acceptance, compassion, and gratitude toward those who seek the Lord in all areas of their lives. Holding a strong pulse on the different aspects of various denominations, Dr. Cobbler is more than just a pastor for the many. He is a shepherd, a man dedicated to guiding others, regardless of their faith, race, or age, toward the ultimate giver of life.
Born And Called To Serve
Born in Canada, Dr. Cobbler grew up around strong, godly women who raised him in “the ways of the Lord.” Attending church and singing the classical hymns, Dr. Cobbler remembers vividly when he was called into ministry – and it all started in his first grade class. Sitting at his desk, looking around the room of colored papers and lights, Dr. Cobbler remembers his teacher asking everyone to complete this poem: Marvellous, Marvelous Me. When I grow up, I want to be [blank]. As other students had a difficult time filling in the blank, Dr. Cobbler recalls that he fearlessly, and without hesitation, filled in the poem.
“It’s like it happened yesterday,” Dr. Cobbler said. “The poem said, “Marvellous, Marvelous Me. When I grow up, I want to be, and I wrote down: a minister. And I know, what kid wants to be that, right? But, that’s what I wrote and I truly believe it was a calling that God placed in my heart.”
And so, he went on. Attending Alberta Bible College in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to earn a biblical degere, Dr. Cobbler began nurturing his calling and seeing in what ways he was meant to be a minister. Was he meant to lead a church? Work in college ministry? Unsure, and still young, Dr. Cobbler began working as a branch manager for a financial institution. And while he understood that it would seem strange for a soon-to-be minister to work as a branch manager, Dr. Cobbler saw it as a way to use his brains – and maybe even work on his skills related to “vocational ministry, something that wasn’t really talked about at the time.” Learning how to speak, lead, and show love toward others even when it’s difficult, Dr. Cobbler’s time as a branch manager was the perfect segway into ministry.
Shortly after, he moved to the United States and began pursuing his master’s degree in religious education at Rochester University in Rochester Hills, Michigan. It was there that he began diving deeper into his calling. Guiding others in congregations both big and small, Dr. Cobbler started to see how God was really working. Not only was he learning more about God’s nature but he was encountering God’s character in a richer and more substantial way. For the first time, Dr. Cobbler felt like he was a kid again. Amazed and in awe of God’s glory, and ready to be led by Him.
“I will never forget that time of my life,” Dr. Cobbler remarked. “My wife and I were just noticing the brokenness of the world more profoundly than ever before. We saw poverty, substance abuse in young people. And I remember we were approached by people who said if we could do something to help. And so we did. We opened our home, raised funds, worked in the community as the hands and feet of Jesus. Having grown up Pentecostal, I was used to seeing God move in big ways. And to be honest, this was it for me. He was moving through us.”
Dr. Cobbler smiles when he thinks about his journey at that time. No major turning points but a constant reassurance that God was with him and his family. Why would he not continue? After completing his master’s degree, Dr. Cobbler pushed onward and obtained his Doctor of Ministry degree from Lipscomb University, where he continued to preach and teach across the eastern portions of the United States, ultimately ending up in Memphis, Tennessee. And while he enjoyed shepherding and working with members of the faith, Dr. Cobbler felt called again. Only this time, it wasn’t in congregational ministry but in academia.
Calling ACU Online, Home
Like many good things, the opportunity to work for ACU Online came out of the blue. Presenting at a Christian scholars conference, Dr. Cobbler heard that ACU Online was looking for someone to fill the shoes of the dean of vocational formation. Having worked in vocational ministry from the very beginning, Dr. Cobbler talked things over with his wife and decided to submit his name for consideration; leaving it all in God’s hands.
“I was under the impression that ACU was looking for someone who knew how to connect with students and faculty members, which I knew was something they really cared about,” Dr. Cobbler expressed. “As I heard more, the story of Esther kept coming back up for me. The passage of being prepared for such a time as this.”
After much prayer and meditation, Dr. Cobbler got the interview and not too long after the job. Within a matter of months, Dr. Cobbler went from preaching and teaching to serving the ACU Online body. Learning the ins and outs of what it meant to be an ACU Wildcat and the culture he was so used to within the Church of Christ tradition, Dr. Cobbler started to wonder what he wanted to do during his time here. What was his goal? What would be his legacy? One thing came to mind: hospitality. Hospitality, Dr. Cobbler’s favorite word. Not only because of its significance to mean giving others the utmost best treatment but because it embodies receiving as well. As he would put it, “hospitality cannot have its fullest effect unless it’s received well.” That’s something he aims to show the ACU community.
“We live in a world that is super into giving things but never receiving love or knowing how to receive it,” Dr. Cobbler said. “So, I think it’s my job to first, remind our students and staff that God loves them and cares for them. All He asks of us is to receive it.”
Hosting retreat days and times to meet with him one-on-one, Dr. Cobbler is working on exactly that. Showing others how to be hospitable through action. Leaning into his team and family, Dr. Cobbler thinks and ponders more often now about that little boy sitting in first grade. Marvellous, Marvellous Me. Dr. Cobbler is finally where he is meant to be.
Are you looking for spiritual guidance and an education focused on vocational formation? Visit our website or call 855-219-7300 to learn how ACU Online has the resources you need to succeed.