President Castleberry discusses his new book
What inspired you to write this book?
As I was praying about my future and the things I wanted to accomplish, the Lord spoke to me in a dramatic way. He told me to write the last sermon I had preached in Ecuador when I was a missionary into a book, and that if I did, I would see it in Walmart. So that very day, I started writing the book. Soon after it was published, it was available on walmart.com, which I counted as fulfillment of God’s promise to me. Very shortly after that, we heard from a friend in South Carolina who had actually seen my book in the store!
How do you make decisions in life to guide you towards God’s dreams?
When I was 18 years old, I promised God that if He would speak to me, I would always obey. So I have never made a major decision in my life that I didn’t feel like God had clearly spoken to me about what I should do. It has been amazing. I could have never planned my life and had it come out this good!
How can college students discover God’s deep dream for their life?
The most important thing is to first know God. If you know God, you are then able to know yourself. In order to achieve that, you are going to have to be a reflective person – to think about your life and what it means. The whole book is designed to help people through a process of thinking about their life – what they love, what they want, what God is doing in them. The book tries to help people build the moral framework out of which they can achieve their deepest dream. You can achieve shallow dreams without moral depth, but you can’t achieve a deep dream, one from God, without moral depth. Building the right kind of character is what helps people discover their truest self, dream, and identity.
You shared in your book that when you were 21-years-old you experienced what you called “a time of great sadness” and that during that moment in your life God promised you that you would one day be the president of a university.
How did God speak that to you?
During a time of prayer, that idea just came into my head – a voice speaking to me in my thoughts, ‘Don’t worry about this setback. I’m going to make you a university president.’ It was so out of sync with what I was thinking and grieving about that it shocked me and it had this ring of truth. I knew that God had spoken to me and I never doubted that was what my future would be. But I surely didn’t tell a lot of people about it because it seemed so ridiculous. My family really didn’t know much about colleges or how that whole system worked.
What has it been like to trust God to fulfill that promise and to now see the fulfillment of it in your life as President of Northwest University?
Well, there were so many things that I wanted to do along the way that I wasn’t in a hurry. Part of my career aspirations was to be a missionary – I felt that was my calling. The 15 years I spent on the mission field were very precious to me and I wasn’t in any hurry to see them come to an end. After that, I went to The Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and those were also precious years and I wasn’t in any hurry to see them come to an end either. I was teaching and leading the academic vision of the seminary. When the presidency opened, it was becoming clear that God was leading me to Northwest. Then, about eight months before I came here, a friend of mine essentially prophesied to me that I would be President at Northwest within one year. That didn’t seem at all possible. But there was definitely a sense that God was preparing me for this. I had a sense of divine command to be here. God spoke to me in so many ways and it has been delightful to be here.
What is your hope for Your Deepest Dream?
My biggest hope is that the people who read the book will learn important things about themselves and will have a more clarified sense of what their deepest dream is – the dream that expresses their unique identity and purpose. Since I wrote the book, I’ve also started a blog on my personal website, JosephCastleberry.com, to continue exploring the theme of the book.
Interview by Colleen Weimer