By Bailey Jarnagin

CLEVELAND, Ga (TMNews) – Dr. Gary Jarnagin, Truett-McConnell Director of Financial Development, has relied on God throughout all the stages of his life and is fully confident of the sovereignty of God’s plans. 

Church with the neighbors

Raised in Mansfield, Ohio, Jarnagin’s family did not frequent the church. “My father was an alcoholic,” Jarnagin shared. “My mother and father never really went to church. Friday we usually went to the Moose Bar after we went bowling. We’d do that a lot on Saturday, too, so by the time we’d get home, they wouldn’t be up to go to church.” 

Fortunately for Jarnagin, the neighbors took an interest in his spiritual life and made it a priority to help him know the Lord. “Two and three doors down were the Fortneys and the Reeds,” Jarnagin recalled. “One of the two would always pick me up and take me.” 

The summer after Jarnagin’s sixth grade year, he was convicted of his sinful state and walked the church aisle to receive Christ. It was not until his freshman year of college, however, that he took the step of believer’s baptism. Jarnagin said, “I realized that for obedience purposes, I needed to be baptized.”

Because of Jarnagin’s Grace Brethren roots, his baptism was slightly different than that of a typical Baptist’s. “Grace Brethren are very baptistic in beliefs,” Jarnagin stated, “but when they’re baptized, they’re baptized three times in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They also baptized me forward.” Jarnagin continued, “I always tell my Baptist friends that I’m two up on them.”

Shifting career paths

Jarnagin attended Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana to receive his Bachelor’s degree in music education. “I taught about two years at Elkhart Baptist Christian School in Indiana,” said Jarnagin, “I was a vocal and instrumental director.”

During the summer of 1978, Jarnagin made a shift in his career path after attempting to buy a used mobile home. “The banks wouldn’t loan me any money because I didn’t make enough, stated Jarnagin. “At that particular time I had an opportunity to work with American Airlines in Chicago, and it worked out in God’s sovereignty.”

Jarnagin worked with American Airlines for the next twenty-eight years, advancing in leadership until he acquired the position of general manager.

Jarnagin, his wife, and daughter have had the opportunity to live in several states, prompting him to reconsider where he called home: “Home is wherever my family is. My wife and I determined that, once we were in another location, home was where we were and what we made it.”

Answering the call to ministry

Towards the latter part of Jarnagin’s career with American Airlines, he began to feel God calling him into ministry. In order to prepare for this call, Jarnagin furthered his formal education.

He explained, “I received my Masters of Arts in Religion from Liberty University and my Masters of Arts in Divinity from Luther Rice University.” Jarnagin continued, “If everything goes well, I’ll get my Doctorate in Ministry from Luther Rice University in May of 2016.” [Jarnagin completed his Doctorate in February]

In 2007 Jarnagin accepted the call to ministry and became the Educational Minister, and then the Minister of Senior Adults, at Salem Baptist Church in McDonough, Georgia. “I did that for almost six years,” Jarnagin recalled.

He continued, “While in the position I was asked to be on the board of trustees at TMC by Dr. Caner. I was on the finance committee my first year; my second year I was chairman of the finance committee. Then Dr. Caner asked me to be the chairman of the board of trustees.”

Jarnagin became increasingly involved with Truett-McConnell College during his rotation on the board of trustees. In 2013, the year Jarnagin was to roll off the board, he received a call from Dr. Caner with an offer for the position of Director of Financial Development.

Moving to the mountains

Jarnagin moved to the mountains of Cleveland, Georgia to begin work at Truett-McConnell College in the fall of 2013, consequently the same fall that his daughter Bailey began her college career at TM.

Jarnagin acknowledges how his past careers have prepared him to be the Director of Financial Development: “My job with American Airlines prepared me for the business aspect, and then the pastoral experience has helped me as far as insights with pastors and churches. It’s the culmination of my life’s work, and I think God has brought me through it all for such a time as this.”

A key voice among those who are advocating the expansion of Truett-McConnell, Jarnagin is delighted with his role in the building processes.

“The development department, our goal is to connect God’s stewards with God’s resources to expand God’s kingdom,” said Jarnagin. “For many years after I’ve graduated to Heaven, students will still be able to use the things I’ve helped build.”

Using personal trials for the glory of God

In considering his future after his time at Truett-McConnell is finished, Jarnagin has a few ideas: “I would like to teach some leadership classes and possibly business classes.” Jarnagin continued, “I would also like to write a book. It has to do with why we have trials and tribulations in our life.”

The potential subject of Jarnagin’s book is inspired by a personal trial he has dealt with for a large portion of his life. “I’ve been a type one diabetic for thirty-eight years, and that’s a long time to be insulin dependent,” Jarnagin shared.

In the midst of the struggles that accompany having diabetes, Jarnagin finds blessings from the Lord. “I have no eye problems and no kidney problems. I have all the feeling in my extremities. Circulation is good,” Jarnagin lists. “There’s no indication that anything is bad at this point.”

Jarnagin associates Scripture with his trial: “We are told to pick up and carry our cross, and that takes various forms for every individual. When you go through it you ask God why, but 2 Corinthians 1 tells us that we are to give comfort to other people like God has given to us.”

He continued, “While this [diabetes] has been a burden throughout my life, it’s also been a good opportunity to help children who find out they have diabetes. It’s been a ministry.”

Jarnagin has seen the Lord’s hand actively work throughout his life, and he has no qualms believing the Lord will continue to do so: “You have to rely on the Lord and do what the doctors tell you, and God will give you the strength to move through it.”


Bailey is a senior English major and a freelance writer for the college.


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