Archive for October, 2017

Never. Stop. Seeking.

by   |  10.30.17  |  Christianity, College of Biblical Studies, Learning, Theology, vocation

Never. Stop. Seeking. 

When I was just 3 years old, my family was invited to the home of one of the members of the church for which my dad had recently started preaching. They lived in a grand old house with a seemingly endless maze of rooms, each filled with artwork and antiques. As our host gave us a tour, she would pause before various pieces and tell about how or when or where they had been acquired. Passing by an antique chair, she patted it and said, “Oh, there’s a story behind this chair.”

After dinner was finished and the adults were chatting over coffee, my mom looked up and realized that I had left the table. Worried that I might break something expensive in a house filled with priceless objects, she began moving from room to room, trying not to panic. She was less than pleased to discover me in one of the rooms that we had visited earlier, with a piece of priceless furniture overturned on the floor. She gaped at me and asked, exasperated, “What are you doing?!” To which I answered, matter-of-factly, “I’m looking for the story behind this chair.”

I sometimes wonder if hearing that story repeated throughout my childhood is the reason why one of my favorite songs, as a teenager, was “The Seeker” by The Who, the opening lyrics of which went as follows:

I’ve looked under chairs

I’ve looked under tables

I’ve tried to find the key

To fifty million fables

They call me The Seeker

I’ve been searching low and high

I won’t get to get what I’m after

Till the day I die

I’ve thought of myself as a seeker for as long as I can remember. I may not have always used that word, but I’ve always had an interest in getting to the bottom of things, in discovering the story behind them. I’ve always been taken with stories of seekers, particularly Biblical characters, and the theme of seeking runs throughout the Bible. The Psalms alone are filled with reminders to “seek the Lord.” The writer of Psalm 63 begins:

O God, you are my God,

earnestly I seek you,

   my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you

The New Testament, as well, has many references to seeking. Jesus famously challenges the hearers of the Sermon on the Mount to “seek first his kingdom.” The writer of Hebrews assures us that God “rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

One of the frustrating features of late-20th century evangelism was that churches began referring to those who were not yet Christians, or those in the initial stages of their Christian walk, as “seekers.” The problem wasn’t that these people weren’t seekers, but the implication that they would eventually reach a stage of development when they were no longer seekers. And, while that may not be the language used by 21st century churches, the idea behind it has held on. We think of seeking as something for curious agnostics and newborn Christians. Many long-term Christians have simply stopped seeking. Or, if we are seeking, we’ve limited our scope to the new and different. None of this same ol’, same ol’ style seeking.

Many ministers fall into this same trap. We finished our learning in school and now we’re simply seeking whatever is going to get people in the doors, filling seats, and writing checks. We’ve stopped digging into deeper understanding in our reading, our conversations, and the basic habits and practices that shape the Christian life.

And yet, it’s through these basic habits and practices that we are most likely to encounter Christ. Through prayer. Through meditation on Scripture. Through the sharing of songs and Communion with the people of God. Through service and hospitality and fellowship. Through study. These are the things that form us. This is how we draw near to God. This is how we come to know Christ.

One of the things I most appreciated as a student in our Graduate School of Theology, and continue to appreciate as an employee of the GST, is the consistent emphasis on being a community of learners and disciples, of teaching and modeling how to be seekers. The GST understands the importance of knowledge, but as something that leads to a deeper wisdom, that understands theology as “faith seeking understanding.”

When Jesus enters the temple in chapter 21 of Matthew’s Gospel, he begins turning over tables because he came looking for a house or prayer and found something else entirely. The question I find myself asking increasingly often is what Christ might find if he visited our “house of prayer”? What might he find if he just visited our houses? Might he not start turning our lives over and asking, “What’s the story here?”

It’s easy to lose sight of our story and to find ourselves caught up in a different one, one in which we’re the central character, rather than Christ. To remain true to our calling as followers of Christ and finding our identity in him takes honesty and humility, discipline and courage, a commitment to discerning the truth and keeping an open mind. The shared commitment of all Christians, whether standing in the pulpit or sitting in the pew, leading singing or working in the nursery, teaching Sunday school or planning a potluck, is that we must never stop seeking.

About the author: Kester Smith (’15) graduated with a Master of Divinity from Abilene Christian University’s Graduate School of Theology and is also currently pursuing a MA in Theology. Kester is the Director of Student Formation and Vocational Discernment for the College of Biblical Studies at ACU.

GST Faculty Update 2017

by   |  10.11.17  |  ACU, Church, Ministry

I am continually amazed how our GST faculty engage in local church ministry. Of course, there are the obvious activities that everyone sees including church consultations and seminars, interim ministries, Elderlink, writing curriculum, and publishing articles and books that serve the life of the church. Yet, there are also those week-to-week engagements with local churches working as elders, Bible class teachers, and ministry leaders. For example, Fred Aquino can be found most Sunday mornings preaching at the Avenue B Church of Christ in Ballinger. Chris Flanders is often found these days preaching at the Maryneal Church of Christ. Mindi Thompson is a frequent Bible adult class teacher at the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene. And the list continues.

For the past four years, Jeff and Linda Childers were High School Huddle leaders for the Highland Church of Christ. Jeff recently told me, “Having the same batch of teenagers into our home every week during their high school years has been a highlight. From the silly to the sublime and the very serious, my wife Linda and I have been privileged to walk alongside an extraordinary group of youngsters on their journey into young adulthood.”

Mark Hamilton talked with me about his work as an elder at University Church of Christ. While being an elder at a church has many demands, he shared with me one part of the work he found especially joyful.  “Samjung and I have served with the campus ministry at UCC, spending a lot of time with students, mentoring some, teaching as needed, and trying to encourage our various campus ministers. We met with those students every Sunday evening for over five years. Last year was a transitional year for us as we stepped back from campus ministry (though we ran a small group chapel on campus on Thursdays for about a dozen UCC students and their friends).  We transitioned to the 20-somethings group, which Bradley Steele [GST alum] is leading.”

I appreciate working with world-class scholars. Spending time with them on a weekly basis for twenty years has shaped my thinking about God and the church in profound ways. More importantly, I am blessed to watch how they integrate the life of the mind with their daily walk with God and the church. I hear them pray and watch them pastor others. I am a witness to how my fellow GST faculty commit themselves to academic pursuits and the vocation of scholarship as a service to the church. How much more so is that service blessed as they also serve the church with their hearts and hands.

Peace,

Tim Sensing

Student Spotlight- Morgan DeBoer

by   |  10.09.17  |  ACU, College of Biblical Studies, Students

Morgan DeBoer is beginning her first semester studies at ACU’s Graduate School of Theology, pursuing master degrees in both Christian Ministry (MACM) and in Social Work (MSSW). She is originally from Council Bluffs, Iowa and graduated from York College, where she earned an undergrad degree in English.

Where you have seen God working recently?

I had not considered a formal degree in theology or ministry until recently, so the decision to begin this program was in several ways an uncertain one. But now that I am here, and immersed in my classes, I know that there is no place I would rather be, and nothing in the world I would rather be learning about. So I can’t help but wonder how God may have been at work this past year in ways I didn’t understand.

What made you decide to do a MACM & MSSW? 

There are some fairly broken contexts that I wanted to serve in, but I felt that I wouldn’t be truly equipped to do so without deeper training in discipleship, and a deeper understanding of God. So when I saw that ACU offered both a MACM and a MSSW degree, I was interested in how that might allow God to mold both my heart, and my skillset.

What would you like to do in the future/what do you feel is your calling?

I am somewhat of a vocational disaster, and wouldn’t say that I have ever sensed a clear calling. But that is one reason (among many) that I am grateful to be part of the GST, where it looks like I’ll have the opportunity to flesh out vocational direction with great teachers, mentors, and fellow students by my side.

Is grad school like what you had originally expected? If not, how is it different?  

I think before coming, I equated graduate school theology professor with untouchable magic wizard, so the accessibility of GST faculty caught me a little off-guard at first. The professors here are not only ten times cooler than any wizard but are clearly committed to GST students, challenging us in the classroom and engaging with us outside the classroom. Within my first two weeks I met several through church, GST hosted events, and my Mentor Group, and on all occasions they were so encouraging, asking about my move to Abilene, and reminding me they were glad I was here. So I am not exactly sure what I expected, but I am so grateful for what I have found. 

GST Author Highlight

by   |  10.09.17  |  ACU, Alumni, Bible, Church, College of Biblical Studies, Ministry, Professors, Theology

The Graduate School of Theology has many gifted authors who are using their talents to minister to the church & the world. Below are four books that have recently been published by either GST faculty or alumni. We hope they will be an inspiration to you.

 

Meditations for the Lone Traveler written by Mark Hamilton

“In writing this book, I wanted to speak to those who feel alone in their faith. Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Faith is not purely intellectual, but comprehensive in its impact on life. In the pursuit of faith, we are not alone.”

These twenty-two meditations on the songs, prayers, and stories of the Bible invite readers to imagine themselves as part of a world in which human beings may fully live into their sufferings and joys as part of a vibrant while still critically searching faith in God. Here we see prophets and  poets, as well as ordinary men and women, embrace the realities of life without apology or fear. For more information, click here.

 

The Oxford Handbook of the Epistemology of Theology edited by Fred Aquino

This volume brings together leading scholars in the fields of theology and epistemology to examine and articulate what can be categorized as appropriate epistemic evaluation in theology. Part one focuses on some of the epistemic concepts that have been traditionally employed in theology, such as  knowledge of God, revelation and scripture, reason and faith, experience, and tradition. Part two concentrates on concepts that have received significant attention in contemporary epistemology and can be related to theology, such as understanding, wisdom, testimony, virtue, evidence, foundationalism, realism/antirealism, scepticism, and disagreement. Part three offers examples from key figures in the Christian tradition and investigates the relevant epistemological issues and insights in these writers, as well as recognizing the challenges of connecting insights from contemporary epistemology with the subject of theology proper, namely, God. Part four centers on five emerging areas that warrant further epistemological consideration: Liberation Theology, Continental Philosophy, modern Orthodox writers, Feminism, and Pentecostalism. Learn more here.

 

Among the Early Evangelicals written by James Gorman 

Among the Early Evangelicals charts a new path showing convincingly that the earliest leaders of this Movement cannot be understood apart from a robust evangelical and missionary culture that traces its roots back to the eighteenth century. Leaders, including such luminaries as Thomas and Alexander Campbell, borrowed freely from the outlook, strategies, and methodologies of this transatlantic culture. More than simple Christians with a unique message shaped by frontier democratization, the adherents in the Stone-Campbell Movement were active participants in a broadly networked, uniquely evangelical enterprise. Find more information here.

 

Pray Like You Breathe: Exploring the Practice of Breath Prayer written by Houston Heflin

Pray Like You Breathe: Exploring the Practice of Breath Prayer chronicles the history and practice of this unique spiritual discipline focusing primarily on the Psalms as a reservoir of language for prayer. The book can be used as a 28-day experience of prayer for individuals or it can also be used as curriculum for small groups and Bible classes. Purchase your own copy on Amazon here

The Carmichael-Walling Lectures-2017

by   |  10.09.17  |  Announcements, Church, Theology

 

 

 

 

The 2017 Carmichael-Walling Lectures will take place on Thursday, November 9. Our lecturer will be Dr. Mark Goodacre, Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Duke University.“How Well Do They Know Each Other?”

Dr. Goodacre will speak on the relationship between John and the other New Testament Gospels. The first lecture, entitled John’s Dramatic Transformation of the Synoptics, deals with John’s knowledge of the Synoptic Gospels as revealed in the way he dramatizes their narratives. In John’s Christological Transformation of the Synoptics, Dr. Goodacre addresses the understated similarities in the Christology of the Synoptic Gospels and that of the Gospel of John. In short, they know one another better than some interpreters of the New Testament have allowed.

The Lectures will occur at 4:00 and 7:00 in room 114 of the Biblical Studies Building on the ACU campus. They are free and open to the public.

 

 

 

Summit Review 2017

by   |  10.06.17  |  ACU, Bible, Church, Ministry, Theology

ACU Summit 2017, “Ancient Scripture, Future Church: The Choices We Make and the God We Serve,”  focused on Deuteronomy, the ways this ancient text informs the future of the church and the choices we make as we strive to serve God. Approximately twenty eight GST faculty, staff, current students, and alumni spoke at this year’s Summit lecture series! People traveled from all over the world to attend the lectures and to a partake in many valuable conversations. Below are four all day tracks where GST faculty, staff, students or alumni spoke about throughout the week.

 

Ancient- Future Bible:

The Word of God is living and active, and it has been so for millennia. The rich heritage we have from our predecessors in the faith, from manuscripts to art and from reflection to action, can be a profound source of spiritual strength today. This track, hosted by Curt Niccum, empowers Christians to engage God and his creation in new ways by going back to the future. Those who spoke on this topic were Wendell Willis, Jeff Childers, Glenn Pemberton, David Kneip and Curt Niccum. Our speakers shed light on topic such as recovering the Words of Jesus, interpreting the text about Jonah and the war over women in the Word.

Congregational Leadership:

With today’s complexities of congregational leadership, church leaders must seek wisdom as they navigate the winds of change. This track, hosted by Eric Gentry, will explore healthy leadership practices, pastoral ministry, spiritual discernment, and future

imagination for congregational leaders. Speakers included Colin & Barry Packer, Kasey McCollum, Jovan Barrington and Chess Cavitt. Topics explored included congregational grief and loss, what the church’s purpose is in this new era and leadership models for God’s Mission.

Ministering in the Small Church:

Although there is no official number that makes a congregation “small” or “large,” there are definite and noticeable differences between the two.  Most books, lectures, conversations, etc. are geared toward larger congregations. This track, hosted by Shawn D. Johnson, is intended to provide encouragement, guidance, and lessons specifically for small (but equally important) churches and those who minister to them. Tim Sensing, Shawn D. Johnson, Wes Horn and Trent Tanaro spoke wisdom about this topic throughout the week. These speakers explored conversations about size and location in relations to Churches of Christ, ministry in small towns and finding treasure in the big but also small things.

Business and Mission:

Sometimes, the mission field looks like a foreign country. Other times, it looks like the world of business. Tuesday of Summit, Dodd Roberts will host an all-day track examining “Business and Mission,” a track that will hopefully provide inspiration for potential Christian business-owners and employees as well as encouragement for those already operating as Christians in the world of business. A variety of speakers came to speak about Business and Mission in our world, which included Walter Cunningham, Chi-Ming Chien, Jarrod Brown, Gary Ginter, Lauren McAfree, Jan Martinez, Julie Sullivan, Don Simmons, Jason Fisher, Bill Job, Courtney MIlls, Matthew Rohrs and Mats Tunehag. Topics these guests spoke on included things such as “Business and Missions Abroad”, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the Marketplace” and “From Non-Profit to For Profit.”

Download MP3 files of all the lectures for free on itunes! www.acu.edu/itunessummit