Archive for ‘Alumni’

Alumni Spotlight: Chris Smith

by   |  03.19.18  |  Alumni

Alumni Spotlight: Chris Smith (D.Min., ’08)

Chris Smith grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and since then has been active in ministry in Tennessee as well as Kentucky and Texas. He received his BA from Lipscomb University, a M.Div from Harding School of Theology and lastly, his D.Min from ACU’s Graduate School of Theology.  Chris currently lives in Brentwood, Tennessee with his wife Vicki, where they are parents to three wonderful children and three grandchildren. Read more to hear about Chris’s current ministry role, advice for current graduate students and where he sees God working throughout his life recently.


Where are you currently ministering, and what is your role?

I have been the Preaching Minister for the Harpeth Hills church of Christ for 20 years. I also assist churches and nonprofits with Capital Campaigns as a Senior Consultant with the Carpenter’s Plan.

  More »

The Grace of God

by   |  02.14.18  |  Alumni

The Grace of God

Every year on Ash Wednesday, those of us in the Christian tradition who follow the Revised Common Lectionary get the same set of passages read to our congregations as we, in our liturgies, remind people that they are dust and to dust they shall return as they begin their Lenten fasts. In the selections from the New Testament, we hear from Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 and from Matthew, in the Gospel according to Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21.

Ash Wednesday Cross

It is often noted that there is a brilliant paradox of reading Jesus’ warning in the sermon on the mount, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them” on a day when we literally wear the sign of the cross. Today, we will wear the cross, not silver-plated and beautifully designed, but we wear the cross of ashes smeared upon our foreheads by imperfect sinners who remind us all that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Naturally, it is easy to let this day feel somber and dark – it is hard to be reminded of the one thing that most of us spend our lives trying to forget: that we, yes, even we will die.

The paradox of Jesus’ warning, which should guide us not just today, but throughout our whole Lenten fast, is not the only paradox with which we are presented in today’s readings. The reading from 2 Corinthians presents to us a whole set of paradoxes that characterize the Christian life. In our Christian life we are unknown, and yet well known, we are dying, yet alive, we are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. The whole of the Christian life is made up of these paradoxes; there are these paradoxes which operate for us all the time under the surface, some of which we are aware of, and some of which we are not.

As a fairly new Episcopalian, I still remember the first time I knew that I was in the right Christian tradition. I knew I was in the right place at the first funeral I attended; I knew I was in the right place, because as that community celebrated the life and mourned the death of a beloved matriarch of the church, held in tandem with our tears and our sadness was cries of alleluia and the colors and songs that resound when a new Christian is baptized. Our burial rite is careful to note the paradox that Paul puts forth here: we are dying, yet we are alive.

In our Christian lives, we are unknown, and yet well known. The God who created and loves us continually invites us into relationship; not because we’ve earned God’s love or because we put forth our best face, but because in our darkest moments it is God who knows us when we feel entirely unseen or unknowable. More »

Food & the Kingdom of God

by   |  02.07.18  |  Alumni

Food & the Kingdom of God

Part 3 of 3

Read Part 1 and Part 2 here!

Spend a short time reading Scripture and quickly we discover food becomes a place where people encounter God. To name a few: Abraham welcoming three strangers, Moses and the elders eating with God on the mountain, Elijah being fed by a widow, tax collectors and prostitutes welcomed to dine at a table with Jesus, Peter being welcomed to a table of fish cooked on a charcoal fire, the Corinthian church sharing a communal meal at worship. Sharing food was a means whereby people could encounter God and experience the salvation of God. Sharing food is a means whereby we encounter God and experience the in-breaking kingdom of God.

Jesus Gathered Around Tables of Food

Before we talk about tables of food, can we be reminded of the synagogue: the place of worship? The synagogue was the place where Scripture was read and preached. The synagogue was where the people of God were formed deeper into the life of God. The synagogue became a place where God’s people were reminded of who they were and what they were called to be in this world. The synagogue was vitally important for the formation of God’s people. Jesus spent a lot of time in the synagogue.

Did Jesus ever invite people to join him in the synagogue in ways that resemble the invitation we extend to people to join us in our places of worship on Sunday morning? Jesus certainly told people he healed to go and show themselves to the priest. Yes, Jesus was a regular participant in the life of a synagogue. But, did Jesus ever invite people to join him in the synagogue? More »

Reading Scripture in the Context of a Neighborhood

by   |  01.11.18  |  Alumni

Reading Scripture in the Context of a Neighborhood

Part 2 of 3

A few years ago, I was sitting with Anna Carter Florence when the question was posed concerning how we read Scripture. I do not remember fully what Florence said, except that she was wondering if the location of reading Scripture mattered. Does the location by which Scripture is read and proclaimed matter? Do we hear the words of Scripture differently depending upon the location? Hearing God speak on the mountain versus hearing God speak in the wilderness—does location matter?

Ever since I sat with Florence that afternoon and listened to her theologically wonder about the location of reading Scripture, I’ve been paying attention to the location in which the community of faith is hearing Scripture.


We live in a “sea of words,” writes Richard Lischer (1). There are many words competing for our attention. We could also describe our lives as busy, conflicting, and overburdened. And yet, we intentionally set time aside to gather as a community in worship so that we can hear the Word of God. We carve out time in our lives to respond to the One who calls us deeper into the life of God. In worship we hear the living Word of God proclaimed. In a “sea of words”, we intentionally tune our ears to hear God speak through the words of Scripture.

Bible Studies More »

Knowing Your Neighborhood

by   |  12.15.17  |  Alumni

Knowing Your Neighborhood

Part 1 of 3

One Sunday morning, years ago, a refugee family showed up at church and they kept coming back. I walked out of the office one afternoon, made my way up the street, and knocked on the front door of where the refugees were living. The door opened and the gift of hospitality was extended. Over coffee, I learned of their story. I also learned this family was deeply committed to the life of Christ.

Over the next several months I would continue to unexpectedly drop in. One day the matriarch of the family said something similar to the following:

Seeing you at our front door reminds me of our church back home. Back home the preacher was the priest who made daily visits to the neighbors. The neighborhood knew the priest and the priest knew the neighborhood. But it seems, in North America, the neighborhood doesn’t know the priest and the priest doesn’t know the neighborhood.

Ethnography of the Neighborhood

A common refrain by those engaged in the missional church conversation is that the church does not have a mission, but the mission of God has a church. Those leading the conversation then help churches discover the avenues in which churches can join God already in His mission. However, often what is lacking in these conversations is knowledge of the neighborhood we are sent too (Luke 10:1-12). If we are going to be communities of faith announcing the nearness of God’s kingdom while we heal, cast out demons, and receive hospitality by the strangers, I wonder if one of the first steps we must take is to know the neighborhood to which we are being sent. More »

CEO of Village of Hope & GST Alum Visits Abilene

by   |  12.14.17  |  Alumni

Fred Asare, Village of Hope, GST

Fred Asare: Chief Executive Officer of Village of Hope, GST Alum, and Friend of Many

Fred Asare completed a MA in Christian Ministry here at the Graduate School of Theology a few years back and during a short trip to Texas, he stopped by ACU’s campus. As Fred walked through our halls, you could hear faculty, staff, and current students all exclaming their joy of seeing Fred back on campus. Tim Sensing, Associate Dean (pictured), enjoyed getting to hear more about the powerful work he and his team are doing at Village of Hope.

During his brief visit, Fred took a moment to update us on the exciting changes and challenges facing Village of Hope. As an answer to countless prayers and an extreme amount of hard work, a small orphanage with hopes of helping a few children has grown into the largest orphanage in the country. Now, approximately 1,400 children and young adults are cared for through their orphanages, schools, trade schools, colleges, and hospitals. Click here to watch a video about Fred’s life and the impact of Village of Hope. 

Due to this growth, Fred tells us they are in need of prayers for wisdom now more than ever. Many young lives, both physically and spiritually, are in their daily care. Fred and the Village of Hope team truly exemplify what it means to trust and rely on God as they work to provide the daily needs for all of these children. 

When asked about an area where he has seen God working, Fred replied, “I’ve seen God working in so many ways, but one way would definitely be in the transformation of lives. For example, years ago we took in a young orphan boy who did not know english. And now, he’s graduating from college and walks a christian life.”

Fred also shared how incredibly thankful he is for his time in the GST. He spoke of how his classes transformed his thinking and thoughts on ministry. He is also incredibly thankful to his professors for modeling Christ-like lives and the reminder that people matter to God and to us. As Fred was blessed by the teaching and the people here at the GST, so the GST community is blessed to know him. More »

Alumni Spotlight- Nathan Pickard

by   |  12.14.17  |  Alumni

Meet GST Alum, Nathan Pickard!

Nathan lives in Newmarket, Ontario with his wife Katie and two boys, Caleb and Eli. He enjoys spending his time playing hockey with the kids. He also has a love for the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing. He received a Master of Divinity and a Doctorate of Ministry from ACU. Most recently, he wrote a small book called Praying for the Neighborhood and also contributed a chapter to the book called Along the Way which was edited by Ron Bruner and Dana Pemberton. He also writes for our GST Blog.


1) Where are you currently working & what is your role?

I am the minister at Newmarket Church of Christ (a small city 40 minutes north of Toronto). I have been serving this congregation for just over 13 years. 

2) Do you feel like the GST prepared you for your current role? If so, how? More »

Tell Me a Story

by   |  11.02.17  |  Alumni

Tell Me a Story

I had their attention, and holding the attention of 20 five-year-olds is no easy task, but I had it and I knew that whether or not I knew what I would say next, I had better make it compelling. I held their attention as I recounted a story that we all know, a story that they all knew as well, but I told it with excitement and enthusiasm as if should I fail to share this story I might very well burst. They listened with wide eyes and eager hearts, and once the story of the three bears was done, they craved another. This, perhaps, is less about my ability to make even the most rote stories exciting for a preschool class and more about the ways in which we all crave a sense of connection found in the telling and the hearing of stories.

On the liturgical calendar, we have just celebrated All Saints’ Day; it is one of my favorite feast days among the church calendar. I love this feast day because it is a day set aside for stories. It is a day in which we recount the saints with which we are familiar, and perhaps we learn about ones that are more obscure. In many Christian traditions, the communion of saints is celebrated, among which we celebrate those whose lives were dedicated to following Christ.

Most Episcopal churches, the Christian tradition of which I am a part, will have a necrology read on the Sunday following All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1); it is a solemn, holy listing, because to hear name after name after name of people who have died is to remember that the story of their life touched not only their families or their friends, but all of us who share in the communion of saints with them. It is joyous, also, because to remember them is to remember that their lives were not solely marked by the story of their death, but by the everlasting hope of the resurrection.

I love All Saints’ Day because it is a chance to hear the story; it is a chance to hear the story of how faithful Christians, century after century, strived to live into the hope of the resurrection that we know to be true. It is a chance to hear the ways in which our grandmothers and grandfathers in faith allowed their lives to be shaped by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and if ever there is a story that it is compelling, it is that of those attempting to follow the way of the cross. More »

Never. Stop. Seeking.

by   |  10.30.17  |  Alumni, Students

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 More »

GST Author Highlight

by   |  10.09.17  |  Alumni

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. More »

Doctor of Ministry Graduates Present at National Conference

by   |  04.26.17  |  Alumni

The Academy of Religious Leadership is an international academic guild of professors, scholars, and practitioners who gather for an annual conference each spring to read papers, interact about what is new in the field of leadership, and deepen theological reflection and innovative theory for the sake of healthy churches and religious organizations. This spring’s conference, held April 20-22 in a downtown hotel in Chicago, also witnessed a rather significant gathering of alumni from Abilene Christian University’s Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program.

Dr. Carson Reed (’95), the director of ACU’s D.Min. program is also on the board of the Academy for Religious Leadership. Some months ago, when a new initiative was announced to reach out to various Doctor of Ministry programs and Doctor of Philosophy programs in leadership with a call for papers from recent graduates, Dr. Reed submitted about a dozen recent graduates from ACU’s program. The call for papers went out and out of the submissions received, a committee accepted five papers from ACU graduates—along with past students from places like Duke University, Fuller Seminary, Luther Seminary, Trinity Evangelical, Seattle University, and TCU. No other program had as many representatives among the 20 papers presented.

Pictured left to right are Dr. Carson Reed, Dr. Jimmy Hensley (’16), Dr. Stephen Shaffer (’12), Dr. Ben Pickett (’13), Dr. Randall Carr (’15), and Dr. Jason Locke (’11).

Each of them had a presentation that came out of their doctoral project/thesis. Of particular import is that every presentation demonstrated thoughtful theological and theoretical reflection that led to specific ministerial intervention and action.

In additional news, Reed was elected to serve as a co-editor for the Academy’s peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of Religious Leadership. Serving with Dr. Stephen Sprinkle of TCU’s Brite Divinity School, Reed and Sprinkle begin their work with the fall edition of the journal.

Introducing Kester Smith

by   |  06.29.15  |  Alumni, Announcements

The ACU Graduate School of Theology is pleased to announce that Kester Smith has joined our staff as the GST Recruiter.

Kester is a recent GST graduate, having completed his MDiv. in May. Prior to pursuing an MDiv, Kester worked as a teacher, youth minister, and, most recently, a bi-vocational church-planter and bookseller in Austin, TX. This combination of ministry and GST experience make Kester an invaluable asset for understanding the calling of those considering theological education and how the GST might best serve that calling.

Kester is married to Rachel Smith, who works as an Instructor and Clinical Supervisor in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Kester and Rachel have one son, Harrison, who will be a 6th grader at Craig Middle School this coming fall.

We asked for an informal interview with Kester, in order to get to know him a little better.


  1. Food – When I was still eating meat, it was my mom’s chicken potpie. Now that I’m a vegetarian it’s either a spicy yellow tofu curry (Krua Thai serves a great one) or my chickenless version of my mom’s pot pie. My favorite “on the go” food is a potato, egg, and cheese breakfast taco.
  2. Song – People that know me will be shocked that it isn’t a Bruce Springsteen song, but they probably wouldn’t be considering my love for hymns. My favorite song is either “Amazing Grace,” “Come Thou Fount,” or “Be Thou My Vision.” Were Springsteen to record acoustic versions of any of those songs, my head would explode.
  3. Book – Not to give the obvious answer, but the Bible truly is my favorite book. With that as a given, my favorite novel is either Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov or Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. My favorite authors (besides Dostoevsky and Robinson) include Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Flannery O’Connor, Abraham Heschel, Toni Morrison, N.T. Wright, and pretty much every member of the Inklings. I’m also partial to the writings of Maximus the Confessor and Julian of Norwich. I like books a lot.
  4. Movie/television show – My favorite film is It’s A Wonderful Life. My favorite television show is probably The Simpsons, as long as we’re talking about the early seasons.
  5. Vacation spot – I was raised in Chicago and it is still my favorite place to visit, when I have the chance to travel. I’d like to visit Ireland, England, and Scotland some day, but haven’t yet been able to afford the trip.

Either/Or More »

Notes from an alumna

by   |  07.16.10  |  Alumni

It’s always wonderful to watch the work of our alumni and alumnae, both those who are just beginning the life of ministry, and those who have been at it awhile.  You will enjoy an article one of our recent graduates, Jordan Wesley, wrote in the current issue of “Wineskins.”  It’s called “Why Justice Matters.”  Hear the voices of our younger Christian leaders as they remind those of us who are not so young anymore of what really matters.  Jordan is a terrific person making a real difference, and I know you’ll enjoy reading her work.

And, while we’re talking about that, please let us know what you’re doing.  We hope this blog will grow into a commons for communicating with each other about the important things in life.  Until then, all the best.