Archive for ‘Alumni’

On the Training of Ministers

0 Commentsby   |  01.09.18  |  ACU, Alumni, Hope, Ministry, Mission of God, Students, Theology

On the Training of Ministers

Pete Ward’s new book Introducing Practical Theology: Mission, Ministry, and the Life of the Church (Baker Academic, 2017), emphasizes throughout the importance of the church and the lived experience of the community of faith. Ward describes well two conversations that I often have with prospective students and mid-career ministers. First, why do people desire to begin theological studies? Many simply have an affinity for knowing more about their faith. They see more rigorous engagement with the Bible, Church History, Theology, and Ministerial Practice will make a difference in their personal growth and congregation’s well being. He states, “The desire to know more often comes out of a realization that we do not know enough. It is not at all unusual for practice to get ahead of theory. This could be a simple situation—for instance, being asked to lead a group study on a particular issue” (22). He goes on to describe that the resources often accessible are the first steps in becoming a theologically reflective practitioner. However, there comes a time when maybe a crisis or a heavy issue emerges that cannot be engaged in faithfully without formal and professional training. He continues, “This sense of a gap in knowledge can become particularly acute when someone, for example, has trained as a community activist or as a youth worker and his or her practice seems to have developed in ways that no longer fit with previous theological understanding. This experience is actually common, and it is one of the main reasons ministers and others who are professionally engaged in different kinds of ministry want to return to academic institutions to study theology, and practical theology in particular” (23).

The second conversation Ward describes as an ongoing and “normal Christian experience.” He states,

Practitioners often find that they have lost their theological bearings. Losing a theological orientation is not quite the same as losing faith. The normal pattern is that practitioners continue to find their personal faith to be meaningful and helpful, and God is still a reality in their lives. At the same time, they start to become more hazy about how this personal faith connects to what they do. … It is like taking an inflatable raft out onto the water. Drifting with the current seems pleasant, but after a while you can find yourself quite far from where you are meant to be. Practical theology is one of the ways that practitioners can look up from where their professional ministry has taken them and find ways to reorient themselves (23).

Ward concludes the chapter describing the possible reasons why ministers find themselves adrift. The gap between theory and practice (long ago described by Aristotle but keenly felt by every generation since), the ever-shifting contexts in society, the overwhelming need of people, globalization, and the complexity of the ministerial task often deflate one’s ministerial aspirations and capacities. While not the only reason, the gap ministers feel between their aspirations and their practices is why many return to school to pursue the Doctor of Ministry degree.

The dual services of the Graduate School of Theology and the Siburt Institute represent two facets of ACU’s desire to serve churches. I believe it is the responsibility of the church (not the school) to raise up the next generation of leaders. The school partners with churches by providing theological training to those identified as “called” to serve the people of God. The Siburt Institute provides resources for ministers and congregations who serve on behalf of God for the sake of the world. More »

ACU Doctor of Ministry Program Offers Unique Opportunity

0 Commentsby   |  01.09.18  |  ACU, Alumni, Announcements, Contexual Education

Current Doctor of Ministry students and alumni will meet at Saint John’s Abbey this coming March for a course titled “Living in the Tradition”. The course will be taught by GST’s Director of Contextual Education and Assistant Professor of Practical Theology, Dr. Brady Bryce. 

Over the course of five days, students will attend daily prayers with the Benedictine monks, explore the spirituality of ministers, and grow closer with a community of other ministers and friends. The course will also allow students to experience Christian traditions different than their own in deep and meaningful ways.

According to the Dr. Bryce, “This is an opportunity for separation from routine, from media, from familiar surroundings in order to seek God.”

The Abbey is located on 2,740 acres of woodlands and lakes, just 90 miles from the Twin Cities in Minnesota. To get a better feel for the splendor of the campus, take a virtual tour here.

Dr. Carson Reed, Director of the Doctor of Ministry program, believes this course fits in with our vision of grounding the program in contextual learning and reflective action. Dr. Reed says, “the Living in the Tradition course is a wonderful example of placing ministers and leaders in a particular context to learn about a way of prayer. More importantly, it creates the space for ministers to ask about their own particular contexts—churches and communities—and how those contexts are sacred and full of the presence of God.” More »

Faculty Highlight: Dr. Richard Wright

0 Commentsby   |  01.08.18  |  ACU, Alumni, College of Biblical Studies, Professors, Theology

Get to know our Associate Professor of New Testament, Dr. Richard Wright!

I was born in Lubbock, Texas and raised in Emporia, Kansas. I graduated from Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio with degrees in Violin Performance (BMus) and Religious Studies (BA). After Oberlin, I came to ACU and worked with the ACU orchestra and taught violin while earning an MA in Ancient Church History. After completing that degree, I did not feel quite ready for doctoral work so I moved to the Perkins School of Theology at SMU and earned a Master of Theological Studies (MTS). I finally earned my PhD from Brown University (in Providence, RI) in New Testament and Christian Origins. While I looked for academic positions, I managed documentation for a software company in Minneapolis, MN. After a couple of years in that role, an opportunity to serve as a reference librarian at Pitts Theology Library at Emory University in Atlanta arose. In addition to working the reference desk, I also provided desktop support for the library computers; I have a fascination with computer technology. By the time I left Pitts, eight years later, I had become director of technology for the school of theology. I left Emory to start teaching full time at Oklahoma Christian University. I taught primarily general education courses at the beginning of my nine years there. By the time I left OC to move to ACU, I had become chair of their Graduate School of Theology. I am married to Claudia–whom I met while I was at Oberlin (she plays oboe). We have four grown sons and two grandchildren–a boy and a girl.

What church do you currently attend and are in involved in any of its ministries?

I attend Minter Lane and regularly teach classes; periodically lead singing; and preach when needed.

How long have you been at ACU and what is your specific area of study?

I am in my third year at ACU and teach in areas related to the New Testament: the Critical Interpretation of the New Testament, exegetical seminars in New Testament letters, and languages related to the New Testament–Greek, of course, but I have been teaching some Latin as well.

What inspired your interest in this specific area of study? More »

Knowing Your Neighborhood

by   |  12.15.17  |  ACU, Alumni, Christianity, Church, Gospel, Hospitality, Ministry, Mission of God, Worship

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 More »

CEO of Village of Hope & GST Alum Visits Abilene

by   |  12.14.17  |  ACU, 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  |  ACU, Alumni, Church, Evangelism, Ministry, Mission, Professors, Students, Theology

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 »

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. More »

Doctor of Ministry Graduates Present at National Conference

by   |  04.26.17  |  ACU, 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  |  ACU, 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, Justice, Mission of God, New Wineskins, Theology

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.