Archive for ‘Students’

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. 

Discovering My Vocation: The Fanning of the Flames

by   |  09.05.17  |  ACU, Ancient Languages, Bible, CSART, College of Biblical Studies, Students, Theology

Recently I was browsing my TimeHop (which, for those who are blissfully unaware, is a cell phone app that mercilessly displays your unfiltered social media posts from today’s date in years past) when I came across a Tweet from four years ago that read something like this: “Is it weird that I’m actually really excited to learn Greek???” If I could talk to this four-years-in-the-past Ryne, I’d tell him that although it is quite weird for you to have shared such an arbitrary thought with the entire Internet, you will be delighted to know that your desire to learn Greek is not weird at all but will in fact be quite fruitful.

That naïve version of me couldn’t have really understood how rewarding the study of this ancient language would be. Indeed, only now in retrospect am I able to fathom the many doors that were opened to me through my study of Greek (and, eventually, other ancient languages) at ACU.

At the outset of my undergrad time at ACU I had only a vague sense of vocation. Something to do with the Bible, something to do with ministry. I was sure that the arc of my career would involve these two aspects, but I had no clearer direction than that.

The story of how my vocational understanding eventually crystallized is long and multifaceted, but for the purposes of this post, you only need to know the primary catalyst and the new ministerial yearning that it sparked within me. The catalyst was Greek; the yearning was for a ministry conducted not in a church building, but in a classroom.

The long and short of it was that I absolutely loved learning Greek. Before college, I had no particular interest in language learning, but Greek opened my eyes not only to a new skillset that I possessed, but also to new doorways through which to study the biblical text that I held so dear. My first taste of Greek was sort of like a baby’s first bite of chocolate cake at their first birthday party—I wasn’t quite sure what this new thing was, but I was absolutely sure that I wanted more.

Luckily for me, I happened to choose a university with a faculty that was uniquely and diversely equipped to give me more. Languages were a huge part of what brought me to the Graduate School of Theology for my master’s work. I had drank deeply from the well of Greek in undergrad and had dipped my toe in the waters of Hebrew, and the GST offered an opportunity for more of the same as well as an expansion of my linguistic horizons.

In my first year at the GST I got involved with CSART—The Center for the Study of Ancient Religious Texts. I’ve spoken above about the doors that language learning at ACU has opened for me, and this has been one of the biggest. In CSART, students (undergrad and grad) have the opportunity to partner with experts in textual scholarship in the study of primary biblical and early Christian texts. The project that I’m currently on, for example, is working with a seventh century monastic text called The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

studying ancient artifacts

Ryne examining books & artifacts at the Matthew Parker Library in Cambridge.

My involvement in this project, as well as in another one during my time in undergrad, opened two very tangible doors for my academic career: two summer trips to a conference in Oxford, England. The Logos Conference is hosted by the Museum of the Bible Scholars Initiative, with which CSART partners in its projects. Because of the generosity of the Green family (the owners of Hobby Lobby, who founded the Museum of the Bible and the Scholars initiative) as well as the work that CSART does, I was able to spend a couple of weeks each of the past two summers in Oxford with other students from all around the world listening to and learning from internationally renowned biblical scholars.

Those experiences in Oxford were especially formative for me, not just because of the academic interest they held for me but for the way they affirmed my sense of vocation. I’ve spent most of this post spotlighting the way language learning at ACU has opened doors for me, but now I want to turn briefly to that ministerial yearning I mentioned before. My affinity for ancient biblically related languages has not only been fruitful in scholarly opportunities, it has also instilled in me a deep appreciation and passion for the importance of these ancient languages in studying the Scriptures.

At those conferences in Oxford I was able to look around and see professional scholars engaged in an academic sort of ministry as well as many students like myself aspiring to do the same. My paradigm for ministry had been shifting and I was beginning to wonder if teaching the Bible and its languages in a higher education context could actually be considered ministry. For my whole life I had thought of ministry as something that was done in either a church building or a mission field, so this idea that it might also be done in a classroom was foreign and frankly a little difficult to wrap my head around. But it was in Oxford that I finally settled into this vision of ministry and fully accepted that my passion for the biblical text and its languages could and should be leveraged into a teaching ministry conducted in the classrooms of a university.

So now as I reflect back on that tweet from four years ago and I think about the excitement that preceded my first day of Greek class, I realize that that enthusiasm was pregnant with something much weightier than academic curiosity. It was dripping with divine purpose, and though I couldn’t see it yet, that purpose would dramatically reorient my world. It would open academic doors that I didn’t know existed, it would deepen my connection with the biblical text that I loved, and it would define the shape of my ministerial vocation.

I had a déjà vu experience a few days ago that helped put this all in perspective for me. As I walked into my last class of the week, I realized that it was next door to an old familiar room. I glanced inside at the handful of youthful faces—a few of which were fresh with the excitement of a new academic challenge. I recognized that look in their eyes. And I recognized the voice of the professor, introducing another batch of students to the wide world of New Testament Greek. I remembered fondly the first time I had sat in that room, excited for the challenge but naïve to the opportunity.

And then I walked through another door. With the voice of my first-year Greek professor still barely audible, I sat down in the midst of that old familiar anticipation. And with thankfulness for the way that spark of intrigue in Greek had been fanned into a full-fledged flame of passion for ancient languages, I pulled out my syllabus for Elementary Syriac. Another new door that will undoubtedly lead to more opportunities—academic, spiritual, and ministerial all.

Student Spotlight

by   |  10.17.16  |  Students

Zane Witcher is a first year GST residential student, was recently highlighted in myACU News. The article begins,

“Zane Witcher delivered his first sermon when he was 14 years old. His grandparents attended a small church of 20 people, and they needed a preacher for a Sunday service. He said that first sermon was “rough,” but soon not only his grandparents but other churches were asking him to preach.”  Read the full story here.

Evans Ngoge

by   |  03.29.16  |  Students

The Graduate School of Theology has a long history of service to churches and ministries in Africa. Recently, Abilene’s local news highlighted the work of Evans Ngoge in their Know Your Neighbor section. Read the online post here.

International Residential Opportunities

by   |  05.28.15  |  Distance Education, Learning, Students

This week Dr. Mindi Thompson, Director of Distance Education for the Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University, wrote “Global Seminary Programs: Learning across Cultures Online, at Home and Abroad” for Colloquy. 

Read article here.

Commenting on the article, Brad Carter, ACU alumnus with both a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry (2000) and Master of Arts in Religion (2003), states,

Some of the lessons learned lead to an idea I’ve been tossing around with folks for the past 18 months. Situations like these may need for an African “guide” or “translator” that is on-the ground assisting African students and the professor in making the cultural connections, assisting with appropriate communication (like the email greetings as mentioned), translating cultural metaphors and colloquialisms, and helping African students make the relevant cultural application to the material that is often difficult for a Western lecturer to do — at least at first. This may be another area that is worth exploring in having someone in Swaziland that can communicate, participate in the courses as a guide, and play the role of translator/guide alongside the lecturer — much like the recruiter or person who was the original point of contact that serves as the go-between. –Brad Carter, President of African Christian College, Swaziland, www.AfricanChristianCollege.org

The GST is exploring other options for expanding our service to the continent of Africa. We are having extensive conversations with the good work at African Christian College. Once we figure out some logistics, the GST expects this site to be the third residential site for graduate theological education. The primary hurdle that faces us is the funding needed to scholarship African students is much higher than American students (90% scholarships or $1620/course). However, the GST’s commitment to serve out weighs these financial issues.

With the exception to offer residential courses in Zagreb and Accra approved by the ATS Board of Commissioners in 2013, ACU has the opportunity to be a leader in international theological education. Thanks to Dr. Mindi Thompson for her role in directing the GST’s distance education program and making these dreams realities.

Bridging the Gap in Distance Education

by   |  05.16.14  |  ACU, Announcements, Ministry, Students

The Graduate School of Theology has a long history of educating students while they serve in local congregations.  Whether it’s a youth minister across town, a preacher in the Metroplex, or an intern working part-time for a rural congregation, we’ve always tried to provide flexible class options.  We have one-week intensive courses in August, January, and May.  We offer two-weekend short courses in the fall and spring semesters.  We even schedule our full-semester classes as three-hour blocks once a week so students who commute to campus can take classes on their day off.

This year, class options for our non-residential students got a lot more flexible.  Our accrediting agency – the Association of Theological Schools – approved our petition to offer up to 75% of the Master of Arts in Christian Ministry (MACM) in an online format.  For this 48-hour degree, that means only 12 credits – the remaining 25% – must be taken in a face-to-face setting.  That’s just four classes.  Students can take residential intensive classes when it best fits in their schedule while the majority of their coursework is completed online.  They don’t have to wait for required courses to be offered on the right day or in an intensive format.  They don’t have to spend so much time away from their families – or their ministries – taking classes on campus.  Students can serve congregations at a greater distance from Abilene, whether that’s across the country or around the world.  And all the while they’re still getting a world-class theological education from full-time GST faculty.  How’s that for the best of both worlds?  Serving students, serving the church – that’s what we’ve always done.

For more information about the MACM or our other degree options for non-residential students, contact Dr. Melinda (Mindi) Thompson, Director of Distance Education:  mlt11a@acu.edu, (325) 674-3706.

 

BMIS 680 Urban Missions

by   |  03.09.11  |  Announcements, Contextual Theology, Contexual Education, Ministry, Mission, Mission of God, Society, Students

A one-week intensive course in New York City

May 28- June 4, 2011

Dr. Jared Looney – Bronx Fellowship, Adjunct Professor

Why? At the beginning of the 21st century, more than half of the globe is now urban, and in North America 83% of the population is distributed in 475 major metropolitan areas.  Urban worldviews and lifestyles touch virtually every corner of our society – whether central city, edge city, suburb, or exurb.  Urban demographics are constantly shifting.  Urban life touches the church as arts, business, education, politics, and nearly every aspect of societal discourse emerges from within cities.  Urbanism – both as place and as worldview – matters to the whole church from the suburb to the central city.   

How? In a one-week intensive, students will engage in theological and missiological reflection while embedded in a diverse urban context.  The class will benefit from interactions with the city as well as with practitioners serving in the city.  Ranging from youth culture to community development to church planting to congregational ministry, missional practice will be emphasized.  Students will focus on theological principles, cultural context, and practical ministry.

Course Fee = $185
The course fee includes lodging at Refuge House (Bronx, NY) for seven nights; most meals; and Metro Card for transportation about the city.
Students are responsible for their own travel to/from NYC.

For more information contact Dr. Stephen Johnson, Director of Contextual Education.

Mercy Project

by   |  12.17.10  |  ACU, Change, Christianity, Contextual Theology, Contexual Education, Hope, Jesus, Justice, Learning, Ministry, Mission of God, Students, Theology, Video

At ACU Graduate School of Theology, we are convinced that deep learning requires real-world engagement. Contextual education–the phrase we use to describe this approach–reimagines the “classroom,” and “study;” and it means that we get to watch students partner with God in truly amazing ways. Working on behalf of enslaved children in Ghana, West Africa, Chris Field (Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, Executive Director of Mercy Project) is one such student. These are his words:

His name is Tomas, and he is about nine years old. He sits perfectly still in the middle of a small wooden fishing boat and watches my every move closely. I reach my hand out to him, and he slowly reaches back. As his small, dark hand embraces mine, these incredulous words form in my mind: “I am holding the hand of a slave.” Tomas lives in Ghana, Africa where he fishes on a boat fourteen hours a day, seven days a week. Tomas was probably sold by a desperate mother, for about $20, to a man she hoped would be able to send Tomas to school and feed him three times each day. Instead, his life is miserable, full of dangerous work and only enough food to keep him alive.

Unfortunately, Tomas is just one of an estimated 7,000 children working as slaves in the fishing industry of Ghana. These are the children we are working to help. These children are the reason we started Mercy Project. Our initial focus was to raise as much money as we could to help the children in slavery. But it didn’t take us very long to realize that the scope and depth of the problem would require more of us. Long-term solutions to the issue of child slavery in Ghana would have to include economic development- economic development that attacked the poverty and lack of economic opportunity that “forced” men to buy children like Tomas in the first place. This is why we are working to transform Ghana’s economy by creating new industry and businesses that are not dependant on child slavery. This economic development and opportunity gives viable alternatives to the country’s current economic choices. We believe this transformation is what will help us save Tomas and the other children working as slaves in Ghana.

This Christmas season, in the midst of all the celebration, I keep catching myself thinking about Tomas. I am sad that–on the outside–he has little reason to celebrate. But I am grateful for the chance to work on his behalf, and I am hopeful that his next Christmas will be full of joy. We invite you to join us in praying for Tomas and all of the hurting people in our world. Could there be a more fitting way for us to celebrate the humble birth of our Lord Jesus?

Theology, Technology, and Innovation

by   |  11.29.10  |  ACU, College of Biblical Studies, David Kneip, Learning, Students, Theology, Video

ACU Graduate School of Theology, the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy, and the Department of Bible, Missions, and Ministry (DBMM) are all a part of the College of Biblical Studies at Abilene Christian University.  In the video below, DBMM instructor David Kneip speaks about theology, technology, and innovation at ACU.

Contextual Immersion in New York

by   |  11.23.10  |  Contextual Theology, Contexual Education, Mission, Mission of God, Students, Video

Carol Mendoza and Penny Peng, GST Students

In January, ACU GST students Carol Mendoza and Penny Peng will arrive in New York City for a seven month Contextual Immersion experience. During their time there, Carol and Penny will work closely with Jared Looney (Bronx Fellowship) who will serve as their Contextual Supervisor. They will be engaged in the life of the city and God’s mission in the world. Though not exclusively, Carol will move in relationship to the Hispanic Diaspora in New York and Penny the Chinese community. During the seven months, they both will earn nine hours toward their degree programs.

Sounds cool. What does this mean?

Contextual Education is at the heart of how we are forming students for ministry and mission in the Graduate School of Theology. This means we want our students’ learning and formation to be connected to the life and mission of God in the world in its particular expressions (contexts, if you will). From their first semesters in the GST, students are not only thinking about this notion, but actually participating in a particular context as “situated learners” (see Jean Lave & Etienne Wenger, Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation).  Students’ participation in a particular context stretches across the span of their degree program and deepens as they move through through it.  At the center of this deepening relationship is Contextual Immersion – something like the seven month immersion experience that for Carol and Penny will take place in New York.

While we who teach and administer in the GST have been conceiving of a “new curriculum” for some years now, it is students like Carol and Penny who are helping us bring the potential of it to fruition.  Penny and Carol have created a video that tells a bit more about them. 

Also, they are raising funds to make this experience possible.  If you are able to help them, you can make a contribution online here.

Dr. Stephen Johnson
Director of Contextual Education
Associate Professor of Ministry
ACU Graduate School of Theology
Abilene, TX 79699
General Editor, Academy 
of 
Homiletics 
Website

When Mommy Gives You Lemons, Make a Lemonade Stand

by   |  06.14.10  |  Contextual Theology, Hospitality, Students

After setting up a lemonade stand for mommy and daddy in the living room, our son decided to take his show on the road. Though ostensibly to grow his “Toy Story 3” fund, I think he really just enjoyed making the homemade, freshly squeezed treat and sharing it with others. He sold it cold in the doorway of my seminary office for “one, ten, or twenty-five cents.” The “customers” responded well to his approach- most payed a penny and left a quarter tip. He was also was quick to tell folks it could be free if they questioned the pricing structure. Thanks to all who stopped by!
aidanlemonade

Russ Kirby
Director of Student Services
ACU Graduate School of Theology
http://www.twitter.com/acugst
http://www.facebook.com/acugst

The Gift of Hope

by   |  04.28.10  |  Church, Hope, Ministry, Ministry Assessment, Students

Tim Sensing, DMIN, PHD - Director of Academic Services
Associate, Professor of Ministry, ACU Graduate School of Theology

Tim Sensing, DMIN, PHD - Director of Academic Services, Professor of Ministry, ACU Graduate School of Theology


Profiles of Ministry is an assessment given to all first year students who are enrolled in one of ACU Graduate School of Theology’s formation degrees (MDiv, MACM, MAMI). The assessment asks the participants to read several case scenarios and to respond according to how they think they would act in a particular situation. Afterwards, the participants are asked a series of questions orally that give them a chance to nuance their answers. For example, a case scenario might ask about a particular issue common in ministry. The students choose one of the items listed. It might not be the exact description of their preferred ministerial action, but it is the best one available. The audio interview allows the participants to elaborate about various areas of ministry through open-ended questions.

Over 40 areas are covered in the assessment measuring the students’ perceptions of ministry. For example, one of the indicators measures how balanced the students’ perspectives are regarding “world mission.” The item is measuring how likely the students are to choose between teaching the gospel and trying to meet a particular social or economic need. In other words, will they give a cup of water to quench someone’s thirst or are they more likely to open the Bible and share the gospel? ACU GST students consistently score “very likely” to be balanced. They are just as inclined to give a cup of cold water, as they are to “preach the gospel.” They discern on a case-by-case basis the best approach in each situation.

After listening to students answer questions and examining the results of the written reports for over 11 years, my hope for the future of the church grows. Let me offer two illustrations. One of the indicators measures “denominational collegiality.” Most of the GST students score “likely.” This is good news. If they scored, “very likely,” then we would wonder how realistic they are. They would need to remove the proverbial rose-colored glasses and realize that institutions are flawed and we all struggle to be what God has designed. Alternatively, if they were to score lower than “likely,” then we would question why they are considering ministry in the first place. Our students both love and are committed to the church. They are not looking to go elsewhere. They are not disenchanted or cynical. Other questions confirm this finding. Students are encouraged to be part of God’s family and consider the church as a healthy place for them to serve. Good news indeed.

The second example is similar. The last question of the interview asks about their perceptions of the future. Students express confidence in the people of God acting in ways that will serve others and honor God in significant ways. More importantly, they trust that God not only protects the church but also is active in achieving God’s will and purposes in the present and in the future.

I have the great joy of listening to future ministers’ perceptions of ministry and the church. These students bless me with the gift of hope.

ACU Graduate Chapel Sermon (Ben Fike): January 20

by   |  03.17.10  |  Chapel, Church, God with us, Hope, Hospitality, Jesus, Justice, Mission of God, Students

Every Wednesday, we meet for worship together in the Chapel on the Hill. Sometimes students speak. Here is a sermon by one of them, Ben Fike, who is the preacher for the Maryneal, Texas Church of Christ. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Matthew 2:1-12 – Laying our Gifts Before the King

by Ben Fike

“The church has just entered the liturgical season of Epiphany one week ago today. The Feast of Epiphany in the Western tradition is associated with this story of the wise men coming to Jesus, the first gentiles who come to worship the child king. Today we join our sisters and brothers the world over in our hearing and proclaiming of this text in this season.

I can’t read this story without thinking of my mom’s collection of nativity sets. She probably just took them down a week or two ago, but during Christmas they’re all over the house. Just little miniature versions of the birth of Christ spread out all over every bookshelf and table. The raggedy looking shepherds, the docile ox and lamb, the surprisingly calm and serene looking Mary and Joseph, little baby Jesus, no crying he makes, asleep in the manger. Blonde, and looking quite Scandanavian. And of course the wise men, all exotic and strange with enormous headgear and camels and robes and big bushy beards, bearing gifts.

But although this popularized version of the nativity may fly some places, we know better don’t we? We know better than that naive conflation of Matthew and Luke’s gospels bringing together Shepherds and Wise Men and Livestock in an ad hoc, irresponsible kind of way. We know better, that this story of the wise men bowing down to Jesus is not serene and precious and cute. It is, in fact, subversive to the point that it will directly contribute to a vengeful and maniacal king massacring thousands of innocents to squelch the perceived threat of the child born King of the Jews these wise men have come to worship. And we know better homiletically than to cast ourselves as the distant floating observers looking down on the tiny scene as if Jesus were a insect and we were a bear.

No, WE know better than that. This is a story we must enter. This story is in someway our story. More »