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Written by Frank James Friday, 30 August 2013 00:00

For many contemporary Americans the term “evangelicalism” leaves a bad taste in their mouths. David Kinneman’s encounter with an unnamed detractor makes this point all too clear.  The unnamed detractor described an evangelical as someone who is:

“…very conservative, entrenched in their thinking, antigay, anti-choice, angry, …illogical, empire builders, they want to convert everyone and they generally cannot live peacefully with anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of evangelicals.

I must confess that the antics some of self-described evangelicals have made me ashamed. I don’t like admitting this, but we all know it is true. The meanings of words do change over time, and in recent decades the term evangelical has acquired some regrettable baggage.  However, when the urge hits to abandon the label, I find it difficult to walk away. There is something about this word evangelical that I find irresistible.   

It is hard to ditch the “euangelium” which is the New Testament word for the “good news” of the coming of Jesus Christ, the salvation he brings, and the inauguration of his kingdom. Historically, an evangelical is one who embraces the euangelium. In the broadest sense, evangelicalism has been the vital pulse in Christianity from its first century origins. It also was deeply influenced by the theological eruptions from the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation. The followers of Martin Luther and of other Protestant reformers identified themselves as evangelicals, even before such labels as Lutheran or Reformed came into use. The first Protestants appropriated the term because they were convinced they had recovered the euangelium which they believed had been obscured by the post-Constantinian church. History has seen many other permutations of evangelicalism, but by the nineteenth century it had become closely identified with American Christianity. For good or ill, this remains so. 

Even with all the distasteful associations that sometimes accompany the word evangelicalism, how can I walk away from one of the most theologically rich and missionally potent words in the Bible?  In the final analysis I can’t.  But neither can I allow the term to be co-opted by consumerist superficialities that seem to rule American evangelicalism. Instead, I would propose we send evangelicalism to rehab. 

In a very real sense that is what my colleagues and I at Biblical Seminary are trying to do—rehabilitate evangelicalism. We recognize that American evangelicalism has problems both in substance and in perception, but we are committed to recapturing the richness and the power of the euangelium. We want to embody what it means to be truly evangelical—to be good news for a world that desperately needs to hear, see and experience how good the Good News really is.  


Frank A. James III is the President of Biblical Seminary. He formerly served as Provost and Professor of Historical Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has two doctorates, a D.Phil. in History from Oxford University and a Ph.D. in Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary/Pennsylvania. He is one of the founding members of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture (with InterVarsity Press) and has authored and edited nine books. His latest book, Church History: From Pre-Reformation to the Present (Zondervan), has just been published. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/frank-a-james

 

Written by Frank James Wednesday, 28 August 2013 00:00

In recent years Christianity has been the object of considerable ridicule.  The New Atheists—Dawkins, Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens—have made a nice living by declaring that religion in general and Christianity in particular “Poisons Everything.” Of course this is nothing new. Karl Marx demeaned Christianity as the “opiate of the masses”. The British philosopher, Bertrand Russell defiantly asserted “the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of the moral progress in the world.”

So it was surprising to read an article from another atheist who took a rather different slant on Christianity. Matthew Parris, columnist for the Sunday Times of London, wrote a provocative online article titled:  “As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God”. Returning to the Africa of his youth, Parris makes the startling observation:

It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God. Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa, Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

This is a refreshingly honest sentiment from a one who demurs from personal allegiance to Christianity. If we are honest, Christian history has its fair share of skeletons in its collective closet. This is hard to swallow and I wish it were not so. Despite the fact that Christians have not always behaved in ways that would please Christ, the many examples of Christian compassion down through the ages is nothing short of dazzling.

From the beginning, Christians have been known for their compassion for the disadvantaged. Perhaps one of the most astonishing examples is the opposition to infanticide in the early church. In the Greco-Roman world, female infants and males born with deformities were of no value and often deposited on the village dung heap to die of exposure or even more tragic—raised as temple prostitutes. In a chilling letter written one year before the birth of Christ, a Roman citizen named Hilarion directs his pregnant wife: “When you are delivered of a child—if it is a boy, keep it; if it is a girl, discard it.” The Stoic philosopher, Seneca is even more callous: “Monstrous [deformed] offspring we destroy; children too, if born feeble and ill-formed, we drown.”  This is the cruel world to which Christianity came with their counter-cultural message and over time, this Gospel changed the Roman Empire.

If the Christian Gospel has identified with compassion for the disadvantaged, it has also been noted for its opposition to injustice.  The institution of slavery has long been and remains an ugly part of human civilization.  Christian opposition to slavery found one of its most significant advocates for the abolition of slavery in William Wilberforce.

Slavery became a burning national issue in Britain when the case of the slave ship Zong riveted the public imagination in 1783. The Zong was a slave ship that had tragically veered off course putting the ship at serious risk.   With drinking water running short the captain made a fateful decision.  He reasoned that if the slaves died from thirst the financial loss would belong to the ship owner, but if the human cargo was thrown overboard for the “safety of the crew”, the loss would fall on the investors.  Desiring to please the ship owner, 133 slaves were thrown into the sea.

At about this time (1785), a young Member of Parliament, William Wilberforce, converted to Christ.  By 1787 he had taken up the cause to abolish the slave trade.  He stubbornly led the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for 26 years until slavery was finally abolished by the Slave Trade Act of 1807.  Wilberforce had an impact beyond his homeland.  The example of Great Britain shamed other European countries to abolish slavery within their dominions.

Wilberforce had no greater advocate than John Wesley. As he lay on his deathbed in 1791, Wesley wrote one of his final letters to Wilberforce.

O be not weary of well-doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it. Reading this morning a tract written by a poor African, I was particularly struck by the circumstance, that a man who has black skin, being wronged by a white man, can have no recourse, since it is a law in all our colonies that the testimony of a black man against a white man counts for nothing. What villainy is this?

Slavery has many forms. One of the most dehumanizing forms is sex slavery. All over the world, young girls are kidnapped, seduced or even sold by their own poverty stricken parents to the sex trade. Today's movement for the abolition of sexual trafficking is a rekindling of an earlier struggle. In the late nineteenth century, reformers such as Josephine Butler, Florence Soper Booth, Katharine Bushnell, and Amy Carmichael fought to protect "the down-trodden mass of degraded womanhood." They were the Wilberforces of their day. 

Josephine Butler took a bold and unusual stance. Instead of spewing out moral outrage against prostitutes, she reserved her wrath for those who tolerated (and sometimes enjoyed) prostitution. She insisted on the humanity of those caught up in the sex trade: "When you say that fallen women in the mass are irreclaimable, have lost all truthfulness, all nobleness, all delicacy of feeling, all clearness of intellect, and all tenderness of heart because they are unchaste, you are guilty of a blasphemy against human nature and against God." 

The Irish missionary Amy Carmichael was commissioned by the Church of England and sent to India to win souls.  However, she soon discovered that in Hindu temples young girls were dedicated to the gods and forced into prostitution to earn money for the priests. When she turned her attention to rescuing these girls, she encountered resistance from her missionary agency, yet she persisted and founded the Dohnavur Fellowship. It continues today and has become a sanctuary for thousands of young girls who would otherwise faced a grim future.

Christianity continues its long heritage of being salt and light a fallen world. Christians have founded some of the most important humanitarian organizations in today’s world:   Red Cross, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, Prison Fellowship, World Vision and IJM. It is a powerful testimony to the watching world when Christians live out the Gospel amid tragedies such as in hurricane Katrina, the tsunami disaster, the Haitian earthquake or 9/11. Whatever the tragedy, when Christians show up, the good news of Jesus Christ is there for all to see.  Perhaps this is what Matthew Parris saw in Malawi.


Frank A. James III is the President of Biblical Seminary. He formerly served as Provost and Professor of Historical Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has two doctorates, a D.Phil. in History from Oxford University and a Ph.D. in Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary/Pennsylvania. He is one of the founding members of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture (with InterVarsity Press) and has authored and edited nine books. His latest book, Church History: From Pre-Reformation to the Present (Zondervan), has just been published. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/frank-a-james

   

Written by Kyuboem Lee Monday, 26 August 2013 00:00

Often, I find myself preaching to the choir with regard to urban mission--these folks don't need convincing that urban mission is an important and urgent agenda item for the Church and we need to do all we can to learn about urban mission if the Church is to be faithful to God’s mission.

But others will need more convincing. “I won't be moving into the city to live and minister there; my role is a pastor in a suburban church or a small town context. Why should I care about urban mission? My plate is overflowing as it is.” I will try to speak to them through this series of blog posts. If you are the choir, perhaps you will be find these posts useful as points of apologetics for urban mission. (Past posts in the series:

Chances are, if you are reading this particular blog, you are a believer in the missional nature of the Christian faith. You are convinced that the Church in the West needs to rediscover its identity as a part of God’s mission in the world, and that it needs to come out of its fortress Christendom mindset into a mode of being in which it winsomely engages the world with the good news of Jesus by word and deed. You don’t hesitate to brand yourself missional and your ministry the same. So you’re missional. Now what?

Could “Missional” become another buzzword bereft of substance? Conceivably, one can proclaim one is missional without working out the word’s deeper implications. The Western mindset can be a hard habit to break. Theological positions (missional or otherwise) are arrived at and affirmed after a great deal of effort and time--all without leaving the realm of your mind. Are we engaging the world more in deeper, missional ways now rather than before the labeling?

Perhaps Urban Mission might supply few of the answers to the question, “Now what?” In the missional paradigm, pastors and other Christians living in the West are for all intents and purposes missionaries, because they too are living in an unchristianized society, a mission field. No longer do we see an essential distinction between foreign missionaries and the rest of us. Therefore, it follows that in order to live out his missional purpose, Regular Joe Christian should become more and more versed in what missionaries have been getting trained in.

This is the premise of Tradecraft: For the Church on Mission, by Larry McCrary, Wade Stephens, Caleb Crider, and Rodney Calfee (Urban Loft Publishers, 2013). They would like to see the local churches in N. America benefit in their missional calling by becoming students of the knowledge and experience gained by culture-crossing missionaries. According to the authors, “The most underdeveloped basic Christian skills are those related to missionary thinking and practice.” (p. 24) There are certain skill sets that should be included in the missional tradecraft--such as understanding and exegeting culture, ethnography, urban studies, and contextualization, among others. Urban Mission has been giving these areas keen attention for some time now and stocking the missional tool chest. The missional church is invited to take and use.

Missional practice (informed by Urban Mission, among other disciplines) therefore makes concrete missional theology--it is missional theology not only in the abstract, but enfleshed and holistic, with hands and feet, living in concrete contexts and real people, today. Without the practice (or the tradecraft), theology becomes formless; it is unable to engage the world in the full-orbed way that missional believers envision their faith as capable of being.

But the practice in turn also needs the forming hand of a thoroughly biblical theology, or it will lose its soul. Missional practice will merely become another human-centered effort to make the world a better place according to our own understanding, which is in the end finite and even potentially more destructive than life-edifying. Missional practitioners live and act under the authority of God and his revealed word. So they bring their tradecraft daily under the examination of the Scriptures, and re-situate themselves in the larger work of the kingdom, the mission of God.

This sets off a dynamic of constant conversation between theology and practice. One refines and energizes the other, and vice versa. And so the Church matures as it treads this circular path between praxis and theology; action and reflection. We call this the hermeneutical spiral; the spiral leads us closer to Christ.

Again, you are invited: take up the tools developed by missionaries and Urban Mission over the years, learn to use them well, and join the task of mission in the world.

Dr. Kyuboem Lee serves as Adjunct Faculty at Biblical Seminary. He is the founding pastor of Germantown Hope Community Church in Philadelphia, and the General Editor for the Journal of Urban Mission (http://jofum.com).

   

Written by Kyle Canty Friday, 23 August 2013 00:00

There’s a complex question that gnaws at my heart as I observe evangelical culture; “Does the broader evangelical church in America recognize that there is something that they can learn from the African American church?” I follow conferences and as of late, I’ve kept up with the missional movement. I love listening to those who have mined the themes associated with everything missional and topics around justice and mercy for the marginalized. I frequent blogs, YouTube videos and the major declarations put out by the evangelical machine.

During the past couple of years I’ve recognized the homogeneity of these circles—most of the speakers are white. Interesting enough, many of the topics that are being written about and presented at these events are topics that I’ve heard about throughout my life. (e.g., justice, mercy, meeting felt needs, etc.) Well before these were popular topics within evangelicalism, these were important issues among black pastors, preachers and theologians. The black church finds its uniqueness in the soil where it is cultivated - usually within marginalized and oppressed communities.

A movement without color

I was originally introduced to the missional conversation by my pastor; who is one of very few African American professors teaching within evangelical seminaries. We engaged in doing contextual ministry within Philadelphia with limited resources and tremendous opposition. One of the things that missional theology taught me was to question the things that contradicted God’s kingdom agenda. The thing that was missing for me as I viewed the movement was color.

I wondered to myself, ‘Does a black pastor of an inner city church have anything to teach a white suburban pastor?’ This question gets me thinking through power structures. The question is loaded with complications. Although loosely associated, the decisions regarding the broader missional movement rest in the hands of the few. The answer to my question gets to the heart of a problem.

The missional movement is relatively new within evangelical circles. In fact, the missional movement is still fighting back accusations that the overall movement is a sinister break from ‘traditional conservative Judeo-Christian principles and values’. There is a rapid delivery of books, blogs, conferences, fashion, tweets, FB pages and posts about this Biblical theme that’s been missed for so long by so many. Although there is this rediscovery of missio Dei and what it means to be sent, there is also a danger that the voices are predominantly white and suburban.

The privileged accent

If the voices of the missional movement remain largely those of the dominant culture, then there is the possibility that the movement will begin to speak with a privileged accent. Call it what you want - whether it is in a suit, tie and comb over or in skinny jeans, fashion rims, tatted up, it is still coming from a place of access, comfort and homogeneity.

Although we are in the age of post-Christendom, the existing structure of evangelicalism still wields a significant amount of power. The presence of Christian publishers, magazines, academic institutions, conferences, conference centers, radio programs and mission organizations are all part of a construct designed to win the battle. The proverbial ‘table’ that is so often talked about is actually nestled inside evangelicalism’s board room.

So it is often said that Blacks need a seat at this ‘table’ in order to influence what goes on as the movement becomes more mainstream. Why is it so hard to sit down at this table called the Missional Movement? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the missional movement is nestled inside of evangelicalism and this movement has not properly dealt with race. Different clothes and music, but the same homogeneity exists.

Deconstructing the deconstruction

The movement that sought to deconstruct Christendom needs deconstructing. The task of addressing inconsistencies within the movement is best handled by those who can view omissions and pathology from the outside. As the black church gets used to hearing about missional theology and the movement, it will recognize and embrace and add its unique accent to the conversation. However, I wonder if many will simply bristle at yet another predominantly white movement talking about Christians opening up coffee shops to engage in post-modern conversations when the national unemployment rate is 6.7% for whites and 13.3% for blacks.

In conclusion, yes, the black church is not without blemishes and the need to transform. We are not perfect, but who is able to speak to the ills of White Evangelicalism like the Black church? Additionally, one black conference speaker, professor or friend is not diversity, but could be construed as tokenism. It was brought to my attention recently by a friend and mentor that most Blacks can sniff out tokenism and so the Missional Movement needs to know that many of us know that a black woman on a panel covers two categories on the diversity checklist.

Learning from each other

I guess one of the things that I need to say is that there are many things that the movement can learn from the Black church outside of gospel music and our unique preaching style. The Black church and those it has produced are not novelties to be observed from afar—instead the body was meant to benefit from parts. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)

Let me make this clear - preachers, pastors, Bible believing black folk have been busting their tail ministering to people in the worst conditions for a very long time. Suburban White academics are ‘probably’ not the best folk to reference when you need to figure out how to minister to oppressed people groups. If the missional movement is concerned with reaching the kind of folk that Jesus reached, then perhaps they may want to diversify their think tank to include inner city, bi-vocational Black pastors who serve within extreme conditions.


Kyle Canty is an MDiv graduate of Biblical Theological Seminary (2011) and a graduate of Cairn University (B.S., M.Sc.); he currently is a DMin student at Biblical, pursuing his doctoral degree in Urban Missiology. He serves as assistant pastor at Great Commission Church located in West Oak Lane, Philadelphia (www.greatcommissiononline.com).His passion and aspiration is to write on topics that will bring about the reconciliation of the fractured church in North America. He and his wife, Pam, reside in Philadelphia with three children. The article above was originally posted on Kyle’s website, The Rooftop - http://thecityrooftop.com/

   

Written by Charles Zimmerman Wednesday, 21 August 2013 00:00

Where have they gone & where are they now?

This month I continue with updates on some graduates of Biblical Seminary.  This month we visit with Mike Beates.  Mike was most recently at Biblical for our Conversations on Christianity & Culture series, where he gave a presentation along with Joni Eareckson Tada and others on Disability and the Gospel

What years did you attend at Biblical, and what degree(s) did you receive? 

I was at Biblical from 1984-88. I received the M.Div. and the S.T.M. (New Testament) degrees. 

What have you been doing since then?  Be sure to include information about your family.

Leaving Biblical, I took a position with Ligonier Ministries in Orlando, Fla. developing educational resources, planning conferences, and editing Tabletalk magazine. During my tenure at Ligonier, I was ordained by the PCA in 1992 and served a dual call with Ligonier and as an associate pastor (without pay) at Covenant Presbyterian Church, Winter Park, Fla. In 1996, I was called by Reformed Theological Seminary to be Dean of Students while continuing with the local church. After 9/11, RTS cut back staffing and let me go, so the church took me on as a full time associate. I shepherded the church through the notable death of the pastor, Dr. Jack Arnold in 2005.  In 2008, I was called to teach Bible and history at The Geneva School (a Christian and Classical school) in Winter Park, Fla. More recently, I became Dean of Students at Geneva so I am shepherding 450+ students (and in many cases pastoring their parents), and helping to administer the school while still teaching the Bible classes.

My family when I left Biblical was comprised of my wife, Mary, and three children, Jessica, Jameson, and Abraham. God added Abbie by birth in Winter Park, then Elias, Shoshanah, and Josiah by adoption. They now range in age from 31-20. Mary continues her ministry in our home and has served with Bethany Christian Services “Safe Families” division as a foster mother to numerous children over the years.

Jameson (married to Tara with our grandson, Jackson) is a social worker in Reading, Penna., hoping to teach and coach. Abraham is a Naval Academy graduate and pilots a Sea Hawk helicopter for the Navy, currently stationed in Mayport, Fla. Abbie just finished a year serving Christ with “Campus Outreach” and is now preparing for medical school. Shoshanah is a baker with a local restaurant; Eli is a scholar athlete, playing soccer at Stetson University (aspiring to play for the men’s national team some day!); and Josiah has just landed a job with a local hospital in Orlando. We are thankful to God for them all. 

Jessica (our oldest) has always lived with severe and profound disabilities, so her life has shaped our family in many ways, not least bringing us into contact with Joni Eareckson Tada and her ministry, Joni and Friends. I have been blessed to serve on the International Board of Directors of Joni and Friends since 2000, and authored a book released last July entitled Disability and the Gospel (Crossway, 2012).

Tell a favorite memory from your Biblical days. 

I distinctly remember coming to Biblical from serving with Young Life staff and realizing that while I had been among the more conservative Young Life staff, I was probably one of the more “liberal” students at Biblical! And I remember at orientation Tom Taylor saying, “At Biblical Seminary, we are Reformed, . . . but we’re happy about it!” I have never forgotten that sentiment and try to live by it.

I was also deeply affected by Fred Putnam’s God-centered and devotional instruction in Hebrew, including his “lunch time reading club” that took a small group of students through Ruth and much of 1 Samuel. In fact, I mimicked this at RTS, conducting a similar club for 8-10 years where together we read (among other things) Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, and Genesis.

Contact information:

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mike.beates or also on Facebook under the title of my book “Disability and the Gospel”; and a recent interview in Tabletalk can be seen here: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/disabilities-and-gospel/

Charles Zimmerman is the Thomas V. Taylor Professor of Practical Theology.  He also serves as Teaching Pastor at Calvary Church in Souderton.  He is married to Kim and they have two daughters, Ashley and Megan.

   

Written by Bryan Maier Friday, 16 August 2013 00:00

As a marriage counselor, I have been amazed at the propensity of many politicians who disregard their marriage vows and engage in sexual behavior that at one time would have brought great shame on their marriage and career. Now it seems almost like a resume booster.  To add insult to injury, many of these men (it is usually men) ignore the scandal and keep on running for office (or staying in office).

Of course, the race for mayor in NYC is the most current version of this scenario but one does not have to look for very long to realize this happens a lot. It is not restricted to one political party (i.e. Mark Sanford or Bill Clinton, take your pick) nor is a current phenomenon (i.e. JFK, FDR or even Warren Harding who was accused of conceiving his daughter (with his mistress of the time) on the very floor of the US Senate.

Most of these men are married and thus when they are caught the media tries to secure some kind of response from the wife. Again, responses vary but one common pattern is the “stand by your man” response.  This usually involves the wife making supportive comments before the camera and cooperating with her husband’s portrayal of himself as a victim of some kind of disorder (two weeks in a treatment center ought to do it) rather than as a dishonest self-serving power hungry narcissist.

My thoughts about the women in these situations have been sparked by a book I am reading on the Kennedy women.  It is common knowledge now that whatever else Camelot was, it was a time when the White House was a place where sexual misbehavior was the norm. The “war on women” is nothing new. To cite just one lesser known example, JFK’s daily “swim” was nothing more than skinning dipping with two female members of the White House Staff. Like his father before him, adultery was the norm for JFK.

While all this is well documented, what is fascinating is the response of the women who were married to the Kennedys.  They all chose a form of absolute denial. They continued to appear with their husbands in public and support his career. They even vacationed separately knowing what their husband would do with his time. It is true that divorce carried a much greater stigma back then than it does today, but these were not poor, uneducated women who had to stay married for financial reasons. These were all daughters of wealthy families who could easily have made it on their own.

So what made them stay?

For some they traded their dignity for a position of power and prestige. Others received payoffs of a different currency. But they all decided for one reason or another that they would endure their husband’s behavior, which in the long run only reinforced such actions.  I am not blaming the women in these cases. The men are 100% guilty for their actions. I am just saddened that their wives choose to stifle their own voice.

What is the church doing to support the voices of women, not only those with unfaithful husbands but those who have been victims of sexual or physical abuse?  Are we aware of the temptation to cover up trauma and reinforce denial rather than truth? Will we cooperate with a cover-up even if the women in these situations are part of it? Is there a currency with which we could be bought off? I don’t have all the answers but as we watch politician’s wives sell their souls, how can we empower women to make other choices?

If this in an important issue to you, I would encourage you to check out the Global Trauma Recovery Institute at Biblical Seminary.


Bryan Maier, Psy. D. is an Associate Professor of Counseling & Psychology in the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He maintains a private practice at Diane Langberg & Associates.

   

Written by Dan LaValla Wednesday, 14 August 2013 00:00

Last month, I had the privilege of serving on a short-term mission team of 28 men and women and high school youth who traveled to Kodiak, Alaska where we served the Kodiak Baptist Mission (KBM) for youth and families. On the first day, we divided up into five teams according to the giftedness and the work each person wanted to take on. I was on a team of six that took on the roofing and repairs of a three-story house and consisted of a professional roofer/general contractor, KBM’s executive director and maintenance director and my two sons (ages 14 and 17).

This was the closest I have ever come to experiencing the dynamics described in 2 Cor. 8:7-15: specifically, a unity in Christ characterized by a shared equality that was based on mutual respect and humility regardless of one another’s abilities and assigned responsibilities.

Reflecting on the trip upon our return home, I realized the conditions for experiencing the dynamics of 2 Cor. 8:7-15 were ideal for several reasons. First, all six members of our team put aside their selfish motivations for a unified goal to serve Kodiak Baptist Mission to the fullest of our abilities in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Second, our team’s abundance of time and effort were providing the skills and resources that Kodiak Baptist Mission lacked to make the repairs on their own.

Third, the project was too immense to accomplish for a team our size under normal circumstances, requiring several hours of overtime for eight consecutive days, through the final workday of our mission trip to complete the project.

Finally, we had the privilege of experiencing daily encouragement from our gracious Lord by witnessing miraculous answers to the prayers of many that helped us overcome extenuating circumstances.

While our team worked with minimal interpersonal tensions and strong relationships formed for the hours we worked closely in a limited space, not all of the above lessons were realized in the midst of the project or without challenges. As the coordinator of the mission trip, I admit that I felt our team was called to accept the roofing project, but I accepted with some fears and concerns about whether or not we would complete the project without injuries.

First, the size and conditions of the roof and house were extremely difficult; the executive director later informed us later in the week, several teams over the past two years declined the job for the number of difficulties involved.

Second, Kodiak’s climate is a temperate rain forest where it is common to rain three to four days per week and any bit of rain would have slowed us down enough to prevent us from finishing. Our church prayed for 40 days leading up to and throughout the trip and each team member recruited a minimum of ten additional prayer partners all of whom were praying for suitable weather to complete our assignments. For our entire trip, the weather was dry, a stretch the native islanders had never observed. The successful completion of the project was obviously the result of willingness to accept a calling with faith and not just on assessing our human capacity, selfless commitment to serve God and His mission, answered prayer, and our team working with mutual respect and humility towards one another.


Dan LaValla is Director of Library Services and Development Associate at Biblical. He is Chair of the Endowment Committee for the American Theological Library Association and is very active in his church and community, coaching youth baseball and football and has served on several community boards. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/daniel-lavalla

   

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