This past week/end was a momentous one for Regent University as we celebrated the grand opening of a new chapel and School of Divinity building. Regent University has been operating for over thirty five years (formerly as CBN University), but has never had a chapel. Construction of the new chapel, situated at the center of the campus in Virginia Beach, symbolizes the centrality of the spiritual life in this faith-based Christian university. The beautiful 1000-seat edifice opened with three consecutive nights of worship, praise, prayer, and preaching. Undergraduate and graduate students along with faculty and staff will henceforth have a place of worship on this campus. Although the work of the Holy Spirit has never been hindered by the absence of appropriately named structures, the dedication of this chapel signifies the university’s prioritization of the spiritual life, a commitment long at the heart of a school founded from out of the “fire” of the charismatic renewal movements of the 1960s and 1970s. What is it like to dedicate a new chapel? Read the rest of this entry »
Archive for the ‘Spiritual Formation’ Category
When I got to the office this morning, I opened up my email and received the news that Ralph Del Colle had passed away last night at 7 PM. He was 57 years old with much left to say to the world, but God, in his infinite wisdom, thought otherwise.
It was just a little over a week after Ralph had received the Anointing of the Sick. A large community of folks had been in prayer for Ralph during his final days that God’s will would be accomplished in his life. His death is a great loss for all of us in the Christian community. I am sure that there will be other tributes to Ralph in the coming days, but, for now, I offer this initial effort to honor the life of one who sought God with all of the theological acumen he possessed. Read the rest of this entry »
This past May, 2012, another group of divinity graduates received their diplomas from Regent University. Some currently hold fulfilling jobs, while others who are employed dream of moving into more satisfying employment. Others are in transition or may be unemployed. Times of transition are often wrought with anxiety which raises several questions:
-what is my life calling?
-what are my unique gifts and talents, and how can I steward them for God’s glory?
-how can I serve God in what I’d like to do, yet still make a living?
-what job would be most fulfilling to me?
-is what I am doing significant, and even more probing, am I significant?
These questions take time, experience, discernment, reflection, prayer, and input from others to address. No matter what our life season, we occasionally circle back to these basic questions. However, we must remember that vocation is not to be equated with a job. Vocation first begins as a general call to follow Christ, followed by a specific call that is unique to each individual in contributing to Christ’s mission in the world, followed by an immediate call involving the duties at hand, such as family responsibilities. All three coalesce into our discipleship journey and reflect loving and serving God and others. God promises to guide us and does so each step along our journey. How God guided Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), German Lutheran theologian, musician, and medical doctor, offers some key principles!
He chronicled how his sense of calling morphed from theology and music to include becoming a medical doctor. Although few will be called by God to serve as a medical doctor in Africa, the path that Schweitzer followed is equally as compelling today as it was during his lifetime. Notice the progression that carried him along in life purpose discovery and subsequent decision making.
While focused in academic studies and music, Schweitzer developed a growing empathy for others “struggling with sorrow and suffering.”
Identification of one’s calling often begins with a burden of compassion to assist others. Then at age 21, Schweitzer realized that he could not accept his good fortune relative to university study, scholarship, and organ proficiency as “a matter of course” but determined to “give something in return.”
Many of the recent debates within evangelicalism and the larger culture (health care, complementarianism, etc.) have turned on a number of more basic issues like how one gets at truth. As I was on my way in to the office this morning, I thought about important differences between absolutism and fundamentalism. Sometimes I think we get these confused in the popular culture when we rush to defend the truth.
Let me begin by defining the terms more succinctly to avoid creating another layer of confusion for my readers. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m reminded of the power of healthy friendships and how they infuse life into our discouraged hearts. With friends, life is invigorated with breath and hopeful in outlook. Without friends, life becomes suffocating, hopeless, and nondescript. Friendship involves sharing privileged information and is like fuel added to an empty tank. Friendship is also proven and enriched during times of crisis.
In his book Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship, author Jon Meacham recounts the deep friendship that developed between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War II. Interesting, Roosevelt had quite a negative impression of Churchill when they first met twenty-one years earlier. Roosevelt was running for a state senate position and made a visit to London. He found Churchill brusque. What brought them together years later as president and prime minister was Adolf Hitler. However what kept them together was friendship.
Throughout WWII, they exchanged nearly 2000 letters, spent over 100 days together, and celebrated holidays with one another. They encouraged each other in the midst of dark times. In the last 24 hours of Roosevelt’s life, he penned these words for a speech that he would never deliver: “Today we are faced with the pre-eminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships.” [I’ll resist the temptation to discuss the lack of friendship and collegiality, which characterizes the political atmosphere in Congress at present. However, I do wonder if friendship is one of the missing ingredients in solving our nation’s problems.]
What exactly is seminary education? If you asked me, I would say it is characterized by two key elements: ministry and academics. The question is how well these two elements are brought together. Too much ministry, and the seminary experience is not much more than an average Sunday School; too much academics, and students will find it difficult to connect the content of their classes with everyday life. There are many students who only know the ministry side of the faith, and who struggle with the academic dimension, just as there are those who come to seminary from an academic career and have little practical experience in church ministry. Renewing the seminary experience must speak to both groups! But how?
Increasing the academic side will perhaps nurture in some students interest in pursuing an academic career, perhaps in college teaching and scholarship. Increasing the ministerial dimension will likely challenge those academically trained to consider the practical implications of their knowledge. And yet, I do not believe that we should overemphasize seminary education as offering “practical theology” degrees as if there were such a thing as “impractical theology.” In turn, we hardly want to encourage programs in “theological ministry” as if there were such a thing as ministry that is not-theological. A first step in the right direction is certainly to stop perpetuating the division of theology, academia, and praxis. Such language only leads to internal tensions and creates a mindset that artificially divides subject matter, classrooms, disciplines, and interests. Not to mention what kind of graduate would leave seminary if ministry and academics were not integrated holistically. Some may argue that this is precisely what is happening and that the seminary experience needs an overhaul. But little is offered to move forward.
The mindset of many seminary students, particularly in pentecostal and charismatic circles, may be that seminaries need revival. Okay. Let’s do it! But how exactly is it going to happen? What exactly do we mean by revival at seminary? Who would participate in such a revival? Where would it originate?
I am envisioning that some of you are now thinking of revival in the classrooms. So let’s stick with that image. What would that kind of revival look like? Do we envision worship music and praying, sermons, dancing, shouting and prophecies? What exactly is revived by that experience? I think if we drive these questions further, we discover that seminary is a place where revival must integrate ministry and academics and that it is precisely in these two aspects that the difficulties reside. Anyone who has ever been in an academic classroom and has sensed the prophetic or perhaps convicting or just simply gripping reality of a discussion knows how difficult it is to integrate the ministerial dimension in that moment without going fully to a revival experience that effectively marks the end of the class time. And yet, at such moments, we cannot simply carry on business as usual. And if we manage to move to a different level, perhaps a prayer or simply a moment of silence or a time of ministering to one another, how difficult is it to move back to the classroom? At the heart of these difficulties, is it not the tension we have created between what we call “ministry” and “academics” (as if one could exist without the other)? If I am right, then this is where revival at seminary begins. Not in chapel but in the classrooms. Who is going to initiate it? Who will recognize it when it happens? Where is it going to take us? These are not rhetorical questions. Unlike church, revival at seminary requires more careful planning. So perhaps that’s where we need to start?