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Reflection on 2nd Doctorate of Ministry Residency at Asbury Theological Seminary

August 24, 2017

I participated in the 2nd residency for the D. Min program at Asbury in August.  I was again with about 55 other students from all around the world in this program designed to better equip us to engage in God’s mission in all sorts of cultural and geographic contexts.

This residency began with a reorientation by Dr. David Gyterson, the Dean of the Beeson Center which houses the D. Min.  He reminded us that our model for leadership does not come from the world but from Jesus.  David described Jesus’ leadership style as being “kenotic” leadership.  This term is based on the early Christian hymn found in Philippians 2:1-18.  This is the description of Jesus’ condescension from glory to obedient suffering and death on the cross.  Paul writes that Jesus emptied himself or made himself nothing.  The Greek verb is ekenosen from where the adjective “kenotic” generates.  In this sacred calling, leadership includes the following three commitments: “thinking deeply, loving fully and serving sacrificially.”

Reorientation was followed by an afternoon exercise in Spiritual Formation led by Dr. Marilyn Elliot, V.P. of Community Formation.  She led us in a time of devotional silence and prayerful meditations followed by teaching on “Seeing through Christ’s Eyes.”  This exercise was fruitful in helping us stop and take a few breaths to enter into God’s peace prior to beginning a busy two weeks of classes.  Marilyn has inspired and helped to cultivate a similarly peaceful spiritual ethos on the campus of Asbury.  I think most people can get a sense of a graceful atmosphere at the school that touches everyone involved.  I am blessed to have Marilyn as my dissertation coach, and I am thankful she has also brought a much-needed touch of peace to that endeavor for which we had trainings interspersed throughout the residency.

The first course for my cohort – Preaching and Leading – was “Discovering God’s Missional Heart.”  For my group, the first 2 ½ days were taught on the public expression of God’s missional heart by Dr. Gregg Okesson, Dean, E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism and Professor of Leadership and Development. He has spent a decade teaching at a Bible college in Kenya and was a church-planter amongst a Muslim people-group in north-central Tanzania. He and his family lived in East Africa for 13 years.  He also has served as a pastor.   His teaching emphasized the myriad cultures and contexts where God is working to save and transform people around the world.  He taught about how the essentials of the gospel reach across all borders to express the salvation of God.  He also discussed how sometimes culture can seep into and corrupt our faith.  As an example he showed the following video which definitely resonated with me as a soccer fanatic.  It illustrates the mix of faith and sports and stimulated quite a bit of class feedback.

The second half of this class was taught by Dr. Stephen Seamands, Professor of Christian Doctrine and former pastor.  He taught about the private, relational expression of God’s missional heart.  Stephen is the author of two books that were texts for the class: Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service and Wounds that Heal: Bringing our Hurts to the Cross.  I recommend both. Through the class, he emphasized the invitation we have to enter into the fellowship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and how God heals and delivers people through his presence and his body.  This was a meaningful discussion of God’s transcendent glory and power and his imminent love and goodness.  We are invited to experience both, and we need to experience both in our daily relationship with God.  Dr. Seamands taught that “Christian ministry is not my asking Christ to join me in my ministry as I offer him to others, but rather it is my joining with Him in his ongoing ministry and mission as He offers himself to others through me.”

The second week’s class was “Leading Change” taught by Dr. Tom Tumblin,  Professor of Leadership and Associate Provost for Global Initiatives and Academic Affairs.  This class featured considerable class discussion and interaction that addressed leading ministries.  The basis for leadership was rooted in the kingdom of God and applied in our various arenas of ministry.  Dr. Tumblin is incredibly competent in not only organizational leadership but Biblical principles and models of leadership.  Leadership discussions also highlighted the value and urgency of sanctification for the leader who faces pressures and temptations of all sorts from all sides.  Below is a picture of me facilitating a class discussion on a case study.

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We were blessed to have two guest speakers during this week.  The first was Dr. John Oswalt, Distinguished Professor of the Old Testament and an incredible scholar and lover of the book of Isaiah.  He enthralled us with an hour lecture on the elements of kingship in the prophecy of Isaiah.  This compared the kingship and powers of the world with the kingdom of heaven and the power of God.  The second guest speaker was Alan Hirsch, a well-known speaker and author on the mission of the church.  He emphasized the urgent need for the church to reignite the offices of the apostle, evangelist and prophet in addition to the already emphasized offices of pastor and teacher.  He taught from Ephesians 4:1-16 with an emphasis on the following verses:

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” (11-12)

Alan’s teaching was a welcome push back against the cessationist intrusion in the church against the gifts and purposes of the Holy Spirit working among believers.  Alan’s purpose is to activate missional communities that create a church on the move.  I think his new book 5Q is worth checking out.

Two additional highlights of the D. Min. residency are once again the incredible, over-the-top hospitality and welcome we experience at Asbury from the D. Min. leadership team and the Lasting Impressions Team.  They treated us to snacks and drinks at all of our class breaks.  To ease the Saturday dissertation trainings, we were blessed with Chic-Fil-A and Subway lunches.  We had BBQ one night and Burgers and Hot Dogs another night.  This treatment is indicative of the entire Asbury campus experience.  We closed out the week with a Eucharist celebration.

The other highlight is the fellowship with the fellow students who come from all over the United States and world.  It is encouraging and exciting to hear from international students how God is working in areas like southern Africa and Kenya, Ghana, Liberia, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Vietnam and elsewhere.  God is working through faithful ministers to multiply believers and churches all over.  He is healing, delivering and saving people.  In the United States, God is at work too in various cities and on college campuses in ways that we never hear about on the news.  In all of these contexts, the kingdom of God faces opposition but is overcoming.  The news is inspiring because God is working through ordinary people who are willing to become vessels for extraordinary works of God.

My dissertation project continues to move forward on the project of developing a training in spiritual formation for staff of pregnancy resource centers.  This project requires ongoing research, writing and planning.  I believe it is a ministry initiative that God has inspired me to develop, because this ministry is so close to his heart and has to overcome intense opposition from spiritual forces and worldly forces.  I encourage you to reach out to support your local pregnancy resource centers with prayer, financial support and volunteer efforts.

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