Interview with the New Dean, Dr. David Smith

Ken: No doubt this was a hard decision to make. You love Kingswood, its faculty, and students. You are good friends with new President, Steve Lennox, and no doubt were excited about starting on his new journey with him. Why do you feel the Lord is leading you to make this change in your life’s ministry at this time? David Smith: Ken, thanks for giving me the opportunity to walk you thru the decision from my perspective. First, this was such difficult decision since I have a job at Kingswood University that I love and I work with people who I deeply respect. Moreover, President Mark Gorveatte has given the faculty here at Kingswood freedom to (re)create and (re)vision the curriculum for the 21st century. This is not restricted to the classes we teach but also to the entire delivery system. We have tried to create a transformational environment where

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Everything I Learned about Church I Learned from the Drive-In Theater (Kwasi Kena)

In 1989, Robert Fulghum wrote the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The book is a series of two to three page essays. Each one presents a reflection on some unique learning experience Fulghum had in life. His book opens with a poem like creed that proclaims that all one needs to learn about living a good life one already knows or should have learned in kindergarten. In related fashion, I wonder if we can learn much about church behavior from the rise and fall of drive-in theaters. In 1955, The Reformed Church of America gave The Reverend Robert Schuller and his wife Arvella a $500 grant to start a ministry in California. In a quirky entrepreneurial move, the Schullers chose to launch their ministry in a drive-in theater. An early ad expressed what the ministry appealed to in potential visitors: “The Orange Church meets

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Tactical Tips for the Guest Speaker

If you’re a pastor, chances are someone at some point will invite you to be a guest speaker at their church or special event.  Guest speaking occasions can provide some of the most significant opportunities for ministry impact. The guest speaking adventure is also laden with some dangerous dynamics. These guest speaker survival tips can help you navigate the challenges. Explore the Context: There have been a few times when I was invited to preach in a context that I knew absolutely nothing about. Maybe that has happened to you. The person who invited you was in her 20s, so you planned a message for 20 somethings. When you arrived to speak at the event, you discovered that the large majority of people in the preaching context are in their 60s and 70s. None of your pop culture illustrations and quotes are going to connect with this crowd. You might

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Your Church Needs Two New Side-Doors Next Year (Charles Arn)

The front doors of many churches today are closing. “Front doors” is a term that describes how most newcomers first come in contact with a church—as visitors to worship or to some other special event.  It is out of this visitor pool that churches have traditionally identified prospective new members.  However, in the past 20 years both the total number of church visitors has been declining, as well as the percentage of visitors to total attendance in most churches. If you want to see your church survive, let alone thrive, I suggest that you build some new “side-doors” that will create new ways to connect with people in your community. What is a “side-door”?  Here is a definition: Side-door: A church-sponsored program, group, or activity in which a non-member/non-Christian can become comfortably involved and develop meaningful relationships with people in the church. A side-door provides a place where church members and non-members develop friendships around something important they share in common. And such friendships are an

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In Defense of “Religion” (Brannon Hancock)

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At some point – I know not when – religion became a dirty word. And this attitude doesn’t just come from critics outside the church. I’ve heard many Christians make this distinction as well: “It’s not about religion; it’s about relationship.” Or “I’m spiritual, but not religious” – religion often serving as a cipher for rituals, moral codes, spiritual disciplines, and the like. A couple years ago, this attitude was brought to its clearest – or at least loudest – articulation by Jefferson Bethke in his spoken-word video “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus.” The video had 1.2 million hits within its first 24 hours online (that’s an average of 14 views per second); 11 million hits the first week; and has been viewed nearly 30 million times in the three years since it was uploaded. (That’s off-the-charts virality, especially for a piece of Christian pop culture.)

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What’s the point? (Colleen Derr)

In one of my classes we are reading through Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, a classic on the spiritual disciplines. A student in the class shared with me that she found the first two sections, inward and outward disciplines, a drudgery and was overwhelmed at how foreign some of the disciplines were to her – things like meditation and solitude. She said that the idea of practicing those disciplines was horrifying because she is an action-oriented busy person who loves being around people, but the corporate disciplines – she was all over those! The reality is the list of disciplines can be overwhelming. Even the title “spiritual disciplines” sounds like something to avoid. Foster’s work is compelling and his suggestion that the disciplines put us in the path of God’s grace is lovely but what exactly is the role of the spiritual disciplines in our spiritual formation? What is their purpose?

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Culture and Christ: 3 Lessons (Bob Whitesel)

Lesson 1: Carefully investigate and examine elements of a culture. Since modern culture is constantly adjusting and metamorphosing, the task of translating the Good News without surrendering its truth or disfiguring it is paramount and ongoing. This arduous task begins with thorough and careful examination of a culture. Anthropologist Paul Hiebert described culture as, “an integrated system of learned patterns of behavior, ideas and products characteristic of a society.”(1) Scrutiny of such an elaborate system is not for an immature Christian, since it requires investigating and evaluating a culture without being tainted by its more sordid elements. However, a failure by Christian communicators to sufficiently investigate modern culture can make us look irrelevant. In an earlier book I interviewed Larry Osborne, pastor of North Coast Church in Vista, California. Larry told me the phenomenal growth of the church was in part because he regularly studies modern culture by perusing secular

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Being Missional to Immigrants (Zach Szmara)

As a pastor, this week is one of my favorite weeks of the year.  It is a week that seems to end in confusion, defeat, and despair but on Sunday I have the joy of proclaiming hope, restoration, transformation, life, and a future.  This message means even more to me recently as I’ve had the amazing privilege of sitting on the front row and witnessing a resurrection miracle over the past three years. It was three years ago, the week after Easter, when my family reluctantly came to Logansport, Indiana.  We were excited about other ministry possibilities, but felt compelled to give this declining church at least 2 weeks of our time before we moved on to exciting other places and left the church in Logansport for someone else to take care of it until it closed its doors. I wanted to move on because I honestly love Jerusalem, Judea,

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Revisionist Ritual (Safiyah Fosua)

Times are a-changing!  From where I sit, the greater challenge in worship is not the change itself, but rather the rationale for change and the theology of emerging forms.  We do not contextualize worship for the sake of making ourselves appear more attractive to seekers, but change is needed when the old ways of saying, doing, singing, or communicating no longer convey the message to new (or existing) ears. A time of liturgical renewal We are living through several major shifts in worship.  One obvious shift has been the huge change in the music and worship styles of weekly worship.  Another, less obvious shift is in how and when we use liturgy and ritual forms.  Some regard liturgy as fragments of historical faith, transmitted to us alongside the Bible that we are obliged to use dutifully.  Others regard liturgy as dated artifacts of the faith of saints past to be

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Bittersweet Ministry (Wayne Schmidt)

There are many ways to describe the life of a minister.  Having been blessed to serve as a pastor for over 30 years, and now to regularly interact with ministry leaders through the Seminary, one descriptor that comes to mind – “bittersweet.” There are certainly times that are sweet – sweet fellowship (Psalm 55:14) with other believers and ministering from the sweet spot of passion and giftedness.  But other times are bitter – like Jeremiah the prophet, those in ministry may feel besieged and surrounded by it (Lamentations 3:5). Being able to discern between the bitter and the sweet helps prevent a “woeful” life (Isaiah 5:20).  They are not always easy to distinguish, like the wounds of a friend and the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6).  Not all that is bitter is bad, and not all that is sweet is good. Ministers get wounded – it’s an occupational hazard. 

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