A big ego-trip

As a divinity school we cannot be responsible in our work if we lose our roots in the communities of faith and place ourselves above or against the communities of faith in the land. Their plights and shortcomings are not theirs alone, but also and eminently ours as we prepare men and women for ministry. A part of that task is sometimes one of critique or even protest against fads and trivialities and idolatrous clinging to self-serving parochialisms. But it is not a question of us criticizing them. Our critique must be in the mode and mood of the ‘we,’ of identification, in pain and hope, in shame and grace. There is much so-called ‘prophetic’ lambasting which is only a big ego-trip. The true prophet identifies with the community within which he speaks.

–Krister Stendahl, The Divinity School Dean’s Report 1975-1976 [Harvard Divinity School: Cambridge, 1976], p. 5.

A Teacher is Many Things

Upon further reflection of Andrew Phillips’ blog (look back several days to find the links), and my own on-again-off-again ruminations about teaching on this blog, I take up herewith a book by Earl V. Pullias and James D. Young.  Published in 1968 by Indiana University Press, A Teacher is Many Things explores what teaching is, identifies some obstacles to growth toward excellence in teaching and then proceeds in twenty-one chapters to sketch out what a teacher is.

I have in some form or other been involved in teaching or preaching on an almost weekly basis for fifteen years.  I began teaching a 7th-8th grade Sunday School class the Sunday after I graduated from high school, and have been at it more or less every week since.  My academic training in biblical studies, church history and theology has been in tandem with my practice of the teaching ministry.  I wouldn’t have had it any other way then, and if I had it to do over again I would.  I’m not doing it over again, but I am back at it again.  I am teaching again, almost weekly, at Smyrna Church in both the teen and adult education ministries.  So this exploration in teaching isn’t now, nor has it ever really been, an exclusively academic interest.

My earliest teaching experience was as a so-called “volunteer.”  I’m loathe to use that word now.  I prefer a member-of-the-Body-exercising-a-gift-of-the-Spirit-for-the-good-of-the-Body-to-the-glory-of-God.  But MOTBEAGOTSFGOTBTTGOG doen’t roll off the tongue like volunteer does.  (I actually do say the word, just not fond of the connotations it has).  Then came a couple summers of youth ministry internships.  Bless them, they confirmed that I had no business in “youth ministry” as I then construed it.  Then came more volunteer teaching until my dozen-year ministry with Central Church in downtown Nashville with seven overlapping years at Ezell-Harding (which was really youth ministry, if you catch my drift).  DCHS was a ministry in its own right, but my teaching there was more indirect.  For the sake of these reflections I have in mind the teaching ministry of a local congregation.  At some point I will likely blog about the ministry of history…its simmering for now.  I remain committed to a local congregation and have no intentions to the contrary…and not just nominal membership, but active engagement in the mission of a local congregation for mutual ministry, worship, study and service.

At one time I may have been intrigued by methods, strategies and what I would call now, clever salesmanship.  But how to be a mature teacher, theologically informed, pastorally  responsible and self-aware…such are my concerns now.   The teaching ministry in a congregational context is vitally important, something I think is self-evidently plain.   But how to move into the deeper waters?  I think Pullias and Young can help here.  Their book isn’t meant for the Sunday School teacher, per se.  It ain’t even religious, dear friends, at least not overtly.  But then again it is, in a much more subtle way, and I am eager to look through it and reflect on it on the pages of this blog.

The Bible and the Education of Children: Lessons from Alexander Campbell, RQ article by Samjung Kang-Hamilton

…most of the prior literature has ignored his [AC] understanding of the education of children in the Bible.  This essay will begin to close that gap and suggest ways in which an understanding of Campbell would help strengthen children’s ministry in Churches of Christ today.  The following sections will examine Campbell’s views on (1) the Bible and children, (2) childhood, (3) the nature of education, (4) its purposes; (5) and its methods and  contexts.  his work helps us get past the current practice of treating the Bible as a set of morality tales.

So ends her opening section. Kang-Hamilton lays out a thesis that Campbell’s notions on the education of children offers to the contemporary church a resource for (re)thinking children’s ministry and the teaching of the Bible to and for children.  I’m already favorably impressed, as a researcher who sees many such gaps, as a teacher and a ministry leader in a congregational education ministry, and, not least of all, as a parent.  I will over the next few days post short summaries and excerpt’s from each section of her article. Come back to see what she discovers from AC and what she makes of it for our situation.

Samjung Kang-Hamilton, “The Bible and the Education of Children: Lessons from Alexander Campbell” Restoration Quarterly 52:3 third Quarter 2010, 130-143.  For more about RQ, click here.

Come to North Boulevard Church tonight

I look forward to speaking tonight at North Boulevard Church of Christ. We’ll be surveying the story of the Nashville Churches of Christ in the 19th century…Philip S. Fall…Church Street Christian Church…Tolbert Fanning…David Lipscomb and the mission to the emerging post-Reconstruction-era suburbs.  Ultimately, we’ll talk about how our history can inform our mission.  Join us at 6:30 pm in Murfreesboro.

Nashville Churches of Christ History Group on Facebook

Nashville Churches of Christ History group is open to anyone interested in the Stone-Campbell movement in Nashville and Davidson County.  Here is the first post I made a few days ago:

I envision this community as a place to share common interest in the rich story of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Nashville. I am conducting research for a book which will highlight each congregation of Churches of Christ and Christian Churches from the 1820’s to the present…basically the entire movement from its beginning in our city until now. I envision this group as a place to share memories, photos, news and generate discussion and interest. Please join and contribute. Please feel free to contact me directly at icekm (at) aol (dot) com.

The group is open to all.  Help spread the word and generate interest.

How to Treat a A “Sectarian” by R. H. Boll: A Voice from 1917

How to Treat a “Sectarian.”

The sectarian is like unto myself a man–a man, too, for whom the Lord died.  He is plainly wrong in his course.  So was I also once, before God called me out of darkness into his marvelous light.  He is mistaken in many points.  So am I–not in matters as vital, perhaps, yet I find every little while that I have been mistaken in this thing and that, and that God is yet lovingly and patiently leading me out of my misapprehensions.  I may not condemn the sectarians; it is neither my right nor my place.  I may not sit in judgment on his motives and his honesty; One only knows the heart.  I must not strive with him, but be gentle, in meekness correcting him when he opposes himself, that peradventure God may give him repentance unto the knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim. 2:24, 25.)  Since he has shown a disposition to accept the name of Jesus and to serve him, however misguided his [173] effort, he deserves special regard on that ground.  I must not talk down o him from stilts or from the superior height of a pedestal; men can not be won that way.  I must not take it all out in criticizing; but let me in humble love, in secret places, plead for him before the throne of grace.  This would be something like the right attitude toward the sectarian.  My brethren, hold the truth whatever betide; but hold not the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ in bitterness and vindictiveness of spirit, but, speaking it in love, make it a blessing unto all men.  July 29, 1909.

R. H. Boll, Truth and Grace.  F. L. Rowe: Cincinnati, 1917, pages 172-173.

See Don Haymes’ comments on the previous post and his link to the full text of Truth and Grace on Hans Rollmann’s site.  I suspect this first appeared in the 29 July 1909 issue of Gospel Advocate. Not all of the items in the book are dated like this one; not all of the dated items are from 1909-1910.  It would not be difficult at all to substantiate whether the dated items appeared in the Advocate.  The undated items, however, may be original to this book, previously unpublished, or previously published elsewhere.

Henri on power, love and leadership

Yesterday Josh Graves posted on his blog this quote from Henri Nouwen:

One of the greatest ironies of the history of Christianity is that its leaders constantly gave in to the temptation of power—political power, military power, economic power, or moral and spiritual power—even though they continued to speak in the name of Jesus, who did not cling to power but emptied himself and became as we are. The temptation to consider power an apt instrument for the proclamation of the Gospel is the greatest of all. . . . What makes this temptation of power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life (In the Name of Jesus, 58-59).

I agree with Henri that power is an attractive and easy substitute for love.   It is easy, but I don’t think “ease” captures all that is at work here.  It is easy to substitute power for love because it is easy to get a big head.  Such is a peril of being in front, of being visible and noticed and lauded and applauded.  With a big head, folks get confused that leadership=power.   Power is easy and attractive because when it is all about me I must somehow maintain and enlarge this focus on myself to ensure that it remains all about me.   How do you maintain or enlarge focus on self?  Easy…you use power.  You leverage popularity (or at least visibility) into power.  It is a short slide from visibility to narcissism to power.  So begins the manipulation, scheming and conniving.  So begins the politics of self-preservation.

Love, on the other hand, says it is not all about me.  In fact, it is not about me at all…it is about you.  While power strives for the good of self, love seeks the good of another.  Henri’s theological point is well-put: Jesus did not cling to power but emptied himself.  The text underneath this is the hymn Paul quotes in Philippians 2.1-11.  Leaders who would be Christian will take seriously this truth not only in word but in deed. I commented on Josh’s post that what makes Henri’s quote all the more powerful (no pun intended) for me is that he turned his back on power for sake of those who in the eyes of this world have nothing to offer narcissistic people.  I find that truly powerful, and I respect it.

Alexander Campbell as a speaker

I’m up late reading…this paragraph caught my eye:

He trusted the common person to comprehend his most seminal and profound concepts.  He did not save his groundbreaking ideas for educators or the clergy, but freely shared them with the rank and file.  He did not have one message for the elite and another for the ordinary folk.  He wrote and spoke as if he would be understood by all.  He was a man for all seasons and for all people.  Whether in a mansion in New Orleans or a coal miner’s shack in Kentucky, his manner was the same.

This from Leroy Garrett, “Campbell, Alexander (1788-1866)” Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, page 113.

This appeals to me because I value the autheticity Garrett’s describes in AC.  In my own teaching, for example, I hold very dear the notion that as a teacher I should try my best to bring the light of my academic study to bear on the task of indoctrination in a church setting.  (I conceive of indoctrination in all of its best senses…I do not use it pejoratively here at all.  If indoctrination is the conveyance of the grand story of God to the people of God…and it is…then I am all for it.  The term needs to be rehabilitated from the practice of “fundamentalists” and rescued from the vocabulary of the “elite”).    I also hold dear the notion that people are people are people are people.  None better or worse, none more or less deserving of my time or energy.  I cringe when I sense that preachers or teachers brush off audiences as  inept or simple or unworthy.  On occasion I have sensed that from speakers and more so, I have heard in person comments like that from preachers and teachers.  How disappointing.

To those who think they have some insight to share, please do so with competence, sensitivity and grace.  Hold the dismissiveness and arrogance, please. Everyone has something to learn…not just the ‘uneducated’…If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?

Something to think about.  Back to my reading.

Christian Scholars’ Conference 2009

With its organizing theme as The Power of Narrative, this year’s conference drew to Lipscomb University about 400 conferees to hear over 230 presenters in 70 sessions. Topics ranged from studies in specific biblical texts to theology to poetry to literature to history to ethics to science to ministry to teaching (and beyond). Presenters represented something like 100 universities and institutions.

Plenary addresses by Hubert Locke, Barbara Brown Taylor, Billy Collins and Marilynne Robinson were superb.  Tokens old-time radio show was most outstanding.  The luncheon honoring the memory of Mike Casey was touching.  Meeting new folks, renewing acquaintances and seeing old friends was a true joy.  I even met some followers of this blog…all three of them!  (No books this time, we’re on a tight budget at the Ice house.  I’m trying to read the ones I already have…what a novel idea and if faithfully pursued will take care of my reading for the rest of my life without a single future purchase)

I took in these sessions:
The Impact of the Written Word: The Place of Editors in the American Restoration Movement with presentations on Isaac Errett by L. T. Smith, on David Lipscomb by Robert Hooper and Austin McGary by Terry Gardner.

New Explorations in Race, Peace, and Justice: Recent Dissertations in Stone-Campbell History, a session I chaired with papers by Wes Crawford on African American in Churches of Christ and on B. U. Watkins by Ray Patton and responses to the above by Barclay Key and Vic McCracken.

And the Word Became Flesh: Studies in Restoration History in Memory of Michael W. Casey, with papers by Thomas Olbricht on Recovering Covenantal narratival Theology, by Jerry Rushford on the Christians in Klickitat County Washington, and by Carisse Berryhill on the Rhetoric of Alexander Campbell’s Morning Lectures (some of which were published under the title Lectures on the Pentateuch).

Another installment of the Restoration Studies in honor of Mike Casey with papers on R. W. Officer by David Baird, J. W. McGarvey’s “The Authorship of Deuteronomy” by Mark Hamilton and Hoosiers, Volunteers and Longhorns by John Mark Hicks.


Reflections on Theological Education: Ministry and Ecclesiology with papers by Tom Olbricht surveying the past 75 years of theological education in Churches of Christ, on their experiences in the academy by Abraham Malherbe and James Thompson.

This was my first time to attend CSC.  I’m already making plans to attend next year.


With this update of the CSC my blogging hiatus, I think, may be over. The flooding at work the last week of April threw a monkey-wrench into our collective and individual routines. Nothing was lost, and what was damaged has been totally salvaged. This is fantastic news. It turned out to be a real headache, and never were we so thankful to have a headache rather than a disaster. I think I am now back into a routine…just in time for the summer research season (one of my favorite times of year).

The end of the academic year has its own set of rituals, routines and events. The Ices had our fair share.  The long and short of it is that blogging wasn’t even on the list the last six weeks, much less down on the list.

But I intend to to resume.  On deck is the latest installment in my “First Reads” series. This one is a guest post courtesy of my friend, fellow blogger and partner in crime when it comes to Nashville church history, Chris Cotten. Chris kindly agreed to reflect on the literature by, from and about the non-institutional churches of Christ. I have found his list, and his comments about each item on it, very helpful.

Checking in from the hill

Just a moment to check in and give an update from the Stone-Campbell Journal Conference, now underway in sunny Cincinnati at Cincinnati Christian University.promo_graphic

CCU is a city on a hill…literally.  I’ll post a picture tomorrow.  It is also a city on a hill figuratively and spiritually.  though portions of the neighborhood have declined (not all of though), they have invested in the campus facilities and appear to remain committed to staying.  I suppose it might be more advantageous, for the wrong reasons, to relocate.  But it appears they are here to stay.  I have met several CCU grads and they are all top-notch people: men and women who love God and are committed to God’s mission.  I’m blogging now from the student center and I’ve overheard two conversations about ministry and today’s class in Romans.  Neat.

In addition to taking in the day’s academic offerings (J. J. M. Roberts, Mark Ziese and Tremper Longman gave fine keynotes), I judged the undergraduate paper competition.  My fellow judges were Mark Hamilton from ACU and John Wineland from KCU.  My presentation on CEWD went well, I think. 

I also browsed the library and spied a couple books on their sale table that will very likely make the return trip to Nashville with me.  I bought a copy of Mark Powell’s new book on Papal Infallibility.  Mark teaches at HUGSR in Memphis.  I also picked up a couple books to review for the Journal.

I like this conference because of the kind and fraternal spirit: everyone is involved in biblical and theological studies, has some kind of heritage and commitment to the Stone-Campbell movement, and is involved in education or ministry in some fashion.  There is a sense of shared ministry and lots of collegial encouragement.  I wish I had been in on something like this as an undergrad.  I renewed acquaintances and even met a few folks with whom I have corresponded for one reason or other.  It has been a nice full day of ‘shop talk’: Biblical theology, church history, Stone-Campbell matters, and the like.

More tomorrow…I’m out to find that great picture.