Biblical Narrative

I Have Called By Name Bezalel

by Chesed Dent

Director of Global Studies Internships, Liberty University

Many of the students who sit in my office want to change the world and do big things for God. Some crave recognition; but most just really want to be a part of something big and impactful for the Lord. I understand this desire. I myself am someone that thrives on large platforms and I enjoy opportunities for big impact in God’s kingdom. However, in the last year, in response to my desire for big recognized things, the Lord has consistently brought to mind a man named Bezalel.

Exodus 31:5

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.”

About a year ago I was reading through Exodus and the Lord paused my eye on the name Bezalel; I haven’t been able to “unpause.” Among the giant names of the Christian faith like Abraham and Moses, Bezalel has not really been given a place. I cannot say I have ever heard a sermon about him and I know I am guilty of skimming his story in Scripture. And yet, he played an important role in God’s story.

Bezalel was chosen by God to oversee the building of the tabernacle. Exodus 31 and 35 tell us that God “called by name Bezalel” and “filled him with the spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship.” This is not a list of different things that the Lord provided Bezalel, but, instead, is one thing that God gave Bezalel (the spirit of God) and it was from that one thing that the other things  were released (skill, intelligence, knowledge, craftsmanship). In other words, Bezalel is filled with the Spirit who then fills him with what is needed for him to do what God has tasked him with.[1]

If overseeing the building of the tabernacle is not enough of a big deal, reading further in the account sets Bezalel apart even more. While Bezalel did have a lot of help from other craftsmen with the building of the tabernacle, it was Bezalel that built the Ark of the Covenant and some of the most holy items placed in and near the Holy of Holies (Exodus 36–39).

Exodus 37:1a

“Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood.”

It is interesting to read through the account of the tabernacle being built. There are many times where it says “they” did such and such, but what stands out to me is the number of times you see that “he” did such and such. What an honor to be tasked with such a unique work. But it also made me consider what it is like to be set apart for a work. Was he lonely? Did he get tired? Was he recognized for what he was doing? Did anyone care?  He worked hard. He built something beautiful and God glorifying. And yet, we barely know his name.  Could it be that we barely know his name because his name is not what is important? Bezalel may not be remembered by many of us, but his work is.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this as I consider what it is that the Lord tasks me and others with and the fact that there are so many hard workers in the Kingdom of God whose names will never be known. Our culture, even our Christian culture, likes to recognize people. I’m not saying it’s necessarily bad. There are a lot of names that I know in Christendom. Some of those names belong to solid preachers and teachers who probably never ever tried to make their own name known. But some familiar names belong to people who have given into the pull of fame and though they might still point to Jesus, their names oftentimes seem to throw a shadow over the message they say they proclaim.

When the tabernacle is completed, that is just what is said. It doesn’t say that Bezalel finished it. It just says “all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished” (Ex 39:32). In fact, the last time Bezalel’s name is mentioned in the account is just to say that he made everything he was commanded to make (Ex 38:22). We are often guilty of wanting our names to be known. I read about Bezalel and I keep thinking, “He worked so hard!! He did so much!! How do we not know his name?!?” But I think this is the point. His name is not important. And neither is mine. Neither are the names of my students. Neither is yours. We do not serve God for the purpose of our fame and recognition of our names. We serve for His fame and His Name. We are simply tasked with the obediences God places before us in order to invite people into worship of HIS name.

Exodus 38:22

“Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the Lord commanded Moses”

I hope I do recognize the Bezalels of God’s work.  Furthermore, I hope I train my students to be willing to be Bezalels, obedient to work hard in the tasks set before them even though their names may never be known. May God call us by name and set His Spirit in us to enable us to do the work that makes His name more known.

[1] Stuart, Douglas K. “Exodus.” Vol. 2, The New American Commentary,  edited by E. Ray Clendenen, 650-651. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group. 2006.

Chesed Dent has spent almost 20 years in Southeast Asia, both as a third culture kid and as a global worker. After graduating from Southeastern seminary in 2012, she moved to Lynchburg, VA to work at Liberty University. Currently she is serving as the Director Of Global Studies Internships where she trains students for overseas service. Her focused interests of training include: Third Culture Kids, Transition and Culture Shock, Reentry, Spiritual Warfare, Storytelling/Orality, and the Grand Narrative of the Bible. She just completed her second Master’s degree and connected research: “The Grand Narrative Worldview: A Narrative Inquiry into the Impact of Biblical Metanarrative Teaching in Liberty University’s School of Divinity Global Studies Program.” She loves to shop in international markets, sing, ride rollercoasters, go to festivals, watch crime shows, eat French fries, and can regularly be found surrounded by Old Testament commentaries geeking out over the awesomeness of God’s Word.


The Analog Revolution

by Jeff Crawford

Lead Pastor of Ministries, Teaching Pastor, Cross Church (Springdale, AR)

A curious thing is happening with the next generation. Digital is out and Analog is in. I see it with my own teenagers and their friends. Not long ago my daughter had a friend over and when they showed up at my house, they had, of all things, a turn-table with them and a set of….get this…vinyl records! For Christmas, one of my kids ordered a vinyl album from Amazon for a friend of theirs. 

Analog is popping up in other areas too. I recently heard a news story while driving in the car that spoke of the revival in the popularity of board games. Kids are (re)discovering the joy of playing a game that has real pieces and cards, and boards that you can touch and feel. So for all the attention that video games still garner in our culture, analog is alive and thriving.

For some of us, analog has never quite gone out of style. Yes, in my office I have a “record player” and sometimes will play my own vinyl albums while I work. It’s true that I have a virtual scholar’s library on my computer through Logos, but my office is also loaded with good ol’ fashioned print books that you can touch and feel. So while I read like crazy on my Kindle, I will admit there is nothing like the feel and smell of a real book. Even at my own house, we have a slew of board games to go with our Nintendo Wii and X-Box One. Monopoly, Life, Risk, Uno, etc. But our favorite family game is Settlers of Catan

Yes, the digital world is here to stay, but the analog world provides a depth of experience that digital cannot reproduce. Which is why, I believe, we are seeing a re-discovery of this too quickly buried medium. And of course this has exciting implications for the church.

The Analog Church – In a world dominated by social media and Facebook “friends,” the return of analog is good news for the church. Nothing can replace the tactile experience of driving to a location where God’s people physically meet. Where you shake someone’s hand, and worship to LIVE praise music. Where the Lord’s Supper is taken, engaging the senses of taste and smell. Where you literally hear and taste and see that the Lord is good. The church is not perfect, but it is real…just like life.

The Analog Bible – I have the Bible on my iPhone, tablet, and computer. I’ve never been one to have a problem with people who use their devices to access God’s Word. In fact, I think anything that helps to perpetuate the spread and the digestion of God’s Word is a good thing. But I also think that the virtual Bible is inferior to the analog Bible. By analog, I mean a standard, paper and ink, print Bible – preferably bound in cowhide (okay, the part about the binding is just meJ.) You cannot duplicate the feeling of carrying an “old friend” around with you. There is a familiarity with the Book that is non-existent with digital copies of the Bible. Notes and highlights are better retained. “Scrolling” is actually quicker in a print Bible than on a device once you know your way around the Bible. And that’s an important point – using a print Bible actually facilitates knowledge of how the Bible is organized and fits together. In short, an analog Bible provides for a more intimate encounter with the Word of God.

Analog Jesus – One of the ancient heresies in the early centuries following Christ’s ascension was the belief that he did not physically rise from the dead. But he did. Jesus even went out of his way to highlight the analog nature of his resurrection. He challenged Thomas to touch his wounds from the crucifixion. He asked the disciples to give him some food so he could eat it in front of them (Luke 24) thus demonstrating his physical, post-resurrection nature. Jesus was born in the flesh. He lived in the flesh. He died in the flesh. He was resurrected in the flesh. And he ascended in the flesh. This is critical because Jesus promised he would return in the flesh. We do not worship a God only of spirit but one who took on a flesh and bone body. This separates our God from all others.

The Analog Resurrection – And all this leads to our own promised resurrection. I agree with N.T. Wright that we too often don’t get it quite right in the way we talk about what happens after we die. Yes, we are more than flesh. We are also a spirit. And our spirit indeed goes to heaven when we die. But that is not the sum of it. When we talk about dying and going to heaven, we have told only half the story. The “digital” half. The best half is yet to come. The analog half. The part about how we will one day be resurrected just as Jesus was resurrected – in the flesh! Our eternal promise is not one of a perpetual disembodied experience of floating on clouds and playing harps. Can anyone really get excited about that? The eternal promise is that we will come back to life – in all our analog/fleshly glory. Better than before. Perfected. And our new analog bodies will reside on a physical and very analog New Earth, all set to enjoy God’s good creation forever and ever. 

Can I get an analog “Amen”?

Jeff Crawford, Ed.D., is the lead pastor of ministries and teaching pastor at Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, a multi-site megachurch and one of the nation’s fastest growing churches according to Outreach magazine. Dr. Crawford is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and the author of three books, the most recent of which is his debut novel, Finding Eden. He and his wife Julie (also of OBU) have two married adult children, two teenagers living at home, and one grandson.


Changing an Established Church’s Culture

by Josh King

Lead Pastor, Second Baptist Conway (Conway, AR)

Culture eats strategy for lunch – or is it breakfast? Either way, a bad culture will kill a good plan. We all know that. The classic example is Chick-Fil-A – great food but phenomenal culture. We as the Church have great food. We have the best food. Living Water, bread of life, that is what we serve. If you want to go a little less Jesus-jukey, we have community, forgiveness, encouragement, the very best food. The problem though, is often we have the worst culture.

When you lead a church you may see this, but you also may be frustrated in how exactly you can change it. You may even wonder if one person can change the culture of an entire church. I say you can, especially if you are the Pastor but even if you are not. I’ve seen the culture set or changed by one person a few times. Some of those were good a few were bad but all of the culture setting paths had similar mile markers. Here they are.

  • Model what you expect. We all know leaders that expect a work ethic they just don’t live up to. They will preach being on time as they run in late. They will demand servant leadership as they pull into their designated parking spot. If you don’t model it, they won’t do it. 
  • Write it down. Our church calls it the Family Values – seven values we want to see in the lives of each person that calls our church family. By writing them down we can continually point back to them. Don’t expect people to pick these things up by osmosis. These documents will evolve over time and that’s OK, but start somewhere. Ask yourself what would be the (less than 10) characteristics that would make a church Christlike, then write em out. 
  • Say ’em and then say ’em again. Preach a sermon series through the values, talk about one each leadership meeting, post them on the wall, share it with the choir and senior adults and students. Just keep talking about them. Say them until it is just part of your collective vocabulary. I will regularly hear members and leaders use the phrase “one voice” in our halls and meetings. That is how you know the culture is taking root and you can expect to see fruit in the near future. 
  • Celebrate publicly every chance you can. Make it a regular feature of each church gathering to call out groups or individuals that have embodied one of the values. It can be a quick little word or a major announcement but as we all know, they will repeat what we celebrate. So make a big deal when you see someone Speak Love or Cooperate Sacrificially. It not only sets the bar; it is the best reward you can give the one who is carrying the culture forward. 
  • Correct missteps. When you have the values written down you can more effectively let someone know when they have done something that conflicts with the culture. Small things matter. It doesn’t need to be a full blown thing, but a quick word about how a comment was not “speaking love” or how showing up late is not “redeeming the time” will help to keep everyone aligned. 

The good news is that it doesn’t take a long time to align the culture toward common values. It just takes intentionality. I encourage you to spend a little more time, especially at first, working on culture than you do working on strategy. The results will last longer and the ride will be smoother.

Josh King has been the Lead Pastor at Second Baptist Conway (Conway, AR), since August of 2018. Prior to moving to Arkansas, he had served churches in Texas full time since 2001. His experience includes student ministry, serving as Associate Pastor, and Lead Pastor. Josh is a proud graduate of Criswell College in Dallas, Texas and holds both a Bachelors Degree as well as a Masters. Both are in Biblical studies and ministry. He is married to Jacki, a passionate and talented women’s minister, and they have three sons, Haddon, Leland, and Amos.


The Church is Full of Orphans

by John Wohlgemuth

Lead Teaching Pastor, Henderson Hills Baptist Church (Edmond, OK)

I remember the wide range of emotions that accompanied becoming a father for the first time. The overwhelming joy of seeing my son face-to-face. The awe for my wife who endured twenty hours of active labor. The fear in facing the reality of taking our son home (“You trust us enough to send us home?! You mean you’re not coming with us?!”). I knew, though, that because we loved our son, we would do everything in our power to help him grow up into the man God has called him to be—through all of the highs and lows in the process.

A similar process shows up spiritually (apart from the Father’s fear, of course). The New Testament gives us an understanding of the “life cycle” of a Christian—from birth through maturity. First Peter 2:2 calls us “newborn infants” longing for “the pure spiritual milk” that helps us “grow up into salvation.” Of course, that imagery applies to us as individuals. Growth is to occur where a believer should not act the same years after their new birth. But also think about that picture of spiritual growth in the context of the church. If new believers are similar to babies, we then must begin to think about the healthiest way for them to grow up and to be nurtured.

Our world is full of physical orphans (one estimate puts the number at 153 million, or roughly half the population of the United States). Thankfully, many Christians and others have organized funding and support for orphanages and other support ministries around the world. But everyone understands that an orphanage is not the best nurturing environment for a baby. If no other option exists then care and nourishment in a group home is better than nothing (that’s why James commands true Christians to care for vulnerable orphans in 1:27), but a nuclear family is the God-ordained best means for a child to mature, to be provided for, to be instructed, and to be loved. If that child is parentless, the best scenario remains for non-biological parents to adopt that child into their loving family.

This reality is no different in the church. For comparison’s sake (and don’t push this too far), we could compare the large church gathering on Sunday to an orphanage. Here’s how this idea has shown up in the past and even still today: a person trusts Jesus as his or her Savior and Lord, and what do we often do with them? We invite them to “attend church” (meaning, the Sunday large-group gathering). We hope that they will receive the spiritual nourishment, direction, and love that they need, but that abundant provision often does not occur. That person receives enough to stay alive, probably, but gets lost in the crowd and never really flourishes in what they were created for. They feel more like a number than a family member, even though they may have an important task to accomplish to maintain the organization.

Now compare that scenario to a different (seemingly more biblical) approach. Say that same person comes to trust in Jesus. Instead of inviting them to an event, we invite them into our lives. We invite them into our “family,” so to speak, where there are just a few of us in intimate relationship sharing life together. What I mean by this is a group of a few people not only meeting to study the Bible and to pray and to hold each other accountable, but people who go on errands together, eat meals together, serve the community together, etc. As these elements of life are shared, then questions are asked, theology is clarified, and obedience to Christ in every area of life is modeled. There is no doubt that the new believer will receive the spiritual nourishment, direction, and love they need. Not only do they get enough to stay alive, they flourish and mature as a member of a family. And they grow up into maturity more readily.

Does it not make more sense to raise up a “child” in this “family” way rather than in an “orphanage”? My challenge to us, church, is to take all of these orphans (physical orphans too!) into our lives and make them a part of a forever family, where they will receive all that they need to live the abundant life that Jesus has promised His children (John 10:10).

Though you may not believe that you can really make a difference, you can. All the Lord is looking for is a willing vessel. Although you may not be the next Billy Graham yourself, you might be the one with the opportunity to disciple him, to “parent” him spiritually. And all it takes is one who God can use to change the world; so, who is your one?

John Wohlgemuth has served as the Lead Teaching Pastor at Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, OK since 2018. Born in Enid, OK and raised in Fairview, OK, he is married to Emily and they have three sons, ages 11, 8, and 6. They met at Oklahoma State University in the engineering classroom and while participating in OSU’s athletic department.


6 Common Traits of Gen Z: In Their Own…

by Shane Pruitt

Next Gen Evangelism Director, North American Mission Board (NAMB)

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Baptist Press.

Often when you hear an “expert” speak or write about reaching a particular generation, it will inevitably be someone from an older generation. For example, you’ll have a baby boomer or Generation X-er talking about how to connect with millennials or Gen Z.

In no way am I saying this is an ineffective approach. In fact, there is a plethora of resources out there done in this particular way that are extremely helpful. However I wanted to take a different approach.

Over the last year, while speaking at student camps, DiscipleNow weekends, conferences and young adult worship services among other events, I took the opportunity to sit down and ask these young people some probing questions. One of the things I love the most about young people is if you want to know what they’re thinking, all you have to do is ask them.

Sometimes, you don’t even have to ask! Instead of adults telling other adults how to reach students, I decided to ask students, “What do adults need to know about your generation, known as Gen Z?” It was an incredible journey. I became a student so that I could hear ideas from this generation about reaching their generation.

With that in mind, here are six things we need to know about Gen Z in their own words:

— They want more out of church than potluck dinners. This generation wants to be a part of “doing” something. They’ll want more out of their church than sitting in a pew, listening to sermons and going to potluck dinners while waiting on the “Rapture Bus” to swoop down to pick them all up. They are not scared to die young; they are terrified, however, to die at a ripe old age while not having done anything significant with their lives in their own eyes. They are not typically impressed by a church’s size or budget. They’re interested both in being noticed relationally and in what the church is doing outside the walls of the building. Let’s mobilize a generation. They will make mistakes, but so do we. That’s why grace is so amazing.

— They are not ageist. People tend to think that students don’t want to have anything to do with the older generation. Gen Z is in desperate need for older generations to invest in them. This is largely a fatherless generation. They often seek out or are more open to discipleship or mentorship than we tend to think. But they won’t know how to ask for it. They may ask you to “hangout” by using some other word that sounds like gibberish to you. Nevertheless, if this generation wants to spend time with you, then they are giving you the most valuable thing they have to offer and that you have to give — time.

— They largely value the “why” over the “what.” Students are not typically open to doing something just because it’s the way it’s always been done or because it’s what their family has always known. They are not driven by heritage. For example, students are not going to be Southern Baptist just because their parents were. If we can’t answer their “why” questions or we get defensive over their questions, we’ll lose them. Be ready to answer their honest questions with love, patience and kindness. Their experience with something or someone will often dictate their views more than history will.

— They don’t want to be seen as the future of the church. Remember, the younger generation is not the future of the church; if they’ve been redeemed with the blood of Jesus, then they’re the church of right now. Let them have some ownership of the ministry, and be patient with them when they mess up … possibly a lot. A great way to keep students engaged in the ministry is by constantly communicating, illustrating and empowering participation in the vision and mission of the church. Sometimes, we’ll schedule an event to reach Gen Z using all older generations to plan it, then plead with students to bring their friends. Then we get upset, when they don’t show up. Want them to show up? Want them to invite their friends? Then let them have a voice in planning it.

— They want authenticity and transparency. Nearly all students grow weary of gimmicks and “sleek presentations” very quickly. The more transparent and vulnerable a communicator is the more students connect. There was a time when speakers/teachers were told not to use themselves in personal illustrations. This generation, on the other hand, wants to hear those personal stories. As adults, if we act as those who have it all figured out and are not in desperate daily need of God’s grace, we’ll lose students’ attention. They won’t believe that we’re “being real” and they’ll think our faith is unattainable for them.

— They know brokenness at an earlier age. They are exposed to more violence, graphic images and evil at an earlier age. Exposure to these things on the internet, in media coverage and through broken homes is unfortunately the norm for far too many. They don’t know a world without the fear of mass shootings and terrorism. This is also a pornography-saturated generation where the average age of first exposure is 11. The fastest growing demographic for internet pornography consumption is females age 15–30; 70 percent of guys admit to interaction with internet pornography, and 50 percent of girls. This generation is looking for solutions at a much earlier time in their lives. They know they’re broken. Thank God for the Gospel because it is mighty to save Gen Z. Share it with them. They’re starving for it, whether or not they know it.

I’m personally encouraged by this generation of students. Even as an adult, I resonate deeply with their views. According to a recent Wall Street Journal survey, 30 percent of Gen Z says, “religion is very important to them,” the lowest in U.S. history. But 78 percent say, “living a self-fulfilled life is very important to them.” This should be extremely eye-opening to us. That’s the threshold to cross in communicating to Gen Z. Help them see that a “fulfilled life” only comes from Someone outside of “self.”

Be sure to check out Shane’s new book
9 Common Lies Christians Believe<>

Shane Pruitt is the National Next Gen Evangelism Director for the NorthAmerican Mission Board (NAMB), and is also the author of the book – 9Common Lies Christians Believe. He and his wife, Kasi, have five childrenand reside outside of Dallas, TX.

Biblical Narrative

Storied Discipleship

by Chesed Dent

Director of Global Studies Internships, Liberty University

Just a couple of weeks ago Christians around the world celebrated Christmas. There is a wonder to this time of year, a whisper and shout of “Jesus came!” The shadowed outline of the nativity takes center stage on holiday greeting cards and the students on our campus are decked in their holiday sweaters singing Christmas carols on the quad. And in the midst of the normal Christmas culture of celebration, a student walked into my office last month and said, “I’m so excited about Christmas. I think it’s the first year I finally understand why Jesus came. And I’m telling everybody about it.”

I was taken aback at first. She grew up in the church. She has been a Christian for a long time. She even holds a spiritual leadership role on our campus. So I asked her to explain what she meant. This is what she said: “Well, before now if you had asked me why Jesus came, I would have said that He came to die on a cross to forgive me of my sins. And that’s not wrong. But this is the first year I understand how Him coming is a part of the Story.”

Over the past few years I have become more and more convinced that many of our students come into our program in similar places of understanding. They claim Christ as their Savior and know the answers to the Gospel outlines they have been given, but would have a very difficult time telling the story that led to the birth of Christ. They know the Romans Road or whatever evangelism tool they have learned. Many of them know the focused explanations of specific passages and theological viewpoints. However, when asked how Jesus’ birth is the answer to what happened at the Fall in Genesis 3, their explanations are the rote memorization of the Gospel tools they have been given and discipled under instead of the telling of the Gospel Story written throughout the Grand Narrative of the Bible.

My dad commented a few weeks ago that we are very good, in Western Christian contexts, at digging postholes. “We train pastors and teachers to dig deep in one spot (passage), which is actually very good. However, if we want to build a fence, we not only need fence posts; we also need rails to connect the posts.”[1] Many of our students have been discipled under fence post teaching. They have learned great truth but have not been given the rails that connect the posts. Then they are trained in the many and varied Gospel evangelism tools that were developed to help explain and present the Gospel but were never meant to take the place of the Gospel story.

Faith family, I fear that we are developing a generation of Christ followers that have a fragmented understanding of the Bible and we then train them to share the Gospel in the same way. They know the script of their tools and explanations but not the script of the biblical story. And they are so very hungry for a good story to belong to and tell. Do we not see it in the passion they have when they talk about their favorite books, movies, and fandoms? Are we guilty of not teaching them the better story? Is this why so many of them are leaving it?

Our students don’t only need evangelism and discipleship tools. They don’t only need focused fence posts. They don’t only need explanation and script. They need to know how to integrate all of these crucial elements into the story they come from. Research shows that worldview and identity are tethered to the narrative that a people belong to.[2] In a world where there are so many competing narratives, we must do a better job telling the true narrative of the world.[3] Into this narrative we must help our students place their knowledge and tools. In the God of this narrative they will find identity, meaning, and purpose. And from this narrative they will better speak an invitation to be a part of a story that celebrates the coming of Christ.

The student that came into my office was walking in new knowledge of the biblical metanarrative teaching she has been sitting under recently. This is not the first year she celebrated the coming of Jesus. I am not, in any way, questioning her sincere salvation and love for Christ. But there is a newfound excitement in how she understands and shares about the baby boy born in Bethlehem so long ago. She now understands that the birth of Jesus is part of a progressive story of God making His presence available to His people. She understands that at the Fall, when God was laying out the consequences before Adam, Eve, and the serpent, the promise He made for the offspring of the woman to bruise the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15) was a promise for the birth of this Christmas child. But her understanding does not stop there. She doesn’t jump from Genesis 3 to Matthew 1 in her Christmas narrative. Instead, she can follow the line of God pursuing His people in order to dwell with them through the entire metanarrative. The Christmas story has expanded out in her understanding to include the entire Grand Narrative of the Bible. This is why she said, “I’m so excited about Christmas. I think it’s the first year I finally understand why Jesus came. And I’m telling everybody about it.”

[1] Dr. Don Dent, shared in a phone conversation, October 25, 2019.

[2] Michael Vern Matthews, “Is There a Reader in this Text?: The Place of Metanarrative in the Problem of Meaning” (PhD diss., Trinity Theological Seminary, 2013), 104-105.

[3] Michael W. Goheen, “The Urgency of Reading the Bible as One Story.” Theology Today 64 (2008): 469.

Chesed Dent has spent almost 20 years in Southeast Asia, both as a third culture kid and as a global worker. After graduating from Southeastern seminary in 2012, she moved to Lynchburg, VA to work at Liberty University. Currently she is serving as the Director Of Global Studies Internships where she trains students for overseas service. Her focused interests of training include: Third Culture Kids, Transition and Culture Shock, Reentry, Spiritual Warfare, Storytelling/Orality, and the Grand Narrative of the Bible. She just completed her second Master’s degree and connected research: “The Grand Narrative Worldview: A Narrative Inquiry into the Impact of Biblical Metanarrative Teaching in Liberty University’s School of Divinity Global Studies Program.” She loves to shop in international markets, sing, ride rollercoasters, go to festivals, watch crime shows, eat French fries, and can regularly be found surrounded by Old Testament commentaries geeking out over the awesomeness of God’s Word.

Higher Education

Theological Education and the Christian Life

On Sunday, November 17th, OBU hosted a For the Church Micro-Conference on theological education and the Christian life. The panel discussion was moderated by Nathan Harris, Director of Institutional Relations Initiatives at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and included Dr. Heath Thomas, President-Elect of OBU; Dr. Jason Allen, President of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Dr. Matthew Emerson, Associate Professor of Religion at OBU. You can watch the panel below.


Sermon Illustrations That Relate (and How to Find Them)

by Josh King

Lead Pastor, Second Baptist Conway (Conway, AR)

Boring sermons are a sin. I’ve said that more times than I can count – and I’m playing – but there is a measure of truth to it. Most of those reading this post are going to find 1) a well-exegeted text and 2) strong logical argument to be the standard criteria of a “not boring” sermon. Believe me, you’re right and I agree, but that’s not where most of those sitting in the pew are going to be – and as communicators we need to meet them where they are. Bottom line, there is no reason a sermon cannot be both contextually and exegetically sound and personally engaging.

In my opinion nothing engages the mind and heart of the hearer as does a well done personal illustration. Illustrations are the oil in the engine of the sermon. A good illustration keeps things moving smoothly and keeps everything from grinding along. The challenge, though, is finding good sermon illustrations that don’t sound canned; in other words, illustrations that are original and personal. Below are the steps I take to find the right illustration each week.

  1. Get your mind right about illustrations. This point alone should probably be another post but I’ll just rapid fire out a few thoughts. Illustrations are not to entertain; they are to connect the heart to the mind. Personal stories are the most effective means to do this in our current culture. Just about any story can illustrate any point. And, since you have lived through a full week since your last sermon, it’s not that you don’t have a story to tell, you just haven’t noticed it.
  2. Do your exegesis first. Many sermon illustrations don’t fit the sermon, or more specifically the text from which your sermon is preached, because they were chosen first. In other words, you chose a story and then tried to shoe-horn a text into it. That’s not how this works. So don’t even think about how to illustrate the points until you know the point of the text.
  3. Make a small chart. I just sketch this out in my notebook using three columns – themes, opposites, brainstorm. Under the “themes” column, list out all of the themes you will touch on in the sermon. Under the “opposites” column, list the opposite of that theme. For example, if you will touch on the idea of “knowledge,” then list next to it the idea of ignorance. Under the “brainstorm” column just start listing anything that comes to mind related to those two words. In this example you could jot down, “a big exam at school,” “not knowing how something works,” “the largest book you’ve ever read,” etc.
  4. Now make it personal. Many preachers stop at this point and just tell about a long book or about taking a big exam. They might say – “this would be like needing to study for a final exam in your college days, it’s tough because you need to know a lot about the topic while not knowing exactly what will be asked.” I mean, that works – but it doesn’t connect. A better approach is to tell about a time you had a big test to take, about how late you stayed up the night before, about how many Whataburger coffees you drank, about how your study partner had color-coordinated flash cards, and about and ultimately you cannot remember one thing on that exam. Everyone can connect to various aspects of that story.
  5. Tie it in. Now that you have a great story that connects the hearts of those listening to what your mind is relaying you need to tie it back to the original point you’re making from the text. A mistake many make is thinking that a story is a transition; it is not. When your story is complete, say a sentence or two on exactly what you meant to convey. For our ongoing illustration here you might say – in the same way I had a superficial grasp of those facts on that exam, many of us have a factual knowledge of Jesus without truly understanding Him. And that’s where Paul’s prayer here is going, that the Ephesians would have a true, intimate, meaningful knowledge of Him.

Let me just finish by saying this – don’t stress over illustrations. Some preachers get worked up trying to be as funny or captivating as some other preacher, but you are trying to convey the thoughts of Scripture. Just say it. When you are preaching, speak similar to the way you would instruct your child. Give the concept and use a personal story to convey how you learned it. That is all. You are not an entertainer, you are a preacher – but keep in mind, boring sermons are a sin.

Josh King has been the Lead Pastor at Second Baptist Conway (Conway, AR), since August of 2018. Prior to moving to Arkansas, he had served churches in Texas full time since 2001. His experience includes student ministry, serving as Associate Pastor, and Lead Pastor. Josh is a proud graduate of Criswell College in Dallas, Texas and holds both a Bachelors Degree as well as a Masters. Both are in Biblical studies and ministry. He is married to Jacki, a passionate and talented women’s minister, and they have three sons, Haddon, Leland, and Amos.


Lessons from a Family Doctor

by Will Wilson

Pastor, New Hope Baptist Church (Bethel, OK)

A common question asked of most people from a young age is: “What does your father do?” In my life, the dialogue is always the same: “He’s a doctor.” “What kind of doctor?” It was not until recently that I truly considered the weight of my ever-ready answer: “He’s just a family doc.” Never was it intended to downplay his life’s work; it was simply another way of saying he wasn’t a specialist. Hanging in his office at work, for as long as I can remember, was a framed comic strip that was set in the Old West. The family doc saw several patients, sending one to the Ear, Nose, and Throat doc, another to the optometrist, and still another to the podiatrist. In the final frame, the family doc is sitting at his desk reflecting on his day’s work; he sighs and says, “I never get to treat anyone.”

Often, in the increasingly competitive world of ministry, many pastors have neither the funds nor the time to continue their formal education; thus, in their minds, they somehow fall short. Others come into ministry later in life, simply bringing with them a high school diploma or a bachelor’s degree from a secular institution, having received no formal training in ministry. And still others are blessed to attend any one of our fine seminaries, many having attained master’s degrees, and no small number hold terminal degrees. Yet, how ought the pastor to view himself? Is the less educated pastor simply a family doc who never gets to treat anyone? Is the highly educated pastor a specialist who has his pick of who he can and will treat?

At the outset, let it be said that education and the pursuit thereof is absolutely necessary to preparing for ministry. The Academy is a gift to the church and should be valued for her pursuit of truth and knowledge. If the opportunity for higher education presents itself, waste no time in seizing it. Pastors should strive to be pastors and theologians. However, the education received from outside the Academy is just as valuable, simply by virtue of the knowledge gained. A vast majority of what I do as a pastor outside of the pulpit is executed with knowledge gained not from the Academy, but from a family doctor–a bachelor or a master, if you will—among a world of specialists.

The role of the pastor is much like that of the family doctor. We see everybody under our care. We are there at the “new birth,” and we are at the bedside at death. We administer life giving medicine in the form of bread, milk, and meat that nourishes the healthy and restores the unhealthy. We are intimately familiar with entire families, and they look to us as the one with the answers to what ails them. Last year, my dad celebrated fifty years of medical practice. I posted about this on social media and the responses were overwhelming. Countless were those who chimed in: “He delivered me!” “We love the doc!” “We wish he’d come back!” “He was such a caring and personal doctor.” On and on they went. How is it that someone who “never treats anyone” could have such an impact? Much in the same way that pastors do, regardless of one’s pedigree or particular context. Whether we know it or not, if we are preaching Jesus, loving people, and fulfilling our call, we are having an impact on people’s lives. Your flock will come to care about you as you care for them. And whether you ever hear about it or not, the pastor is remembered not for what he knew but how much he cared.

A second lesson learned from the family doctor was that of attention to and respect for the older generation: a valuable lesson for any pastor, especially a younger one. One day an elderly lady on a fixed income came to my dad’s office. She had an outstanding bill on file. After her visit, before she made her way to the front desk, my dad told his assistant to accept payment for the current visit, and then to inform her that her account was now paid in full. In that seemingly insignificant story, I learned a valuable lesson that I think of and act on frequently. With one kind act, the family doctor allowed her to maintain her dignity and he showed her grace. Often a pastor will arrive at an impasse with the older generation, usually over style of worship or some other secondary or tertiary issue. However, when the pastor has learned to treat them with attention, respect, dignity, and grace, more often than not he gains an ally and a friend.

A third lesson learned from the family doctor is that even though you may not want to do something, excuses are cheap, so you do it. To be sure there are advantages to being raised in a doctor’s home, but there is one singular disadvantage: it is impossible to act sick to get out of going to school. Even with one’s best acting skills engaged, one look in the doctor’s eyes and he knows. Pastor, there will always be things we don’t want to do. Often, it’s not that we can’t do things, we simply just don’t feel like doing them. But the task to which we are called is of the highest order; and one look into the Great Physician’s eyes will cause all of our best acting, our best excuses, our best efforts to falter. So, we suit up and go and do it. And at the end of the day, we find that we could do it, even if we didn’t want to.

Pursue the opportunities afforded you. Be educated. Learn humility. Learn honor. Learn to work hard. Wherever you find yourself, always be learning. And never forget that the specialists would have no one to treat if it weren’t for the referral of the family doctor. All that said, I wish just once the good doctor would have realized it would have been nice to miss just one day of school. Doctors and their education, am I right?

Will Wilson is the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Bethel, Oklahoma. Born and raised in Post, Texas, Wilson moved to Oklahoma at age 14. A graduate of Boyce College and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has been the senior pastor at New Hope for almost a decade. He and his wife, Leigh, have been married for 17 years. They are the proud parents of Trip, Jett, Cruz and Tatum.


Waiting on God

by Todd Fisher

Senior Pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church (Shawnee, OK)

I enjoy traveling because I like seeing new places, experiencing different cultures, trying new food, and meeting new people. The part of traveling I don’t like, however, is the waiting. You wait on the shuttle in the airport parking lot. Then you wait at the counter to check your bag. Then you wait at security. Then you wait to board the plane. Then you wait on the jet way. Then you wait on the plane for the person in front of you to put up their carry-on bags. Then you wait on the tarmac while the captain says you’re number seventeen for takeoff. When the plane lands you wait to unload and then you wait on your bags. Lots and lots of waiting.

Most of us hate to wait. In my pastoral counseling, I encounter many people who discover one of the most difficult things they will ever do is wait on God. Some of us are waiting for God to provide a spouse. Some of us are waiting on God to save our spouse and bring him/her into a right relationship with him. Some of us are waiting for the purpose of why something bad happened. Some of us are waiting for God to perhaps give healing to some disease. Some of us are waiting for God to show us what career path to take or give us wisdom about a big decision. Some of us are waiting for prodigal children to come home. Some of us have lost a loved one and are waiting for God to reveal His purpose and fill us with hope. When you think about it, many of us are waiting on God.

One of the most common ways we fail to wait on God is by getting impatient. We can be like Abraham and Sarah in Gen. 16 and try to take things into our own hands. God had promised the couple they would have descendants, but ten years after the promise and at an advanced age they were still childless. So Sarah, thinking God needed “help” to fulfill the promise, gives her husband her slave Hagar to have children. Their actions were sinful and caused a great deal of pain to their families and future generations.

So, how do we avoid making mistakes while waiting on God? Here are some lessons we can learn from Abraham and Sarah:

  1. We have to be willing to abide by God’s timeline, which is often different than ours. We have a tendency to get very myopic in waiting on God. We want what we want when we want it, which is immediately! Remember that God’s promise to Abraham was culminated in the birth of Jesus nearly 2,000 years later! God is about shaping and transforming lives, which means the process is very important to Him. Our culture today doesn’t like the process – we want immediate results. I sometimes used to dread long car trips with my kids because of the incessant, “Are we there yet?” and “He’s bothering me!” statements that came from the back seat. I often wanted to tell my children to just be patient and enjoy the ride. I wonder if there aren’t many times when God would like to say something similar to us.
  2. We must evaluate selfish motives while waiting on God. Being barren was a social stigma in Sarah’s day. Perhaps she got tired of waiting for God to fulfill His promise because of the personal toll it was taking on her. Also, Sarah may have had some sense of entitlement concerning God giving her children. After all, it was ten years earlier that she left her home, friends, and comfortable surroundings to leave for a foreign land and live in a tent. She could have said to God, “God, after all I have given up these past ten years, the least you could do is give me a child!” We must always be wary of ever thinking God owes us anything. In fact, if we got what we deserved from God, none of us would like it! If God chose today to give you nothing else again, you would still have a lifetime of giving Him thanks for all He has already given.
  3. Failing to wait on God often produces painful consequences.  Because Abraham and Sarah stopped trusting God and waiting on Him to fulfill His promise, they jumped the gun and brought Hagar into the picture. As a result, Ishmael was born and the family was fractured – a familial tension that still has consequences today. The mistakes we make while failing to wait on God can be disastrous. Many of us have enduring painful conditions in our life today that stand as testimonies to the times we failed to wait on God. We may have a bad financial situation because we got ahead of God’s will in our financial dealings. We may have a bad relationship because we failed to wait on God in the past. Failing to wait can have damaging repercussions.
  4. We must remember that if we find ourselves waiting on God that means He is working within us. Abraham and Sarah were arguably at their lowest place in Gen. 16. But they pulled through! The pinnacle of Abraham’s faith is yet to come when he obeys God’s command to sacrifice Isaac. The good news is that if we have made a mistake while waiting on God we can still receive his forgiveness and grace. We must remember that if we find ourselves waiting on God it isn’t because He is too busy or has lost interest in us – it’s because He is working in our lives. God puts us in a place of waiting because he is transforming us.  That is cause for rejoicing and makes the wait very much worth it all.

One time a mother in our church called the office to notify us that we would find play money in the offering plates from the previous Sunday. She wanted to explain its significance. This mother’s child has autism and for many years she struggled with coming to church because his behavior could be distracting. Yet, she made the commitment to come to church every Sunday regardless of what her son did or what others thought. On that Sunday, as they awoke and got ready for church, her son was excited and eager to attend. In the worship service, as the boy saw the offering plates approaching, he pulled out his pretend money that he loves to play with and put it in the plate. He wasn’t told to do so, he just did. The mother’s eyes filled with tears as she realized God was working in his life and hers. Here is a mother who has been waiting on God for many years to reveal His purpose. That Sunday she got a glimpse of what God is doing and the waiting was worth it. That is true for all of us as well.

Dr. Todd Fisher has been the Senior Pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church (Shawnee, OK) since 2003. Born and raised in Ft. Worth, Todd made his way to Oklahoma to attend Oklahoma Baptist University where he met his wife Jamy, whom he married in 1994. They have three children and love serving together as a part of the amazing things God is doing at IBC. As our pastor, Todd is committed to encouraging and equipping people to grow as disciples through his ministry at IBC, blogging, and speaking opportunities. Todd is passionate about preaching/teaching the Bible and serves as an adjunct faculty member at OBU and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Todd loves spending time with his family and attending his children’s activities. He also enjoys running as well as rooting for the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, and OKC Thunder.