Hobbs College presents honors theses

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

As the school year rapidly comes to a close over the next few weeks, the hard work and dedication of honors students across the campus is coming to fruition.

Students from different disciplines across campus are presenting their honors theses at various afternoons in the months of April and May, and many of these presentations include the final projects from students in the Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry.

Chandler Warren presented his final thesis on April 15.

His project, titled “The God of Hell: The Relationship Between the Divine and The Damned,” was concerned with the doctrine of a literal hell, and how God’s inherent attributes interact and in-form on that doctrine.

Warren’s research ranged from a number of aspects, the most interesting aspect being the relation of God to time.

“Chandler’s thesis presentation is a model for OBU Honors students, whether in Hobbs or some other discipline,” Dickinson Associate Professor of Religion and the faculty advisor for Warren’s thesis Matthew Emerson said.

“His argument is sophisticated, his methodology is careful, and his presentation was both witty and informative.”

Other presentations from students in the department included Jonathan Knox, who brought forth his project titled “The Nature of Sin: Inward, Outward, Ultimate,” April 22.

In the future, there are three more presentations dealing with subjects relating to religion.

Matthew Shively will present “Predestination, Election, and Encouragement to Christlike-ness in Paul’s Epistles” Thursday, May 2.

John Ellis’ thesis – “What has Darwin to do with Design? Are Evolution and Christianity Compatible?” – will be presented Tuesday, May 7.

Noah Jones will finish off the honors presentation Wednesday May 8, with his thesis, “The Mereology of God Incarnate: A Critique of Part-Whole Approaches to Christ’s Attributes.”

Jones says that the title of his project sounds more complicated than it really is.

“I explore ways to understand traditional Christian beliefs about Jesus,” Jones said. “For example, I explore and critique some answers to questions like ‘If Jesus was fully God and fully man, was He material or immaterial?’ I also discuss similar questions related to Jesus’ omniscience and whether He was inside or outside time.”

For Jones, completing this thesis project was taxing.

“[It] was very difficult,” he said. “My thesis required more work by far than any other task I’ve had at OBU.”

That challenge, though, made the process memorable.

“It was especially rewarding to me to focus in so much detail on a single topic and become an expert (as much as is possible for an undergraduate) on some small thing,” Jones said.

All theses presentations take place in the Tulsa Royalties Auditorium in Bailey Business Center, and all presentations are open to the public.

OBU offers faster pathways for MDiv

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

For students of the Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry, there’s a new reason to celebrate.

The department, which is headed by Dean Heath Thomas, has instituted partnerships with several seminaries across the country to provide a shorter pathway to a Master of Divinity. The idea allows students to skip past material in their master’s program that they’ve already received on Bison Hill, potentially bypassing 25 percent of their master’s education and saving them about six or seven thousand dollars, depending on the institution they plan on attending. This can turn a 3 to 5 year education into something more manageable for students.

The program at OBU comes at a time in America when the cost of higher education is a hot-topic issue, with many in the country crying out for reform. While much of the discontent revolves around undergraduate education, those pursuing graduate degrees face similar tuition costs. Don Davis, president of The Urban Ministry Institute, as quoted in a 2013 article by the Christian Post, says that the average cost of seminary education amounts to at least 35 thousand for many stu-dents.

“[It’s] out of control,” he said.

And while allowing students to save money is certainly on Dean Thomas’ mind, the main impetus for the idea came from his time working with students as Southeastern Seminary, as director of the seminaries Ph.D. program. Thomas remembers hearing many students complain of redundancy in their education.

“I saw students, even OBU students, coming into Southeastern, saying ‘Gosh, we’ve had a lot of this stuff, and now we have to take it again. We feel like we’re wasting time and money, and there’s no need to do that,’” Thomas said.

What allows a program like this to succeed, in Thomas’ mind, is the extremely high quality of an undergraduate degree from OBU.

“Oklahoma Baptist University has a very good reputation academically,” he said. “What I wanted to do in this program is take the best of the education that we have at OBU and recognize the… level of work done, and provide some very intentional partnerships, where we do a course by course evaluation and formalize it that so that students who come from OBU can essentially step into year two [at a seminary].”

The idea of partnerships between undergraduate universities and seminaries is a fairly new one, but it’s something that’s been in Thomas’ head for years.

“I thought about it a long time ago, when I was working at Southeastern,” he said. “But when I got here, it was a priority.”

That priority has been taking shape for about a year, and the program is currently in effect with two seminaries, with more agreements and partnerships forthcoming.

Thomas says that finding partnerships with willing seminaries hasn’t been difficult, as many are willing to partner with undergraduate entities.

“The biggest hurdle in all of these things is working through your accreditation agencies,” he said.

On a practical level, students looking to get the most out of the seminary partnerships will need to work closely with their advisors and mentors within Hobbs College.

“One of the ways this is going to flow is through our advisement culture,” Thomas said. “We can help shepherd our advisees through and help them think very critically and intentionally about the shape of ministry… What this does, it incentivizes students coming into our school… [They] have a pathway for a diverse educational experience at two different institutions… and it does it in a way that [they’re] not wasting time.”

More partnerships are forthcoming from the program, and Thomas is keen to expand this idea to its furthest potential.

“I want to provide as many outlets… as possible,” he said. “We’re working to try and give the best education and pathways for our students, where they can go where they want to go and do what they want to do, but they’re not breaking the bank or wasting their time. And that’s really important.”

Full information on the program can be found at http://www.okbu.edu/theology

Student preacher excited for opportunity

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

thomas 2
Courtesy Photo/The Baptist Messenger Thomas Shroder to preach in chapel March 6 as student preacher

For Thomas Shroder, the comparison between the preaching pulpit and the pitching mound is an apt one.  

Pastoral Ministries and Apologetics major here at OBU – as well as a pitcher on the baseball team – he has been caught in a balancing act between his call to ministry and his competitive fire ever since stepping foot on Bison Hill. 

This March, that balancing act is being rewarded, as Shroder has been selected by the theology department to represent them as a student preacher in chapel on March 6. 

The story of Shroder’s call to the ministry is a long one. A natural athlete in California growing up, he took to baseball immediately, and it became the driving force in his life.  

“Baseball was all I wanted to do,” he said. “And so much of my identity, growing up, got wrapped up in that.”  

It was baseball that paved the way for Shroder’s college journey, as he began playing at a junior college in his home state of Arizona.

After transferring to the University of Texas at Arlington – where his major was Economics and ministry was far from his mind – Shroder experienced his first big sports injury, prompting him to consider for the first time what a life without baseball would look like.  

“I really felt God saying, ‘If I took away baseball from you, you’d have nothing.’” Shroder said. “It was my whole identity, and I knew it was going to let me down.”  

Having grown up as the son of a youth minister and a worship leader, Shroder had been around the teachings of Christianity his whole life, but had never really embraced the lifestyle modeled to him by his parents.  

“I just sort of adopted their faith,” he said. “That made itself very clear when I got to high school and junior college. Church was just something I did on Sundays, and I ran to the world.” 

Forced to take time off from baseball while recovering from his injury at UTA, Shroder began to take his relationship with the Lord seriously, and he began to feel a calling on his life that went far beyond baseball and economics.  

Pursuing this calling with the spiritual mentors in his life, Shroder became convinced that God was seriously commanding him to a life in ministry, and when God opened the doors for him to transfer to OBU, Shroder jumped at the chance, abandoning economics for the theology department and beginning work as a supply preacher in his hometown and some of the areas surrounding Shawnee.  

These opportunities to preach on Sundays have allowed Shroder the chance to hone his abilities, as well as to test the calling on his life and confirm it. Once unsure that he wanted to serve officially at a church, Shroder now feels confident in that direction.  

“I’m sure that’s where everything is headed at this point,” he said. “Over the last year I’ve seen… certain gifts and talents that the Lord has given me really manifest themselves behind the pulpit in a way that it’s just really solidified that calling for me.” 

As to being chosen as the student preacher for 2019, Shroder confesses that he didn’t expect the honor. 

“I was pretty surprised,” he said. “It’s an honor…it’s really cool to be affirmed in that way from your mentors, your professors.”  

For Heath Thomas, the Dean of Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry, it was the dedication Shroder displays that made him a natural choice.  

Thomas exhibits a deep commitment to Jesus, a clear call to ministry, and he faithfully labors to be the person that God has called him to be,” Dean Thomas said. “All of the women and men in Hobbs College are extraordinary in their call and commitment to Jesus; we are delighted that Thomas will represent them as he proclaims the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ from God’s Word.” 

Shroder compares his nerves at preaching in chapel – which will undoubtedly be the biggest crowd he’s stood in front of – to those he feels before taking the mound.  

“I’m excited,” he said. “I think it’ll be just like on the mound. It’ll be a deep breath, and then let’s get after it.”  

That excitement, and the nerves that accompany it, is tempered by the fact that Shroder knows the results won’t be up to him.  

“It’s not even necessarily me,” he said I’m just excited for what the Lord’s going to do.” 

Shroder keeps his goals for the chapel message simple – and they’re the same goals that he has every time he preaches.  

“I want to preach the word clearly and concisely so that the Spirit is free to move as he wills,” he said.  

He also knows that preaching is only half of the battle. The other half comes from the example he sets in life, especially in the context of baseball and as he prepares to be a leader in a congregation.  

The challenge is always just living authentically,” Shroder said. “It’s a challenge to portray and live out Christianity as a viable option in your life.”  

Ephesians 1:15-23 is the text that Shroder plans on preaching from, and the density of those verses is a challenge that he relishes.  

“[It’s] a lot,” he said. “It’s going to be a task to pull it off in 25 or 30 minutes.”  

After March 6 – and after graduation – Shroder has immediate plans, but his long-term future is up in the air. The one thing he knows is what he wants to be doing.  

“I just want to feed the flock,” he said. “I want to be of service to the church in whatever capacity… being a pastor is a full-time job. It’s a lifestyle.”  

Shroder will portray that lifestyle for the rest of his days, and on March 6 he will portray it in front of the entire university.  

Gambo Moves from Nigeria to Bison Hill

By Mya Hudgins, Assistant Arts Editor

Oklahoma Baptist University welcomes a new professor to the College of Theology and Ministry.

Dr. David Gambo will be a new professor in the Hobbs College. He was also installed as the second recipient of the Reverend A.E. and Dora Hughes Chair of Christian Ministry.

“I was born in the mission field in Nigeria, where my parents were serving as missionaries with the Nigerian Bible Translation Trust (a Wycliffe Bible Translators organization),” said Gambo. “I professed faith in Christ when I was eight years old. Walking by faith and loving Jesus has always been my Christian conviction. God called me to the ministry when I was in my freshman year in college. After college, I served with a church for three years before enrolling at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for theological training.”

Many students have seen his passion and love for Christ in the classroom, but he might offer a different perspective on ministry because his ministry started across the world.

“I love having Dr. Gambo as my professor,” student Bayleigh Platter said. “He is so passionate and in love with Christ and it really shows in and out of the classroom. I believe he can add a special point of view considering he is from a different part of the world. “On the first day of class he reflected on what it was like to be back in Nigeria, and how things differentiated from things here in America within the churches and his ministry. He made it clear that although things were slightly different there, the message he is spreading never changes.”

Gambo has been in the ministry for 16 years now, starting back in 2002. As his ministry has changed from a church to a classroom setting, he is excited about being a part of the journey that the students are endeavoring.

“I’m excited to work with great men and women at OBU,” said Gambo.“The opportunity to influence and prepare students to fulfill their calling and vocation. It would be a great joy and delight for me to prepare the next Billy Graham or Lottie Moon.”

Dr. Heath Thomas, Dean of the College of Theology and Ministry, has high standards for professors in the Hobbs College.

“A professor in Hobbs College must be ready to engage students and mentor them day-in-and-day-out,” said Dean Thomas. “A unique aspect of teaching in Hobbs College, in comparison to seminaries and Bible Colleges, is our opportunity to prepare ministers in a well-rounded and fully-orbed liberal arts curriculum. As a result, our professors are drawing connections between theological realities and the real world.”

As these standards are set high, Gambo has reached them. Dean Thomas is more than excited to have him in Hobbs College on Bison Hill.

“When our colleagues met Gambo, they were struck by his warmth and winsome demeanor,” Dean Thomas said. “Dr. Gambo’s passion for the Lord and unique academic and ministry gifting makes him a fit for our faculty at Hobbs College. His passion for Jesus, his scholarship, his deep spirituality, and real-life ministry skills in diverse contexts will add great value to our students.

“I believe he will influence our students to embrace a vision for ministry that blends world-class scholarship, spiritual passion, and practical skills.”

With the big transition to Shawnee, Gambo has already created some favorite memories alongside his wife, Sarah, and four-month-old son, Elijah, on Bison Hill.

“Welcome week is my favorite thing so far, I enjoyed seeing the rich traditions that OBU has, said Gambo. “In the Hobbs College, I have [also] enjoyed the camaraderie among the family.”