OBU’s spiritual foundation will be missed

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

There are a lot of things for a graduating senior to be anxious about.

First of all, of course, you have to be sure that you do graduate, which means taking care of the schoolwork that remains on your plate.

For many, this includes wrapping up capstones or final theses, meaning that those ideas you’ve had in your head for two years finally have to actually coalesce into something real.

You’re actually going to have to finish – and you’re going to have to do so while writing those final papers or completing those final projects that are a part of the end of every semester, including your senior semester.

Not an easy task.

Then you have to figure out what comes next. Now, I’m not saying this is hard for every senior – there are friends of mine who know exactly what they’re doing after May 17.

Some of them are headed to grad school, and others have jobs and apartments lined up.

They’re going to step seamlessly into their new life, no prob. They’re excited, and I’m excited for them.

But I know just as many others who have no idea what’s happening next. I include myself and my wife in this category.

We have leads, sure. Lines in the water. Eventually, something’s going to bite, and we’ll be fine.

But until that point, what we have is stress. Loads of it.

And we’re not alone.

Even with all of these stressors bouncing around inside my skull for the past few months, I’ve become aware of something else that I’m worried about: losing my spiritual foundation.

That sounds more ominous than I mean it to. I’m not talking about losing my faith or rejecting the church; I’m talking about leaving the strong spiritual environment that I’ve come to enjoy here on Bison Hill, and leaving some of the people that have become mentors in my life.

Because I am leaving. It’s happening.

My wife and I are leaving Oklahoma, we’re headed to a new adventure.

The church that we’ve come to be a part of will be left behind.

Our professors and mentors here on Bison Hill can’t come with us.

We’ll have to find a new church family. A new small group. New people that we can open up to about our faith, that we can encourage and be encouraged by.

And like it or not, I’m going to miss the environment of faithfulness that Bison Hill encourages.

Think about it. First of all, we have chapel. I know that these can be annoying at times – I know that you’re certainly not just amped to go every Wednesday.

But these services, I’ve found, have a way of really sneaking up on you.

Often it was the Wednesdays when I least wanted to be there that I found God speaking to me the clearest – and what He was telling me, often, was to slow down. To focus up.

Then there’s the classes themselves.

It’s an unusual thing to have Christian truths sprinkled into your study, into your disciplines.

This isn’t going to happen at work. My boss isn’t going to stop a staff meeting to make connections to the Gospel.

There won’t be a spiritual life office at my company. There won’t be an RA or an RN asking me how my walk with the Lord is going.

I’m trying to say that we’re inundated with the Christian message around here, and while I know that can feel annoying at times during your college career, it’s a blessing. An unusual blessing.

At no other time of my life will I have all these resources to grow spiritually.

I’m leaving that behind, and it’s a worry to me.

Sure, OBU is a bubble. But there’s a part of me that’s going to miss that bubble

 

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.

Connect Chapels include artistic emphasis

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

The church’s relationship with art has been turbulent at times over the past decades, but OBU’s Connect Chapels are helping, in their own small way, to change that.

The students and faculty involved in organizing this year’s Connect Chapels have made a concerted effort to include more artistic expressions of worship in their programs.

This has included poetry readings, by both students and faculty, the showing of visual arts pieces, and even rap and spoken word.

The inclusion of such expressions in the worship services has allowed students who might otherwise not be able to contribute to an event like chapel to be included.

The desire to begin including creative expressions of worship came out of a desire to shake things up. Heath McClure, who is one of the Co-Chairs of Chapel Crew along with Ivy Penwell, said that he and his team wanted to move away from some of the old models.

“Having been a part of Chapel Crew for three-years I have seen a wide variety of approaches to the idea of a student-led chapel,” he said. “At times it has leaned towards a somewhat bland model of student testimony only, with little else,” he said.

“While this has merit, it fails to capture the student body’s attention often and confines the idea of student representation to a small box in which a select few capable of speaking in front of others and with an appropriate story have the chance to share. Testimony is great but it loses its depth and value when it’s the only thing.”

Penwell, the other Co-Chair, agrees that it was important to include students who might not be as geared toward a traditional “church service.”

“One of our goals in chapel crew is to involve different types of majors and students in chapel, not just those who are gifted in worship or speaking,” she said. “We know that the Gospel can be so beautifully presented in a thousand different mediums.”

This idea fights against a kind of chapel “clique,” as well, against the same select students being on stage each week.

“We realized a large part of the student body was underrepresented and we desired to find ways to incorporate them,” McClure said.

Director of Student Ministry Clay Phillips, who preaches during Connect Chapels and who works with Chapel Crew to plan the services, is quick to point out that the credit for the artistic emphasis goes to the students.

“All of the credit goes to your peers on Chapel Crew for the ideas and creativity,” he said.

And while it was the students’ ideas, Phillips saw the potential immediately.

“I really felt like it was a great way to utilize the talents God has given to our brothers and sisters who are gifted in artistic ways,” he said. “Those talents aren’t always seen in our worship gatherings, so I thought it’d be a great avenue to allow them to be.”

All those involved with the services are enthusiastic about the results of the new artistic emphasis.

“[It’s] really been such an unexpected blessing this semester,” Penwell said. “We all know what it looks like to encounter the Holy Spirit in worship or in listening to a speaker, but to hear from Him by looking at a painting or by listening to a rap? It’s a little different, but it’s been really cool to see.”

Phillips notes that including art in the service is meaningful to all people, not just those students who are artistically inclined.

“They add to our worship of God in a way that people like me, who are not gifted with those abilities, can see Him in new and fresh ways,” he said.

Dr. Ben Myers, the Crouch-Mathis Professor of Literature, has become involved in the Connect Chapels, and has read poetry for the services a few times over the past year. He’s glad to see students using art as a worshipful expression, and especially poetry.

“Art is a gift from God — a reflection of His Truth, Goodness, and Beauty — and, like all His gifts, we should return it to Him as an act of worship,” he said.

Everyone involved in the chapel services is excited to see how this avenue of worship can be explored and expanded in the future.

“I hope that in future Connect Chapels we will continue to find new ways of highlighting the gifts God has given to our campus community, so that we can offer worship to Him in a way that gives fuller expression to who He is and what He does in and through us,” Phillips said.

Penwell agrees.

“It has become a really beautiful way to see the Holy Spirit moving in a new and fresh context, through fresh people and fresh mediums,” she said. “I hope we keep doing stuff like this.”

McClure perhaps sums it up best.

“We have the privilege to steward elements of creation in such a way to utilize the members of the body to exalt the name of Christ,” he said. “We believe that any way we can get more students involved in this desire, the better, so we will continue to explore ways in which that can happen.”

The tradition of Good Friday services

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

Good Friday service is traditional to me.

Now, tradition is an interesting thing, and the Easter season has set me to thinking about it a great deal.

Protestant Christianity is not as reliant on tradition and ceremony as Catholicism is – and certainly not as reliant on tradition and ceremony as some of the other main monotheistic religious traditions like Judaism and Islam.

In certain ways, that’s a good thing.

The trappings of religion can often become a crutch, a hollow shell that leaves out the possibility of the presence of God.

The case can be made that there are negative aspects to this lack of tradition, too, but that’s a tangent I won’t get into right now.

The point is that I’ve been thinking about tradition, especially about how Easter makes traditionalists out of even us Protestants.

We’re never more aware of the physical aspect of our faith than we are during Holy Week, because it is in Holy Week that the incarnation of Christ takes on immediacy – brutal immediacy, in this case, as we are forced to confront the fact of our Savior’s physical body scourged, tortured, killed.

The week leading up to the crucifixion screams out to us that Jesus was a man.

He had a body. He had nerves. He hurt.

He had a mother, who stood at the foot of the cross weeping.

This is an unofficial Protestant ritual, I think.

Catholics too, I’m sure – Shawnee’s St. Benedict Church recently hosted the stations of the cross.

Looking back at my own upbringing in the church, I can remember many a Good Friday service attended, and I can remember that many of them seemed to want to pound home the brutalities of Jesus’ death.

If you grew up in the church, I can almost guarantee that you’ve heard a pastor read through a very explicit description of what exactly happened to someone’s body during a Roman whipping, during a crucifixion.

A few times my church even hosted a showing of Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” film – a film I’ve only ever been able to sit through once.

In many ways, I understand this fixation on the aspect of pain.

Christ’s suffering, theologically, was meant for us.

We’re the ones who are supposed to be afflicted by that whip.

We’re the ones who are supposed to be strung up on that cross, with nails in our hands and in our feet.

Christ is doing all of that for us.

It’s supposed to affect us powerfully.

But I sometimes wonder if this fixation on pain comes at the expense of our appreciation for what happens on Sunday.

If Good Friday shows us like nothing else the humanity of Jesus, then Easter Sunday shows us like nothing else Jesus’ complete divinity, his power over death and his victory.

Christ has won. Christ doesn’t stay in that tomb.

We don’t need to stay fixated on Friday, because Sunday overshadows it.

What happened in the garden overshadows what happened on the cross.

I went to Moody Bible Institute my freshman year of college, which is a fairly well-known place of training for those going into the ministry.

We got to talking about this topic once, this idea that people remain so fixated on the brutality of the cross.

He made an interesting comment, noting that God chose to send Jesus into the world at a time when everything could only be recorded via the page, could only be read about.

He went on to say, specifically mentioning the Passion movie, that perhaps part of the reason that God did this was so that we wouldn’t have to see what Jesus went through.

Perhaps we weren’t meant to see it.

This doesn’t mean we aren’t to reflect on Good Friday.

Please, please, please don’t misunderstand me.

Good Friday is powerful, and it should absolutely be a time of contemplation for Christians.

Good Friday services are necessary and… well, good. But don’t stay stuck on Friday.

Sunday’s what we’re celebrating.

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

University Baptist Church welcomes students

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

For students at Oklahoma Baptist University looking for a church congregation to be a part of, home could be found just across the street.

University Baptist Church’s history has been deeply interwoven with OBU, and the church continues today to be a powerful partner in the spiritual development of students. The communities of the church and university overlap, and the result of this overlap is a congregation that enjoys welcoming the young people who come to Shawnee through the university.

Justin Dunn is the pastor of University Baptist Church, and he’s thankful for the connection that the church has been able to share with OBU.

“In the past, and in some ways today, the church being across the street from campus was convenient and helpful for students who didn’t have cars or were saving on gas money,” Dunn said. “At times the church has hosted OBU events and different organizations in our facility. A couple of times over the past ninety-eight years UBC has held services on the campus during times of construction or special occasions.”

The fact the church congregation is peopled by many from the OBU community – both students and faculty – allows connections to be made beyond the school, and sometimes beyond the time of service.

“Through the years there have been many from the OBU community that have remained in the church long after graduation or retirement from working at the university,” Dunn said.

University Baptist Church has a rich history in Shawnee, being founded in 1921 as North Church.

“In those early days of 1921 the church met in a home with around 20 charter members,” Dunn said. “Much of the leadership, from a ministry student as pastor to two young women leading music, came from the student population at OBU.”

A few years later, the church building was constructed – which still stands as part of the facility today. In 1931, ten years after the church began, it was decided to change the name to University Baptist.

As pastor, Dunn is especially proud of the church’s social conscience, and the way that it has guided the congregation through the years.

“The church has had a history of taking stands on social issues of the time,” he said. “This has included racial equality and fair housing practices. Believing strongly in the autonomy of the local church, UBC has a long history of upholding the role of women in ministry. As such, women have the opportunity to serve in the role of deacons as voted on by the church.”

That strong social conscience still exists in the church.

“Today UBC continues this legacy of seeking Christ and being Christ in our community,” Dunn said. “Our ministries include partnering with Mission Shawnee in serving lunch once a quarter through H2O, hosting families through Family Promise, and many partnerships with the work of Community Renewal.”

UBC hosts two worship times every Sunday, a traditional service and a contemporary service. Dunn is quick to point out, though, that these are not separate groups – they are all expressions of the one body. The many generations served by the church add a richness to the congregation.

“We come from various backgrounds and there exists within the church a healthy theological diversity,” Dunn said. “We have various ministries, various interests, and various perspectives, but there isn’t a different place for each of those groups. They are all a function of the one church.”

Dr. Canaan Crane, associate professor of psychology and one of two worship leaders for the contemporary service at the church, echoes this.

“I think UBC is a great place for students who want to find ways to serve and who also want to interact with all ages and generations,” he said.

Dunn’s first advice for any students looking for a church is to take the decision seriously.

“It may sound typical, or ‘churchy’ but I would honestly first encourage them to pray,” he said. “Then, I would ask them to consider that just as they are a member of the OBU community, that plugging into a Shawnee church could be their opportunity to broaden their community and enhance their time not just on Bison Hill but in Shawnee… At UBC you will find a place to expand, explore, and strengthen your faith. Our community is flexible, free, and open to people at all stages of their faith development to come add to the ongoing conversation of knowing Christ and displaying Him in our lives. Any student that is considering a church home should check out UBC.”

This aspect of the congregation, the ability to add to an ongoing conversation, is what Crane points out in his own life.

“It’s a place where I’ve been challenged to grow in faith and to follow God’s call on my life,” he said. “We are a thoughtful congregation that believes we are God’s people doing God’s work in God’s world.  We seek to deepen our relationships with each other and this also challenges us to live lives that reflect Christ to the world.”

Dunn, perhaps, sums it up best: UBC can become a home.

“UBC has become a home for me and my family,” he said, “and I want people in our community to know it may be a home for them – for a season or for a lifetime.”

GO Trips make deep impact in students’ lives

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

Due to the sensitive nature of the work done during some GO trips, full student names are not given in this article, nor are specific countries mentioned.  

If Christians want to see the world changed, it’s their responsibility to go. 

One of the unique aspects to an education on Bison Hill is the university’s deep commitment to sending students out into the world to make an impact. Leaders in the spiritual life office take seriously Jesus’ command to “go out into all the world,” and it’s to that end that the Global Outreach program on Bison Hill exists.  

The GO office offers trips all over the world, as well as providing for local opportunities to serve.

These trips accomplish the key purposes of giving students hands-on experience in the ministry and of providing critical exposure to other cultures and cultural experiences.  

Alena, a senior who recently visited Central America during J-Term, points not just to her time on the trip as an opportunity for growth, but her whole college career. 

[These] four years have been a very growing experience with my faith,” she said. “The friends that I’ve made on campus have pushed me to spend time in the Word every day. Also, the professors in the classroom are constantly using the Word of God in their lectures and their discussions… they always point everything back to Christ.”  

It was this growth that convinced Alena to take the step of faith towards a GO trip, even though there was a lot to figure out.  

“I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go,” she said.  

It was the encouragement that Alena received from her Spanish professor – a mentor on the trip – and from her parents that led her to commit to Central America.  

“I just felt like that was there the Lord was calling me. I applied… and I got accepted,” she said.  

After making her decision, Alena had only one concern: money.  

“The only hesitation I had about the trip was financially,” she said. “[It’s] a lot of money… but I knew the Lord was going to provide.”  

Although the teams preparing for a GO trip receive extensive training together, it wasn’t until the trip itself that Alena’s team really meshed.  

“You just grow so close to the people on your team in those three weeks,” she said. “Even though we [had] met every Tuesday for weeks [leading up to the trip], we still weren’t familiar with each other. By the end of the first week, we were all best friends, hanging out, playing card games, suffering through the power outages and the wind…we all knew what the others were going through.”  

Alena says that her best moment on the trip came about through a conversation at a local family’s house.  

“We got to ask them, ‘If you were to die tomorrow, do you know if you would go to heaven?’” she said. “And all the people answered they didn’t know.”  

Through this conversation, Alena’s team was able to share the message with them, and the family came to know the Lord.  

She also admits that there were challenges. The timing of the trip – during J-term –created a hectic schedule, as there was a very short break period between the end of the trip and the spring semester beginning.  

“We flew back on a Wednesday, and school started on Monday,” Alena said. 

Moriah, a senior who spent J-term on a trip to North Africa, recognized another challenge: that not every experience on a trip can be quantified.  

“Obedience doesn’t always lead to visible results,” she said. “Through the experiences I had, God is teaching me that our success must be measured by obedience, not by results we see, especially when doing kingdom work.” 

She found the ultimate worth in the journey to be the impact that God made on her own outlook.  

“The much more valuable part of my GO trip experience to me is the changes I saw God working in my own heart and life as I was able to witness him at work day by day,” she said.  

Alena’s advice for anyone considering going on a GO trip is simple.  

“Just apply,” she said. “Just know that if the Lord is calling you to go on a trip, yeah it’s so hard to fundraise, but it’s so worth it in the end. The Lord will provide the money out of nowhere.”  

To those in preparation for an upcoming trip, her advice is practical.  

“Really research the culture that you’re going in to,” she said, also stressing the physical strain of a GO trip. “Go to the gym and walk ten miles with a backpack… be prepared for your GO trip spiritually, mentally, but also the physical aspect is so important.”