I am a Professor of Christian Education and Theology at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, CA. But I don't merely educate by teaching in a seminary classroom. My ministry as a seminary professor is really an extension of my writing and research. And being a husband, father and previously an associate pastor, are all ways that God is flourishing me in my calling. All of this flows from who I am becoming as a disciple of Jesus Christ, or as Dallas Willard would say, "Am I learning to live my life the way Jesus would live my life if he were me?" The importance of being called by God, the integration of various fields of knowledge, the ministry of writing and researching, the role and significance of mentors and the indispensible value of the local church are all crucial themes concerning how I envision my work as an educator and as a Christian thinker.Calling
Each of us have vocational calling and gifting that is involved in serving others. I've received confirmation in various ways for having a teaching gift. I view my on-going participation in the ministry of research and writing as a primary way to fulfill this teaching calling before God. When I write there is a significant "flow" of ideas that makes the writing ministry "easier" for me than other kinds of teaching ministries. In fact, it's a spiritual formation encounter for me. Often I clearly sense God's guidance as I do research and writing as ideas come together in ways I had not thought off before. For example, my InterVarsity Press book, Wasting Time with God, turned out significantly better than I could have ever imagined. And I continue to receive notes and emails from readers who share how God used that book to bring them into a deeper relationship with God. I sense a stewardship before God to present in writing those key concepts and practices that have impacted my life and ministry, in case they may do the same for others.Integration
I'm one of those people who loves integrating diverse fields into some kind of synthesis. My mind tends to flit around, making connections between this idea and that one, between this theory and that practice. Somehow I'm able to make sense of diverse and difficult fields--at some level of understanding--and bring related ideas together for a richer comprehension of the whole. Of course, a key teaching of Scripture is the unity of all truth as sourced in God. Thus, integration is the human task of recognizing this essential unity. It's a challenge and a great joy.Writing & Teaching
Of course my writing impacts my classroom teaching, and also my classroom teaching impacts my writing and research. I share with my students what I'm learning in my writing and the interaction helps me sharpen my understanding to improve the way I present it the next time the course is offered, and also in my next related writing project. So in my participation on the faculty of the doctoral program in Educational Studies at Talbot School of Theology, I get to use these integrative skills with our students (17 years now). For example, I had the opportunity to design and now teach two foundational courses: "806 Theological Research and Integration" and "801 Philosophical Issues in Educational Studies." Working with doctoral students is an exciting challenge to come alongside them in their journey and help them think about foundational matters in biblical, theological and philosophical studies as related to formation of believers living well in the presence of God. One of the key personal benefits of teaching is the opportunity to learn more.Mentors
I've had key mentors in my own graduate training: Howard Hendricks and Warren Benson at Dallas Theological Seminary, at UCR's Education Department, J. T. Dillon, Ted Ward at Michigan State University. For the past two decades Dallas Willard has significantly impacted my perspectives in key matters of reality and formation, first through listening to tapes of his speaking, and then the series of books. I also audited, twice, his "History of Ethics" course at USC. (I offer an overview of 4 themes in his writing in a book review published in the Christian Education Journal, Fall 2004). Also, my friend, colleague and co-author, J. P. Moreland has had an important contribution in critical thinking and grasping foundational concepts.Valuing the Local Church
Local churches can benefit from the insightful scholarship for men and women who have gifts in study and clarifying complex matter. Yet books and study are not the sole basis of a growing, dynamic Christian life. God has made us as relational beings, who grow in the context of relationships. In each local church that my wife Beth and I have been part of, God has opened up significant relationships, often teaming up to minister together and growing in friendship through the process. A significant goal for which Jesus prayed for is "that all of them [you and me] may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17:21). Of course there is some development of relationships in educational settings, but the richness of cross-generational relationships enrich us--we are family (Matt 12:48-50).Theology of Spiritual Formation and Education
For me a Christian perspective on the nature of humanity and our relationship with God offers distinctive insights on the goal of education and how we teach. We've been created in the very image of God (Gen 1:26, Jas 3:9), and designed to be as God-like as possible, a unique privilege among all of God's creation (Ps 8, Eph 4:24, 2 Pet 1:4). Thus, God's nature and character define the core of who we are to become--and this character was manifest in Jesus Christ, the very image of God (Heb 1:3). Thus we speak of our goal as being "conformed to the image of his Son" (Rom 8:29, TNIV). Yet becoming mature is not the ultimate goal. We become more mature so that we can enter more and more into a loving relationship with God (Jn 17:3, 20-21)--who is an eternal loving fellowship of Three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Eph 3:14-21, Eph 4: 4-6, 2 Cor 13:13-14).
Not only are we drawn into this family of loving Divine Persons, but also, the Holy Spirit indwells us forever (Jn 17:6), thus enabling us to enter into that unique divine fellowship (2 Cor 13:14), empowering us to grow into Christlikeness (e.g., fruit of the Spirit, Gal 5:22-23) and to serve others (spiritual gifts, 1 Cor 12). Thus Christian teachers and students alike are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit, and enabled and empowered by the same Holy Spirit in the teaching-learning process. Thus our dependency throughout the teaching-learning process is not simply a tacked on prayer at the beginning of the session, but an attitude, tone, atmosphere of dependency, of partnering with the Divine Counselor/Advocate to be all that God has designed us and called us to be.
My particular enablement and call into a teaching kind of ministry, whether in the context of a local church, or college/seminary, offered a pervasive framework for approaching my day-to-day responsibilities. How can we all grow up into all that God has designed us to be and called us to be? This formational question has continued to burden me. Thus the study of Scripture has been a key part of what I've done. For example, in the first local church I served in, among other things I taught a class on a survey of Bible doctrine stressing the implications for living (not just for knowledge's sake); also began a small men's Bible study and fellowship that blessed me as well as our small group (I was told it continued for many years after I had moved to another ministry).
As a disciple of Jesus, I am intent on following, cooperating, and participating in what God is doing through my life and what He is doing through the lives of others in order that the power and presence of His kingdom would be expanded in our midst. My website is an ongoing snapshot--a living repository, if you will--of some of the work that God has called me to do in the reputation of His kingdom.