Written by Phil Monroe Friday, 18 October 2013 00:00

Dr. Phil Monroe

Those of us who teach others exert tremendous power with our words. With words we name things into categories, what is good and bad, right and wrong. With words we dismiss some ideas and baptize others. Even those of us teachers who want to be known for our Socratic methods must admit that our choice of questions may wield the same power as those who teach by divine fiat.

Counselors too exert this same power over clients. If we are honest, we tend to provide empathic validation of feelings when we agree with our clients and silence when we do not. We offer “insight” to name our clients neuroses.

A few days ago I ran across notes I took from a presentation made by Paul Wachtel, professor at CUNY. He pointed out how therapists use words to make power grabs in session. When a client is having a negative reaction to our words and work, we can distance ourselves with “pseudo-neutrality” by saying something like, “I’m wondering if your defensiveness to me right now is because…”  Such words imply that the event is merely happening within the client. Such words deny our own responsibility for all or part of the problem. Wachtel suggests that using the words, “Isn’t it interesting that you see/believe/think…” illustrates another power grab. It defines the therapist as the all-knowing seer and the client as some naïve child. These kinds of statements form a put-down even when that is not our goal. Even when the client does not feel judged, it is likely that they will not feel energized to change.

Is there a solution?

I do not advocate that teachers stop teaching or that counselors stop offering wisdom and insight. Nor is it always wrong to name things as right or wrong. Rather, I think we must consider how we teach and counsel. What words best help our students and counselees activate into critical thinking, evaluation, and action?

Acceptance before judgment, describing instead of telling

Before offering assessment, it may be better to enable students/counselees to accept what is in front of them—feelings, beliefs, and realities. Now, acceptance sounds like valuing. But by acceptance I mean to describe and acknowledge prior to judging whether something is good or bad. Consider these examples from Paul Wachtel to a client who keeps missing sessions,

You want someone to pursue you… OR It feels good when someone pursues you.

Or consider his examples with a client who says, “This counseling is superficial. I want to go deeper.”

You say you want to go deeper, but when I try to do it, you don’t want to… OR You want to go deeper into your experience, but it’s also frightening.

Notice that both name the thing that is happening but one offers blame while the other offers an invitation to accept a reality.

Notice the difference between the first option (telling) and the second (validation/acknowledgement). Which one might encourage more active response by the client? Paul suggests that when we accept a client’s perception, it offers an opportunity to stop defending self and to explore what may have been unacknowledged.

A corrective for Biblical counselors?

One stereotype of Biblical counselors is that they spend too much time naming sin. While not a fully fair stereotype, counselors may want to examine how Jesus works with the most vulnerable of sinners. Do we tell them what is wrong and the path forward, or do we engage them at their level of experience? John 4 depicts Jesus’ interactions with the woman at the well. This woman is of ill repute. She is at the well to avoid the judgments of her neighbors. She runs into a Jewish rabbi who chooses not to avoid her but to ask her for help. Instead of engaging in dismissive interpretations or debates about Samaritan versus Jewish worship practices, he offers her something she desperately wants. Then, he does tell her something about her history, but only after she has opened the door.

Or consider Jesus’ interaction with the woman caught in adultery (John 8) and how he does not directly name the sin but protects first, asks her to notice what is happening, and then encourages her to act in a new way regarding her sexual behavior.

On the flip side, consider Jesus’ interactions with the religious leaders of the day (Luke 11). Notice that he does not refrain from making some rather harsh judgments. Here’s the question I want you to consider: Does Jesus make these pronouncements in the hope that it will produce change? I think not.

None of these stories form a doctrine of counseling but may they encourage us to consider how we join our counselees first rather than stand above using words of assessment and judgment.

Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychologyand Director of the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He also directs Biblical’s new trauma recovery project. You can find his personal blog at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com.


Written by Phil Monroe Wednesday, 16 October 2013 00:00

Phil Monroe Office

I’ve just moved my office here at the seminary after having been in the same office for 10 years or so. Several months ago I began the move process by weeding my library and paper files. But even as I moved this week into my new digs (for graduates, the counseling department is in the old development office building next to the main building), I am still sorting stuff and deciding whether to keep or throw the various and sundry items I’ve collected over the years.

Here are some of the items I’ve come across for the first time in a while:

  • A plastic box full of my raw data from my doctoral dissertation
  • Notes from classes I’ve taken some 20 years ago
  • Cassette tapes of my first professional conference presentations
  • Miscellaneous articles I’ve read and thought, “wow, that would be good to use in a class”
  • A briefcase of articles and writing drafts on Multiple Personality Disorder back in 1993

Are these treasures or trash? And maybe the most important question is why I feel the urge to keep these old obsolete items. Some of these items (my dissertation raw data and cassette tapes) represent massive portions of my life as I was working to accomplish the goal of getting the position I now have.  Others hold little sentimental value but trigger that little portion of my brain that say, “Maybe I might use this in the future.”

As I have been contemplating my choices, I’ve also considered how this might be a life lesson.

Let Go!

What do you hold on to in your life that may need a good heave ho? We all carry some old baggage from yesteryear: shame, guilt, bitterness, or fantasies of the life we thought we would live?  There are times we create symbolic monuments that serve only to weigh us down and heap discouragement on our souls. Maybe for you, a memory keeps coming back from your past, a memory that reminds you of a failure. And when that memory comes back you repeat a well-rehearsed story line ensuring that you will continue to use that failure to define you present life.

Might it be possible to toss that storyline and practice a new one that is in closer keeping to God’s story about you? Imagine the Israelites continuing to remember their failure to avoid idolatry in this manner: “We’re the people who served idols and wandered in the desert for forty years. We’re the people who forgot God and were carried off by the Babylonians.” Although true, this storyline is not the whole truth. The whole truth includes a new narrative, “We’re the people God has pursued and rescued.” Period. End of story.

Keep It!

Some of the stuff we don’t use anymore still may serve a good purpose. When I look at pictures of my wife on her wedding day I remember the 23 years of God’s faithfulness. Even a pile of useless dissertation material reminds me how God saw me through a doctoral program and paved the way for a great job here at Biblical. It is easy to forget these mercies and gifts. So, feel free to keep a few Ebenezers to remind you of God’s handiwork in your life.

Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychologyand Director of the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He also directs Biblical’s new trauma recovery project. You can find his personal blog at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com.


Written by Todd Mangum Monday, 14 October 2013 00:00

At the root of American culture’s “sexual revolution” are lies that need desperately to be reversed by the truth. Among those many, many lies, here are the top five I’d identify:

Lie #1: Sex is human beings’ greatest need.

The truth: Not even close. Intimacy may be among the greatest of human “needs,” but sex and intimacy are not the same thing. And mistaking biological coitus for human love is what’s screwing with the entire culture’s head.

Not to mention: intimacy with the Creator is actually the need that the whole sexualized culture races away from.  It’s like a person dying of thirst drinking salt water to quench it. 

Lie #2: Sex is an irrepressible, irresistible biological need.

The truth: Sexual urges come in the form of desire. They can be resisted; and human beings have resisted them for millennia. Believe it or not — and unlike food or drink, say — you can actually live your whole life without it if you had to.  Let’s get a grip; and put this into perspective.

Truth is, that this lie has been bought into so pervasively is a sign of the culture’s adolescent immaturity. Mature adults recognize that everything we may crave at the moment may not be good for us. You don’t have to pig out on French fries or eat the whole package of Oreos. You don’t have to guzzle down an entire bottle of wine.  This is true even if you have the opportunity, and even if you’re really hungry or thirsty.  Similarly, sexual urges and cravings can be resisted — and the majority of the time should be.

There was a time when this point would have been made and commonly accepted and instructed by the culture along with things like why it’s best to wear antiperspirant before you go out. 

Lie #3: Sex is naughty and is enjoyed the further away from God the better.

The truth: Sex was God’s idea. He made it. These are the kinds of gifts He enjoys giving to the human beings He made and that He loves and made in His image. And if sexual pleasure is any indication of the kind of gifts He enjoys and makes for His loved ones, maybe we should trust Him more to be looking out for our best, huh? He even designed the body parts so that human beings (unlike some other creatures in the wild) will make love gazing into one another’s faces — with the enjoyment of one another bringing greater enjoyment.  Pretty smart, huh?

But like most really expensive gifts, this one comes with an instruction manual. And if you discard those instructions, you can ruin this expensive gift and cause a LOT of damage — in this case, to the human psyche, to relational well-being, to self-esteem, and even to physical health. 

Lie #4: “Romantic love” is the highest form of love and the greatest virtue.

The truth: Romantic love is only worthwhile at all if it’s a reflection of greater, deeper love(s) and intimacy. Intimate friendship (of the non-biological, “Platonic” variety) is actually a deeper, richer form of “affection” (the real point of 2 Samuel 1:26, by the way). This is why a couple whose marriage knows this grows richer and deeper with the years, even as their bodies start to sag and wear out; but why even a young, vibrant couple whose relationship is devoted mostly to keeping romantic (biological) fire aflame is doomed to fizzle.

Most insidious, therefore, is the fact that most of the entertainment industry builds its plotlines on the false notion that culmination of a loving relationship reaches its zenith with romantic interface, displayed in physical sexuality. Movies, TV, music all seem to tout this plotline with its false baseline assumption, and it’s not just wrong; it’s destructive.

If we recognized 50 years ago that putting sugar on everything wasn’t healthy, and that it should be illegal to coat cereals with sugar and then sell it to children in Saturday morning cartoons, why can’t we realize that selling sex as a coating over love, acceptance, and fulfillment amounts to the same thing, at a far more corrosive level? 

Lie #5: Sexual attraction is the one non-negotiable foundation for a proper marital union.

The truth: Marriage is covenantal commitment to fostering a couple’s deep(er) love over a lifetime. I regret that intimate friendships between fellows now seems by our culture to need to be sexualized to be granted full recognition of their power. But there may be a blessing in disguise provided us in this whole discussion and controversy. Could it be that our culture may come to recognize that some deep relationships and loves are distinctly valuable and rich outside of traditional heterosexual biological attractions?  (Renewed recognition of that truth could make this whole morass worth it in the end, if so.)

Here’s my point, though: sexual intimacy is a great wonder and wonderful pleasure for a couple who are not just “in love” but have learned to truly love one another in the 1 Corinthians 13 sense. And, OK, it’s probably not a good idea for a couple to get married if they have no physical attraction to one another at all; but physical attraction is no FOUNDATION for a committed, lifelong, covenantal relationship. Beauty and virility fade; but love — true love — can and does grow ever stronger.

It is intriguing to me that love for God and relationship with God is commonly portrayed in Scripture as like unto love between a husband and wife, a bride and groom. There is some way in which the love between a married couple is analogous to the love between God and His people. There is some way in which sexually expressed love is analogous to the rich enjoyment of eternal walk with God. . . . A mystery worth pondering a lot longer. . . .

Anyway, those are just my top five and I could have easily gone on to five more or written five more pages under each of these!  You’re glad I didn’t, I’m guessing.  But what do you think?  Are my top five getting at all near the root, near the core?  How’s your “top five list of lies” compare to mine?

Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical. He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention. Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and co-author (with Dr. Paul Pettit of the Howard Hendricks Leadership Center in Dallas, TX) of the just-released book, Blessed are the Balanced: Following Jesus into the Academy (Kregel), and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also Todd's faculty bio.


Written by Todd Mangum Friday, 11 October 2013 00:00

I promise this won't be another conservative Christian rant from a crotchety middle-aged man against MTV. And, by the time this blog comes out, who knows what new Miley Cyrus item may be hot in entertainment news? The MTV show is now in the rearview mirror even now, passed at this point by her riding naked on a wrecking ball and seemingly breaking down emotionally on stage over the break-up with her fiancé.

But Miley Cyrus told Robin Thicke as they practiced for their VMA awards performance that they "were going to make history". And I'd contend they did.

Yes, this was just the latest in a long line of child actors and actresses "making a statement" that they've now grown up, so quit type-casting them as innocent kids. At least 10 years ago, Britney Spears made certain no one any longer remembered her as a Mouseketeer; and 20 years ago, Macaulay Culkin made sure he got a long way from "Home Alone" with his performance (alongside fellow child actor Elijah Wood) in "The Good Son" (and I mention just two so as to provide one male and one female sample among dozens that could be listed). Childhood actors demanding they be viewed as adults through disturbing performances (which are often also very adolescent, ironically) are nothing new.

Yet Miley Cyrus did somehow still manage to cross a new line (or reach a new low) with her "coming out of childhood" performance. Now, it was deliberate, sure. It was in the line of deliberate deconstruction - and mockery - of chaste values embodied perhaps most forthrightly by Madonna (why she calls herself "Madonna" after all) and taken up by Madonna-heir-apparent Lady Gaga. That's who Miley was trying to one-up; and at that I'd say she succeeded.

So, that ratty hairstyle was supposed to mimic the teddy bears used in - and shed mid-way through - the "performance"; that was supposed to make a statement of overt discard of childhood. The song, "You Know You Want It" is all about, "you're a good girl . . . but you want it" heightened the deliberate "statement" of the "performance." Just can't help those insatiable sexual urges now that you're all grown up. Yeah, we get it.

And yes, Miley was going for shock value, and so she knew it had to reach new heights of extreme vulgarity to register that shock (given that she had to outdo not only Boy George, Madonna, and Jay-Z, but also - and at the same awards show even - Lady Gaga). It takes a lot to move the American shock-value Richter scale these days. But she did it, just as she hoped.

Except I'm not sure it was just as she hoped. Just as speech act theory teaches us that often we communicate more or differently than we intend by our words, so likewise Ms. Cyrus's "performances" conveyed some things more and differently than she realized or intended.

The shock value of her performance was not registered just by her extreme vulgarity - though that was certainly there. The American viewing public was confronted with a stripped down, made-to-look-naked, but nevertheless barely post-pubescent body simulating publicly on stage the most overtly raunchy copulative acts with a 37-year-old, married (with a 3-year-old son, by the way) man. Yeah, yeah; turns out that picture of the Will Smith family watching it was actually of them watching Lady Gaga - but no matter, the expressions on their faces about sums up the visceral reaction of anyone watching the Cyrus-Thicke spectacle - Ich!:

It wasn't that their performance was just shocking and vulgar. It was appalling. If it's all about in-your-face, brutally honest-but-real statements, then I'd say Cher's comments on the "performance" were most spot on. Not what Miley and Robin were going for, I'd bet.

Hollywood and MTV will get better at this. Now that they've seen what margins the American public will tolerate, be prepared for more provocative - only next time more attractive - in your face innuendos and indecencies. But the Miley Cyrus "sexual debut performance" reveals something that I'd say we missional Christians, especially, shouldn't miss.

American culture wants sexual freedom and unrestrained sexual promiscuity approved. Well, here’s what it looks like America. Do we really want a culture that expects girls to grow up into unashamed sex-crazed sluts as their rite of passage? Do American feminist ideals mean that we allow both women and men to be gluttonous sexual pigs — is that what our ideals of freedom embody?

In the fourth century, the newly converted Christian emperor Constantine was able to temper the paganism of the Roman Empire by gradually doing away with the gladiatorial games — in part because it was dawning on even the most pagan of Romans that the fostering of primal bloodlust in their culture had just gone too far.  It just wasn’t right. And deep down, even they knew it.

So curdle at that Miley Cyrus-Robin Thicke performance one more time, America. And, missional Christians, here perhaps is a window of opportunity for us to say to American culture, “Look, we know we at times have mistakenly presented Victorian-era prudishness as the Christian ideal. We’re on a pilgrimage and we’re learning, too. But, come on. Look at this. There has to be a more excellent way.”  

Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical. He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention. Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and co-author (with Dr. Paul Pettit of the Howard Hendricks Leadership Center in Dallas, TX) of the just-released book, Blessed are the Balanced: Following Jesus into the Academy (Kregel), and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons. < a href="http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum">See also his faculty profile.


Written by Steve Taylor Monday, 07 October 2013 00:00

Any Christian pursuing deeper relationships with Muslims eventually has to struggle with this question: Allah and Yahweh—are they the same God? This question became the topic of heated discussion at the annual convention of a notable evangelical denomination this past summer.  Delegates to this gathering were put off by a paragraph in an appendix to a minority report from a study committee working on evangelism in Muslim contexts. (Yes, it was buried that deep!) Here is the offending paragraph:

Are Allah of Muslims and Yahweh the same God? Yes, when the veil is lifted from their eyes and Muslims see Him as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Fine-tuning to see Yahweh as He truly is takes place through Christ. Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.

Pastors, elders, and theologians weighing in subsequently on denominational discussion boards and affiliated blog sites have accused the author of the statement of peddling a rehash of the old line, classical Liberalism opposed by J. Gresham Machen or of enticing the denomination to the cliff of a “syncretism” in which “Islam remains but Christianity is not needed”. The firestorm has not abated.

The author of the minority report, Dr. Nabeel Jabbour, a Syrian Christian by birth, is a veteran of over 40 years of ministry to Muslims in the Middle East. In his minority report and in other writings,* Dr. Jabbour amply evinces a clear commitment to the gospel and to the exclusive supremacy of Christ as the climactic and final revelation of God. The issue Dr. Jabbour raises is, rather, how best to dialogue with people who are still unconvinced: what kind of persons should we be and where should we start?

Context Matters

These concerns are evident even in the immediate context of the offending paragraph (repeated below in bold font):

There is only one God, and He is Yahweh, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the tendency of all human beings to bring down, as it were, that almighty God and to place Him in our little boxes. Those little gods that we tend to create are not the Almighty God. The Jews at the time of Jeremiah did it, although they gave him the name Yahweh. . . . Yahweh, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, cannot be placed into a box.

Are Allah of the Arab Christians and Yahweh the same God? Yes, when we do not have a veil over our eyes and when we do not bring Him down to become our servant who is supposed to answer our prayers and do what we think He should do. . . .

Are Allah of Muslims and Yahweh the same God? Yes, when the veil is lifted from their eyes and Muslims see Him as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Fine-tuning to see Yahweh as He truly is takes place through Christ. Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.

There is only one Yahweh, yet all people in all religions project their image of what He is like and assume that they are worshipping that Yahweh when in reality they are worshipping their own creations.

The Allah or God in Islam has 99 attributes, and we would agree with most of them. But the huge missing names are “Father of the Lord Jesus Christ” and “our heavenly Father.” . . . (Emphasis added; repetitive sentences omitted)

Critics insist that it is precisely these missing names (and attending concepts), which are so central to the Christian concept of God, that demand a complete and explicit rejection of any identity between Yahweh and the Allah--as a precondition for any meaningful discussion or evangelism.

An Historical Analogue

But consider this definition for God taught to Christian children for several centuries in certain sectors of the Church: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” (Westminster Shorter Catechism [1674]). Most thoughtful Muslims could agree with this statement; there is nothing distinctively Christian in it. Could this definition serve as common ground in a Muslim-Christian discussion?

This could be pressed further: Why would Christian theologians intent on instructing future generations of the Church write such a definition? Why not follow the Apostles’ and Nicene Creed with explicitly Christian claims like, “God is the all-mighty, all-knowing Tri-Personal Creator who was active in the story of Israel, and who is ultimately revealed in the person of Jesus Christ and dwells among us in the person of the Holy Spirit . . . ”?

The authors of the Shorter Catechism were defining God in a context framed by a long discussion spanning over 1700 years and reaching back to Greek philosophers: the Supreme Being had to be defined first in these “essentialist” terms. The “Westminster Divines” wanted to speak into the long conversation about that particular Referent, not start a new conversation about another. Whatever its other merits and demerits, this definition is, in itself, pre-Christian if not “sub-Christian”; but that is part of the necessary price paid to intelligibly inject new meaning into an old and venerable conversation. And the willingness to join that conversation is itself an act of faith in the God who has already been at work in the great conversations of history.

Conceptual Help

It might help to borrow some distinctions from linguistic philosophy. Swiss thinker Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) described meaningful communication as the interplay between three factors:

  1. The “signifier” – the sound or marks on a page that one recognizes as a sign, in our case, the words “Allah,” “Yahweh” or “God.”
  2. The “signified” – the concept, idea, or mental content that a sign (“signifier”) expresses or evokes, in our case the different concepts and theologies that characterize the various Christian and Islamic systems.
  3. The “referent” – the actual thingor person, or set of things or persons, to which a sign (or “signifier”) refers, in our case the actual person God is in God’s self.

The critics of the offending paragraph above assume a virtual identity between their set of “signifieds” (concepts, ideas about God) and the “referent” (God). For them the obvious differences between what they mean by God and what the Muslim theologian means is so great that there cannot possibly be a common referent for a Christian and any Muslim. The Christian is thus duty-bound to start with a different “signifier” (a different name for God) or to start with a list of differences about the “signified.”  The proclamation of the absolute antithesis becomes the sine qua non of faithful evangelism.  For them the conceptual cup of shared language and concepts for evangelism is always less than half empty and the contents poisonous.

The author of the contested quotation, on the other hand, is acutely aware of how all our concepts and systems of concepts about God fall short of God’s true glory and that there is individual variation; not all Muslims are in precisely the same place. The cup of shared concepts is frequently half full and represents a God-engineered starting place for the mysterious process of making disciples.

Pauline Precedent

Paul is the first Jewish preacher on record who, upon observing  rank pagan idolatry, did not heap scorn on it (like the Old Testament prophets rightfully did—Isa 44:18-20, Jer 2:27, Hos 4:12) but rather used it as a starting point: “the God you already worship in ignorance is the one I want to tell you about. . . . he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him -- though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of you own poets have said, 'We are his offspring'” (Acts 17:23-28). Paul did not lead with, “Let me tell you about a different God” but rather with “This is what the God you and your poets have been groping after is really like.” Paul was alert to a rather small set of shared “signifieds” and assumed that he could talk about the same “referent”—he could start where his audience was.

Of course there are risks, dangers of syncretism. This, however, is the point: there are dangers on both sides. Dealing faithfully with the gospel is always a matter of walking a ridge route; one can fall off the path both to the left and the right. The gospel demands a creative faithfulness by which we avoid sliding down either the slope of syncretism (compromising the faith) or the slope defensiveness and fear (bridling the faith). In that spirit we can join with the author of the minority report and issue the Muslim this sincere invitation: come know the Creator God more fully; discover that the one you and your poets have served as “Allah” is the God who through His Son Jesus and by His Spirit wants to be embraced as “Abba.”

  • NOTE:  Dr. Jabbour’s The Crescent through the Eyes of the Cross: Insights from an Arab Christian (Colorado Springs, CO: NAV Press, 2008) is a must read for any Christian serious about befriending Muslims and reaching them with the gospel.

Stephen Taylor is Associate Professor of New Testament. He is a missionary kid fascinated with the question of the relationship between culture and understanding the Bible. Steve is married to Terri who is also intimately involved in global issues; and together they have five fantastic kids. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/stephen-taylor.


Written by Susan Disston Wednesday, 02 October 2013 00:00

teaching at a missional seminary

A year ago in the fall term Biblical’s faculty reflected on how the missional curriculum is taught at the Seminary. The impetus for the project was the commitment of the faculty to give careful attention to the ways that our theological commitments should shape the delivery of theological education.  Since learning is always interactive, it cannot be separated from the context in which it is taught, that is, the social and cultural milieu that exists when teacher, students, methodologies, theologies, resources, and more combine in what then becomes a multicultural and diverse learning environment. Here are some of the faculty responses to the question...


How do your missional commitments shape your teaching?

I approach my courses with the understanding that joining God on mission is paramount to learning or achieving any success in a spiritual discipline. I have students examine their own spiritual formation and preconceived biases and dogmas in which they approach Christ, the Bible and the Church. This exercise serves as the beginning of a deconstruction process designed to open their eyes and ears to the learning environment. The missional approach has challenged my students to recognize and elevate the Kingdom of God above the denominations of man and therefore united students from various backgrounds to grow and serve together.  Professor L. Anderson

I seek to have my teaching shaped by at least the following priorities:  the missional nature and character of God,  the Scripture as the narrative of God’s multifaceted mission centered in Jesus, the realization that we are missionaries to a post-Christian culture, incarnate the whole gospel in faithful and relevant ways, and engage by being present, participating, and partnering with the larger context and community.  Specific ways that this works out in classes are:   1) assignments and discussions that help student appreciate and celebrate the diversity of the church, 2) experiential learning where students seek to expand their repertoire of spiritual disciplines in community, and 3) contextual learning which require students to talk with their people in their ministry context about missional commitments and to conduct missional experiments.   Professor C. Zimmerman

Affirming the responsibility  (Social Change Philosophy)

One of my critical positions as a missional teacher rests on the social change philosophy. As a missional teacher, I maintain that education is a primary force for achieving social change or transforming society. Based upon my belief that that “an important purpose of knowledge construction is to help people improve society,” I encourage my ACS students to examine their own personal and cultural values and identities as missional leaders from Korean and other countries to America, so that they can view themselves not as pathetic “immigrants,” or “broken English speakers” but as contributors to the places where they can serve God and influence their community by thinking and acting Godly in all areas of life as effective witnesses for Christ and active designers of social futures.

Responding to the world (Cross-cultural Philosophy)

My teaching philosophy also aims to prepare students to read and write in ways that will serve them best as members of society by assigning students to negotiate a variety of audiences in different cultural, ethnic, linguistic, socio-economic contexts because I view learning as a negotiated activity. To do that, I provide resources and information as well as opportunities for promoting the development of cultural competence, multicultural awareness, interpersonal communication, and conflict management in our increasingly diverse community by encouraging them to involve in diverse communities and complete their community involvement journals. 

Networking the partners (Partnership Philosophy)

Another important role of the missional teacher is to promote close partnership with the church, community, and home of the students because learning is viewed as a partnership process within an organization. Missional teachers should be aware that an academic program is only a part of the educational process of students and the primary responsibilities for the education of students rest with the teachers, church leaders, students’ family members, and the community leaders, who can play complementary roles in educating missional students. With these partnerships in mind, I try my best to network with people related to the students, so that I can lead the students to spiritual, intellectual, social, and even physical maturity.  Professor C. H. Oh

About the Author

Susan Disston

Dr. Susan Disston

Susan Disston, DMin, is the Director of Institutional Assessment and Hybrid Learning at Biblical Seminary and teaches in the Doctor of Ministry program.


Written by Charles Zimmerman Monday, 30 September 2013 00:00

Where have they gone & where are they now? 

Matt Reed was gone before I arrived as a student, but I was here as a teacher for Matt’s second stint at Biblical.  We have now served together for 15 years at Calvary Church and my appreciation and respect for Matt have grown with the years.  Matt is the quintessential shepherd, who is willing to dive into the messy details of relationships and walk with people regardless of the difficulty all while manifesting the grace and love of the gospel. 

What years did you attend at Biblical, and what degree(s) did you receive?

I first attended Biblical from 1977-1980. I graduated with a Master of Divinity and also received the homiletic award. I returned in 1988 and finished in 1989 and received a Master of Arts with a counseling emphases.

What have you been doing since then?

Right after graduation, in 1980, I became the assistant pastor at Independent Bible Church in Willow Grove, PA and then in 1984 I became the senior pastor. I left in 1987 and became the executive director of Haycock Camping Ministries – a semi-rustic camping facility that primarily ministered to boys and men through outdoor programming. In 1998 I joined the staff at Calvary Church, Souderton, PA a church my wife Sharon and I attended since we were married. I have served there in various capacities – Transformational Ministries, International Ministries, Adult Ministries, MidWeek Services, Outreach, Large Events and anywhere there has been a staffing need.

I married the love of my live, Sharon, on October 1, 1988. Besides choosing to follow Christ as a teen this was the best decision I ever made. She is truly awesome in every way. Sharon and I love to serve the Lord together. We regularly teach in Calvary’s pre-marriage program, have done some speaking together at conferences, spoken to  our church together on occasion, facilitated and served on many missions trips and taught international leaders in Africa. We have two children; Kelsey who graduated in May 2013 with a double major from Cairn University and is now serving there in a presidential internship and Jared who is a junior at Taylor University in the business department and who is also an outstanding runner on their cross country and track teams.

Sharon and I have had the privilege of traveling to many places both in the states and around the world. Sometimes it was for ministry other times it was for pleasure. Earlier this year we visited our daughter in Prague where she was completing her student teaching requirements at an international school. In October we will be going to Turkey to celebrate our 25 wedding anniversary. While there we will be touring Istanbul and visiting the sites of the seven churches from Revelation. We can’t wait.

Share a favorite memory from your Biblical days.

One of my favorite memories was at an informal nighttime gathering of all the freshman and facility during orientation. The students and facility sat in a circle and introduced themselves include a bit about how they were. When it came time for Mr. Dunzweiler, our theology professor who is now with the Lord, to do so he stood up and said – my name is Robert Dunzweiler and my job here is to be the brunt of Tom Taylor’s humor.

On a more serious note – to this day I still remember some of the message from chapel by both facility and guest speakers. Some of those sermons still impact me today.   

Contact information: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Charles Zimmerman is the Thomas V. Taylor Professor of Practical Theology.  He also serves as Teaching Pastor at Calvary Church in Souderton.  He is married to Kim and they have two daughters, Ashley and Megan.


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