Written by Pam Smith Wednesday, 25 July 2012 00:00

Would you expect to see the president of a seminary to be living missionally by kneeling in the dirt not to pray, but to pull weeds? You would if it is Biblical Seminary’s president.  

He’s not just a president…he’s a member of Living Hope Church, a church that studied stewardship and came up with the idea of gardening as a way to bless the community. 

They’ve planted sunflowers, herbs, onions, tomatoes, peppers, beans, broccoli, beets, lettuce, kale, radishes and potatoes.  Church members and others in the community pay $25 a year and tend the garden a few hours a week to receive a share of its bounty. Everyone involved can take something from it and there’s plenty to take.

In fact, surplus from the harvest is donated to the church’s food pantry, which serves about 20 to 30 families.

Living Hope is hoping to attract interest in the garden among the larger community, something they’ve already begun to do. A local family decided to get their hands dirty this summer in the garden as a way to teach their daughters what it takes to put food on the table.  They’ve enjoyed themselves so much that the 12-year-old daughter started her own small garden — stocked with peppers and tomatoes — in their backyard.  The family expressed that not only is it a ‘cool’ thing to do, but they’ve also made some new friends.

Two of those friends: the seminary president pictured above and the pastor of the church who are enjoying building a relationship with this new family.

So, that’s how it can be for missional living.   It can even include broccoli.

Pam Smith is the Vice President for Student Advancement at Biblical Seminary and also instructs in our counseling program in the areas of career and coaching. Email Pam at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Written by Dan LaValla Tuesday, 24 July 2012 00:00

One of the things that I enjoy most about fundraising is that I have many opportunities to talk to people from different walks of life. Their stories give me a perspective that I would otherwise not have. I am often blessed by what they share. Recently, a common theme that I have heard is the increasing amounts of stress and fatigue they are experiencing. Many feel that it is a cumulative effect that has been building over the past few years. In my opinion, much of this is a result of the Great Recession that began in the middle of 2007. In my previous post, Giving ($) Cheerfully in This Economy?, I touched on the financial stresses many U.S. households are experiencing as a result of the decline in household income since 2007.

While it is obviously much less stressful and less tiring to be fully employed as compared to being unemployed or underemployed, looking at other phenomena occurring in the marketplace, it becomes very obvious why fully employed people are becoming increasingly tired. Typical statistics show that the U.S. economy lost close to 9 million jobs since the great recession and there are millions of more part-time and underemployed workers who cannot find full-time employment. While unemployment and underemployment have increased, various statistical reports show that worker productivity in the U.S. since the Great Recession has increased 6.5% to 7%. Further, due to electronic communications (e.g., email, smart phones, tablets, etc.), job obligations are pressuring workers to deal with work related activities on weeknights after leaving the office, weekends, and during vacations.

“Fatigue Creep” Defined

In structural engineering, fatigue and creep are causes for failure of a material at a stress value significantly below the allowable threshold. Fatigue of a material occurs when a material fails after being subjected to multiple loading and unloading cycles even though none of the instances of the applied stress crosses its allowable stress value. Creep involves the weakening and eventual failure of a material while it is being subjected to constant stress over an extended time period. While people are not inanimate materials, they do need to be conscious of the phenomena of fatigue and creep in their own lives in relation to their own physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual thresholds for good health.

Sleep Well and Get Enough

It is common knowledge that getting enough sleep is important for physical, mental, and emotional health. While the average adult requires 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep each night (children and teens need 10 to 11), today’s average is 6 to 7. Adequate sleep is important for restoring our energy and muscle strength, improved decision-making, memory, cognitive processing, and creativity; it promotes healthy emotions and the ability to cope with stress, weight stability, strengthened immunity to illness and diseases, and many more. Prolonged lack of sleep results in opposite symptoms: irritability, fatigue, lethargy, an inability to cope with stress, decreased cognitive performances, weight-gain, and decreased immunity that leads to colds, diabetes, heart disease and other health problems.

Rest from Work

The need for rest from work is documented throughout Scripture and is modeled by God in the creation account (Gen 2:4). In the Ten Commandments, the fourth commandment tells us to abstain from any work on the Sabbath (Ex 20:8-11). Exodus 23:12 explains that the Sabbath is to provide a means of refreshment from work for the entire household, including its animals. In Mark 2:27, Jesus emphasizes man’s need for rest when He stated, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” On the Sabbath, believers are called to come together to worship God and meditate on Scripture. In this process, we are nourishing our relationships with God, our extended family, and neighbors. In addition, take time to be still and meditate on God, share your burdens with Him (Ps. 46:10 and Mt 11:28-30).

Set Boundaries and Leave Margins in Your Life

It is important to set boundaries between your personal and work lives. Make it a priority to be disciplined enough not bring work home after you leave the office and do not check emails at night and on weekends. If your job requires 24/7 availability, then only deal with crises and emergencies after you leave the office or place of employment. Finally, set margins in your life so that not every minute of your day is scheduled with obligations or recreational activities. Your mind, body, and spirit need opportunities and time to naturally unwind.

Dan LaValla is Director of Library Services and Development Associate for Institutional Advancement at Biblical. He is Chair of the Endowment Committee for the American Theological Library Association and is very active in his church and community, coaching youth baseball and football and has served on several community boards. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/daniel-lavalla. 





Written by Bryan Maier Monday, 23 July 2012 00:00

This article is inspired by a recent sermon I heard on the last half of James 1.

I grew up under the influence of what strikes me now as a somewhat simplistic view of the Bible. Week after week my pastor or Sunday school teacher would open the Bible, read it, and then ask, “How can we put into practice this week what we have just read?” For example, if we heard a sermon on greed, we were challenged to root out whatever greed we might find in our own lives. Same with jealousy, covetousness, idolatry or whatever other areas the Scripture might shine its light. We came to Scripture to find out what we were supposed to do, how we were supposed to think and how we were supposed to live. Just like a mirror, the purpose of looking at Scripture was one of self-evaluation.  

Then I went to seminary.

Slowly my approach to Scripture became less of a posture of obedience and more a posture of discovery. I wanted to know what the Bible said from a more objective viewpoint. In light of post-modernism and other factors, I realized that not everyone agrees about what the Bible even says. I went on to learn that scholar X believes the text says one thing and Scholar Y believes Scholar X has wobbly interpretive skills. Then scholar Z comes along in a patronizing voice and  charts the famous moderate or “middle path”. Somewhere along the line, my interaction with Scripture became less one of submission and more one of discovery. “What does this text mean?” had somehow trumped “How can I make changes to bring myself in line with this text?” 

Scripture was becoming a Mandala.  

Mandalas have their roots in Buddhism and are circular works of art that celebrate a unity within diversity. There are many images scattered within the circle but there is a central core from which all the various other images in the circle relate somehow – almost like a kaleidoscope. However, it is the posture toward a Mandela that I wish to emphasize. The wide range of meanings ebb and flow in the mind of the student until one central core begins to emerge and the student sees what the Mandala reveals.  But the student does not see the same thing every time and there is therefore never one established meaning. In summary, one looks at a Mandela to try to learn or discover something, not to obey.

Listening to the sermon on James 1, I was found myself nostalgic for the days when Bible interpretation was simple. Have I become so educated that I can no longer use the Bible as a mirror? Now I understand the value of study and paying close attention to what the text means (or may mean). I have some pretty strong views on doctrine and biblical interpretation. Scripture itself challenges us to “rightly divide the word of truth”. Even during the early church there were disputes about what constituted “the gospel” (see Galatians). So it is important to constantly be asking what a text means. But can I still approach scripture with a submissive attitude, asking the Bible to interpret me as I interpret it? A mirror after all, is a tool of evaluation. We use it to assess how we look with the purpose of doing something in response. Doing something in response to what one reads in Scripture is a central part of what I believe it means to be missional. May those of us engaged in seminary education never lose sight of our posture of humble submission as we approach God’s Word.  After all, isn’t obedience God’s love language? “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).


Bryan Maier is an Associate Professor of Counseling & Psychology in the Counseling program at Biblical Seminary. He maintains a private practice with Diane Langberg & Associates


Written by Phil Monroe Sunday, 22 July 2012 16:19

Our conference / course Abuse in the Church: Biblical, Legal, & Counseling Perspectives is over and now it is time for reflections. To be honest, depression and loss of faith are common reactions to spending 9 hours thinking about a bevy of issues related to abuse within the church. When you consider the huge impact of abuse on individuals and communities; consider how predatorial people deceive and use the goodness of others to do their dirty work; consider how organizations, including churches, often choose self-preservation over protection of vulnerable people; consider how hard it is to walk through the mess of abuse allegations…it is easy to lose faith in humanity.

But, our faith is NOT in the goodness of humanity. Our faith is in Christ who calls and empowers a people to rise above self-interest to sacrificial love and protection of others.

Still, we can feel that our meager efforts are insignificant when compared to the accepted statistic that 1:3 women and 1:5 men experience some form of sexual abuse prior to age 18. What can one conference of 110 people do to change the trajectory of how the American church handles abuse prevention and responses? What can 9 hours of training do to empower anyone to do almost anything of value?

You may be wondering if I have mistitled this blog post. Where are the “encouraging” reflections? Well, this morning our preacher took us through the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21) and made a particular observation that puts our conference efforts into the right perspective:

Our work as disciples of Jesus is usually very ordinary. By asking Jesus to bless our little, it becomes extraordinary. Do the best you can with what you have. That is the call of the kingdom.

Conference Reflections

  • 110 plus attendees comprising M.Div. and counseling students, pastors, deacons, lay leaders of churches, parachurch workers, social workers, psychologists, professional counselors, and at least one representative of the legal community
  • 9 hours of training across topics such as child abuse prevention policies and procedures, caring for victims, offenders, and congregation, considering moral as well as legal obligations for reporting, developing the right reasons for protection (protection and love over liability reduction), addressing spiritual wounds of abuse, understanding how predators act, and considering church responses to abuse allegations
  • Numerous side conversations about incredibly complex and painful stories of abuse with lay and professional leaders working out how best to respond or even to correct previous missteps
  • Networking and resource-sharing among church leaders to support each other as they improve their own policies and trainings
  • And finally, none of this could have happened without the tireless volunteering and serving of so many. Thank YOU, Boz, for coming to Philly and giving us your expertise. Thank YOU Theresa, Bonnie, Anita, Pam, Steve, Tracy, Jenn, Jack, Chris, both Al’s and many others who made this conference possible.

Multiplying loaves and Fish?

Think about it this way:

IF predators find the churches easy targets for victims and IF the average predator violate between 50 and 100 individuals before first conviction and IF only 10 churches represented at the conference develop more effective abuse prevention and response policies

THEN it is quite reasonable to think that as many as 500 individuals will be protected and not victimized, and THEN we might protect individuals at risk of becoming sex offenders and harming others.

NOTE: Conference video and audio recordings were made. We intend to make these available after editing PowerPoint slides into the videos. Check back here or at www.biblical.edu for more information.      

Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychology at Biblical Seminary where he directs both the MA in Counseling program and the newly formed Global Trauma Recovery Institute. Phil blogs regularly at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com.


Written by Dr. Larry Anderson Saturday, 21 July 2012 00:00

Pastors today are scratching their heads wondering why their congregations are not excited about going out into the community to reach the people. The frustration of motivating the membership to commit to outreach is significant. What is being discovered is that people are not comfortable doing outreach because being neighborly is no longer natural. Many church goers cannot give the first and last names of the neighbors whose homes are located directly next to theirs. As a pastor, I’m noticing the lack of community has also made its way into the church.

Of course, church growth does not allow everyone to know each other’s name, however, there is also an intentional barrier being put in place to keep people at a distance. The consumer mentality says "I’m here to receive something, whether it is a good word, some nice music, or the casual fellowship, but I am not interested in giving something." Whether it is time, tithes or testimony, these are not areas most postmoderns are ready to release to their neighbor.

Small groups have been heavily relied upon over the last two decades to bring back the community, accountability, and fellowship in the church, but the question is, does it work? While reading some of the latest Barna research information, it was discouraging to see the lack of accountability currently within the church. However, in the miniscule percentages of churches that do have some form of accountability, the number one method of doing so was with small groups. In a culture of no absolutes and universal tolerance, judging anothers’ behavior and holding them accountable is viewed as antiquated and ignorant, at best.

Concerning community and fellowship, it has been discovered that if there were no relationships among the participants prior to the forming of the small groups, the chances of a community forming to the point of genuine intimacy and lasting fellowships were minimal. However, if friends with common interests in similar stages of life formed groups, the chances of these becoming a viable source of community increase significantly.

I’m looking to start some small groups this fall, and I’m praying that these groups will organically form and become intimate community settings which will surrender to the 'love thy neighbor' principle and prepare us to continue reaching out to our broader community and inviting them to join us in a relationship with one another and Jesus Christ.

Your feedback, experience, and advice are welcomed.

Larry L. Anderson Jr. is Assistant Professor of Practical Theology and the Director of the Urban Programs at Biblical. He is also the pastor of Great Commission Church, previously located in the suburb of Roslyn, PA, but now situated in the West Oak Lane community of Philadelphia to provide a holistic ministry to an urban setting.  




Written by Todd Mangum Friday, 13 July 2012 00:00

On Friday (August 10) I said that that was the last I was going to say about my fiftieth birthday.  But, because I do two blogs a shot for the faculty blog page, today is an “encore” on that theme.    

When I was in high school, I heard a sermon preached by Rev. Peter Hook (who now teaches preaching and pastoral leadership at Cairn University; he’s still one of my favorite preachers).  He ended the sermon with the poem below, by Edward Guest, entitled “The Painting.”

When my hair is thin and silver, and my time of toil is through,

When the years behind are many and ahead of me a few,

I shall want to sit, I reckon, sort of dreaming in the sun,

And recall the roads I've traveled, and the many things I've done.

I hope there'll be no picture that I'll hate to look upon,

When the time to paint it better, or to wipe it out, is gone.


I hope there'll be no vision of a hasty word I've said

That left a trail of sorrow, like a whip-welt sore and red.

And I hope my old age dreaming will bring back no bitter scene

of a time when I was selfish, or a time when I was mean.

When I'm getting old and feeble, and I'm far along life's way,

I don't want to be regretting any bygone yesterday.


I am painting now a picture I will have one day to see,

I am filling in a canvas that will soon come back to me.

Though nothing great is on it, and though nothing there is fine,

I shall want to look it over when I'm old and call it mine.

So I do not dare to leave it, while the paint is warm and wet,

With a single thing upon it I will later on regret. 

It’s a poem obviously written by a younger man; for one thing those whose hair is thin or silver tend not to write about it so romantically.  It contains some of Ecclesiastes 12’s pensive reflections, but clearly without the bitter pills of life swallowed and choked on as background. 

It was still a poem that gripped me at the time.  Year later, I had a chance to talk about it with Pastor Peter when we crossed paths again in a different context.  He was kind enough to write it out by hand and give it to me to keep.  To this day, I keep it in my desk drawer, and pull it out and read it once in a while — like I did today, reflecting on my 50 years of life so far.

At this point in life, I have to unfortunately recognize scratches and flaws in my painting of times when I was selfish, times when I was mean.  I’ve lived to regret some hasty words, words I’d like to take back, but I fear have left in some cases an indelible mark.

I’m glad that the whole of my life’s painting doesn’t consist of just such — my wife, as I mentioned yesterday, has helped remind me that the painting of my life so far is turning out pretty well, by God’s grace.  But I can’t read “The Painting” today without some of its points resonating in me with remorse (not just warning).

I don’t know if, as you read that poem, it strikes you as more profound or more corny. I know that God used it and has continued to use it to have a pretty significant impact on my thinking and my life just the same.

On Friday,  I alluded to the fact that there are often profound truths in the folksy wisdom, corny clichés, and even the three-points-and-a-poem of the standard sermons that some of us have grown up on now for nigh unto fifty years.  That’s still true today. 

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 of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum.



Written by David Lamb Wednesday, 11 July 2012 00:00

“Avoid the really old and the really young.”  I was going through airport security recently, and overheard this comment from a group of people behind me in the queue.  They looked like they were in their early forties.  They were talking about which line to avoid—basically, don’t get behind old folks or families with young children because they move slowly through security.  I turned and noticed that the woman directly ahead of me was probably in her seventies.  Apparently, I had chosen poorly

Sure enough, the women in front of me started having troubles.  She hadn’t removed her laptop from her bag, things were beeping and she forgot to put her large carry-on onto the conveyor belt.  She was getting flustered.  I asked, “Can I put your bag on the belt?”  “Yes, please” was her reply.  I’d like to say I did this out of the kindness of my heart, but it was more practical than that.  I knew it would speed things up

Shockingly, the group of 40-somethings behind me kept talking about how being behind the elderly was such a nightmare.  Unless the woman if front of me was totally deaf, she would have had no problem hearing them clearly.  Their comments were rude.  I felt bad for her, but as I was slipping my shoes back on, I felt worse that I hadn’t defended the woman to those young whippersnappers.  (I can call them whippersnappers now that I’m 50.)

Moving into my 50’s has caused me to reflect more on growing old.  One of the things I fear is being in the place of that woman in front of me in line—flustered and confused by some new security protocols and having the youngsters behind me in line laughing at me. 

As a society, we cater to the young and don’t do well valuing the old.  So, I wonder, how do we do as a church in welcoming and treating the elderly with respect? 

I was visiting a church recently and was surprised to see among the people leading worship on the stage, an 8 year-old girl.  She even sang a solo.  Later in the service, a 10 year-old boy prayed alongside the head pastor during the pastoral prayer.  They were honoring and affirming children as a part of the service.  I loved it.  While the worship team was highly diverse in terms of ethnicity and gender, in terms of age diversity there was the girl, but no one over 55, despite the fact that congregation included plenty of folks in their 60’s, 70’s and older. 

Why not?  While it’s cute to include children, we don’t think it’s as cute to include the elderly.  I realize that some churches do better at valuing the elderly than others, but I suspect that the church I visited is typical in this regard.  We don’t want to get stuck behind them in line.

Anyone in ministry knows that youth are the future of the church.  You need to focus on them.  If youth are the future, then I guess that makes the elderly the past.  We don’t perceive them as strategic.  We may not avoid the really young, but we avoid the really old. 

The church might not know how to value old folks, but God does.  He didn’t avoid them.  He frequently included them in his mission.  We’re not exactly sure how old he was when God told him to build an ark, but the text tells us Noah was 600 when the flood finally came (Gen. 7:6).  God called him to go to the land he would show him when Abram was 75 (Gen. 12:1-4).  Isaac wasn’t born until Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90 (Gen. 17:17).  God called him to lead his people out of Egypt when Moses was 80 (Exo. 7:7).  Shortly after Jesus’ birth, God revealed to two elderly folks, Simeon and Anna how Christ would be a light to the nations and a redeemer for Israel (Luke 2:25-38). 

God, help us welcome and include, honor and value the “really old” like you do. 

How does your church or ministry include the elderly in mission? 

David Lamb is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Biblical. He’s the husband of Shannon, father of Nathan and Noah, and the author of God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?He blogs regularly at http://davidtlamb.com/. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/david-lamb.


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