September 1st we were returning from our son’s out-of-town football game. It was about an hour-and-a-half drive so there was plenty of time to talk and listen to the radio. I blogged about the sermon on the Family Talk satellite radio channel 131 that made me puke, spiritually. You can read the original post here. In summary, the then-to-be-identified pastor said this:
Allow me to paraphrase the pastor’s sentiment since the transcript is not available. In your head, as you read along, do it in a male southern accent that is both confident and powerful. Faith requires a believe in that which cannot be seen, that which cannot be proven, that which cannot and does not reside in the natural. I imagine him in front of a church, for the acoustics were tinged with an echo, Bible spread open, right hand in a closed fist with first finger bent to make his point – like a politician. These people with their Ph.D’s and their hatred [emphasis his] of all things that cannot be proven, their absolute insistence [emphasis his] on disproving God’s hand in creation and mankind is what is wrong with this world. They have no faith and they hate [emphasis his] the gospel.
I was so frustrated that I didn’t catch the name of the pastor, the name of his ministry or the show title.
Last night, we were returning from yet another out-of-town game (they lost… again) indeed further than the previous location earlier in the month. ‘Lo and behold, just like spiritual clockwork, the same pastor’s voice lept into my ears through the satellite radio. I *might* have sneered a little when I exclaimed, “this is the guy!”
The hubs was clueless as to my passionate assertion. This happens a lot. I’m random.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a name to put to the quote above: Michael Oxentenko at Reaching Hearts Ministries.
I clicked on the About Our Pastor page and learned that Pastor Oxentenko has a B.A. in Religion and a Master of Divinity and is a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor in Maryland. His bio states that he began his doctoral studies at the same school in which he earned his MDiv, but his time was “shortened by God’s call” to serve as pastor of a church in Maryland.
So, he quit his doctoral program in New Testament studies.
Hey, I get it. A doctorate in anything is a hard slog through reading, writing and research. Throw in a full-time job, a wife and two kids and BOOM!, it’s just gotten a lot harder.
However, Pastor Oxentenko, I’m waving my hypocrite flag at you. You were on the road to becoming the very thing you railed against in my original post. Why is this? Would you have a different view if you had continued your studies? Would you understand our training to ask why, to dig deeper, to research a question, to probe?
The hubs was, like, pfft whatever. Get over yourself, babes.
I declined and carried on. I know, you’re surprised. >sarcasm alert
As a comparison, I took a look at the pastor who was on the radio just before
Oxentenko, Dr. Michael Youssef of Leading the Way Ministries.
The hubs loves him, so I pulled up his About Me page and read his bio. In addition to founding and leading a worldwide ministry through the “creative use of media and on-the-ground ministry teams,” he has degrees from Moore College in Sydney, Australia and Fuller Theological Seminary in California. Dr. Youssef is Egyptian and became a U.S. citizen in 1984, the same time he earned a Ph.D. in social anthropology from Emory University in Atlanta. He and his wife have four children and seven grandchildren.
Wait, wait. Did you catch that? A Ph.D. in a secular subject and a worldwide, well-respected leader in the Christian faith? The horror! >sarcasm alert
Dr. Youssef has a unique way to connect with his radio audience by weaving in real stories about real people and real struggles that come alongside scripture and broaden the conversation about faith and scripture. When we’re listening to Dr. Youssef, I don’t feel preached to, I feel fed. He’s interesting and captivating and funny. You’d want to invite him to dinner.
I’m not saying his secular doctoral education is the sole reason for his success, but I think it helps to be well-rounded as a leader in the Christian conversation. I grew up being cautioned against “being of the world” even though we have to live “in the world.” God made the world and everything in it. Why is it bad to study something in it at a deep and profound level?
Why are we constantly barraged with images and language that is hostile and confrontational instead of curious and inviting? Why is it not acceptable within the Christian leadership community to have an education in something other than biblical studies? I agree a foundation in scripture is necessary to understand the Bible, but so is psychology, cultural anthropology, languages and history. If you only know a lot about a little, you’re not getting the whole picture.
I think Christian leaders, authors, and other ministry-types should have a broad base of knowledge that encompasses secular education and study outside a Biblical context. This way, you’re not just living inside your Biblical box, playing one note on your spiritual lute or narrowly defining the world based on purely a Christian context. I think we can become narrow-minded and one-dimensional without study beyond seminary.