The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11)
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I took a variety of classes my freshman year at Pensacola Christian College covering topics like world history, the New Testament, speech, pastoral ministry, and more. World History 101 and 102 were taught by Dr. John Reese, an engaging and knowledgeable professor who served as a consultant for the classes’ textbook titled World History and Cultures: A Christian Perspective.1 The opening chapter of that textbook asserts that the creation of the universe took place in 4000 BCE, that evolution and humanism are destructive and rebellious ideas, and that human diversity stems from what happened at the Tower of Babel. It closes by saying,
History is primarily the account of God’s dealings, in blessing or judgment, with men and nations. It is a written record of what man has done with the time God has given him. The dispersion of mankind complicates history, but as we study the facts of history alongside the revealed truth in the Bible, we can see God’s providential hand guiding all events, helping us to better understand the past. By focusing on God’s plan, we will see how history leads to Jesus Christ.2
This view of history permeated the lectures delivered by Reese who held a teleological view of human history: the goal of history is Jesus Christ.
World History was a required course at PCC as was New Testament 101 and 102. Both NT101 and NT102 were taught by Dell Johnson, a diminutive man with a rather shrill voice who would pace the floor when he taught.
Johnson was a fairly popular teacher and for good reason. He was always very animated and would help us learn information through songs. I learned the names of the twelve disciples easily thanks to a catchy tune he taught us. During one lecture Johnson dressed up as the Lukan character Zacchaeus and acted out the story of Luke 19:1-10. He told us he did it to teach us how to make the Bible come alive for children but I think he just enjoyed dressing in first-century CE garb.
Whereas NT101 and 102 were required classes for all students regardless of major or gender, the weekly Evangelism Seminar was required only for Evangelism majors like myself and female students were not allowed. During this class we would learn about famous evangelists of the past like George Whitefield or Charles Finney and often we would have guest speakers who would teach us evangelistic technique or the meaning of “revival.” At times one of the juniors or seniors in the class would be invited to speak during a class period to get some practice. But as I listened to my peers speak I noticed that they all sounded similar both in style and in cadence. I soon figured out why.
One of the frequent guest speakers at PCC’s chapel services was an evangelist by the name of Dave Young. Young was an alumnus of PCC and upon graduation became an itinerant evangelist with his organization the Dave Young Evangelistic Association. Young had a very distinctive pattern of speaking5 and because he was also a frequent guest speaker in our evangelism class that pattern ended up one picked up on by students in the Evangelism program. The program was churning out clones of Dave Young.
As my freshman year was ending I learned that my home church back in NY had hired a youth pastor. I can remember feeling a bit hurt by that decision for a couple of reasons. First, when we started the youth group we had done so in a way that allowed the students to lead while adults acted as chaperones. Hiring a youth pastor felt like a usurption of our vision. Second, I felt like I was being replaced.
Admittedly, feeling hurt because they had hired a youth pastor was completely irrational. Not only was I not there to lead the youth group since I was away at college, I wasn’t even in the youth group anymore! Nevertheless, when I came home in May of 2002 I wanted nothing to do with the youth pastor. And when he was also given oversight of the newly formed “college and career” group I decided that I wanted nothing to do with that either. There was also some degree of jealousy. The youth pastor was an intelligent, charismatic, and very likeable guy who was also the son of a prominent KJV Only evangelist that I admired. I felt like I just couldn’t compete and that my time in the spotlight, as it were, was fading. Who needed me when they had him? My personal insecurities led me to be a real jerk and I greatly regret my response.
Yet this experience taught me something invaluable: I am replaceable. To learn that the world could go on without my presence was at once humbling and infuriating. What I failed to appreciate is that I helped lay the foundation of something greater than myself but as a nineteen year old know-it-all with a theological chip on his shoulder I just couldn’t fathom it.
In the next post we will go over the next two years of my college career and look at some of the classes I took. And soon we will do an overview of my time as a youth pastor and my move from evangelical Christianity to atheism.
1 George Thompson and Jerry Combee, World History and Cultures: A Christian Perspective, second edition (A Beka Book, 1997).
2 Ibid., 8.
3 Ibid., 4.
4 “An Idea That Came from God: PCC History from 1989-1998,” PCC Update (Spring 1999), 4.
5 Here is a short video of Dave Young speaking. Watch it and then imagine nearly every single person in your class speaking in the same exact manner.