August 2018 E-news from the Siburt Institute

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Believe or Belong: Which Comes First?

Many of us grew up in churches that emphasized knowing and believing the Bible as the single most important thing to being on God’s good side. We are not alone! Indeed, many church traditions hold a legacy that honored knowledge and respected belief in the right things as an essential way of assurance in one’s relationship with God. There is much merit in such a set of convictions. Knowing about Jesus Christ matters!

Yet there exists another way of understanding our relationship with God that is particularly valuable to today’s contexts in many of our churches. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson picks up this line of thought in his book Future Faith: Ten Challenges Reshaping Christianity in the 21st Century.1

Rather than holding to a set of convictions that properly constitute a faithful Christian, Granberg-Michaelson suggests that Christianity is more about an orientation toward following Jesus Christ. For those of us who are associated with the Stone-Campbell Movement, we may see similarities between Granberg-Michaelson’s proposal and Thomas Campbell’s famous statement in the Declaration and Address, that the one church is made up of people who “profess their faith in Christ” and seek to be obedient to Christ. In other words, it is not correct doctrine that determines faithfulness; it is the movement of faithfulness as a disciple that matters.

Not only is this idea a useful and constructive theological truth, but it also helps us understand the ways that many unchurched people approach faith. Simply put, the deep hunger in the cities and towns where we live is the hunger to belong. People may not say it, but they deeply desire to be loved, accepted and trusted.

If our congregational culture is one declaring that people must have their doctrine together before they enter, then we shouldn’t be surprised at their lack of interest. But if our congregational culture exudes openness and welcome, if our message is to come and join us as we learn to follow Jesus together, then people may well show up because they will have found a place to belong.

The believing part? Well, that is what discipleship is all about. And just like the persons in our cities and towns who long to belong, we too have much to learn about what it means to believe and to be obedient to Jesus. So cultivate warm and welcoming places in your cities and towns. Create freedom for persons to belong. Then together, learn more fully what it means to be a disciple!



[1] Published by Fortress Press, 2018. This book was the subject of last month’s essay as well.


ElderLink heads to North Carolina, Nov. 16-17

The Siburt Institute is pleased to announce a new ElderLink seminar in Greensboro, North Carolina! The event will feature Randy Harris (pictured at left), ACU Bible instructor and spiritual director for the Siburt Institute and the College of Biblical Studies, and Dr. Jerry Taylor (pictured at right), associate professor in the Department of Bible, Missions and Ministry, and founding director of the Carl Spain Center on Race Studies and Spiritual Action.

Offering numerous presentations and breakout sessions pertinent to local church leadership, this seminar will be relevant for any adult engaged in congregational ministry, whether as elder/shepherd, minister, deacon, ministry leader or spouse.

Mark your calendars for Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16-17, and check out the registration and event page for more information. We hope to see you there!

Dahlman discusses ‘tension at the threshold’

“Few words reverberate more in our churches than immigrant,” writes Tiffany Dahlman, a minister at the Courtyard Church of Christ in Fayetteville, North Carolina, as she opens her CHARIS series titled “Tension at the Threshold: Hospitality and Immigration.” Her article invites the reader beyond the Mexico-Texas border, and the surrounding partisan politics, into the deeper waters of biblical witness, kingdom citizenship and the relationships within the walls of our church buildings.

Dahlman thoughtfully embraces the tension between boundaries and hospitality, insisting that any conversation about one must include the other. The series concludes with an exploration of “characteristics of hospitality revealed in the creation narrative in Eden that help the church navigate the tension as they relearn the culture of hospitality toward immigrants.”

Deadline extended for ‘Why Preaching Matters!’ with Rick Atchley

There’s still time to register for the “Why Preaching Matters!” Lunch and Learn event with Rick Atchley (’78) on Thursday, Aug. 30, at 11:30 a.m. in ACU’s Hunter Welcome Center. The cost is $15 per person. Final deadline: Register by Aug. 26.

Tuesday, Sept. 18 is a big day for Summit 2018

Eddie Sharp, a minister of the University Avenue Church of Christ in Austin, Texas, will host the Preaching Wholeness Pathway on Tuesday, Sept. 18, as part of Summit 2018. Exploring how the preaching of Ephesians offers a clear path to wholeness in Christ, Sharp will be joined by an impressive lineup of speakers (pictured from left: Dr. Stephen Fowl, Dr. Amy Bost Henegar, Sam Gonzales and Don McLaughlin).

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians lays out, in a wonderful way, God’s eternal plan to bring us into life to the praise of God’s glory. Dr. Stephen Fowl, New Testament scholar and author, will provide an overview of the structure and message of Paul’s letter. Don McLaughlin, a minister at the North Atlanta (Georgia) Church of Christ, will describe how Ephesians gives us ample encouragement for the church to find unity and peace through the power of the cross and the blood of Jesus. Dr. Amy Bost Henegar, a minister at the Manhattan (New York) Church of Christ focused on children and families, will explore how the pressures of society tend to distort essential human relationships away from God’s intent as revealed in Ephesians. Sam Gonzales, a campus minister for Oak Hills Church (San Antonio, Texas), will challenge participants to seriously embrace the Christian walk described by Paul in the epistle. These distinguished presenters will round out the day with a panel discussion and address any questions raised by the audience.

Dr. Jerry Taylor, associate professor in the Department of Bible, Missions and Ministry and founding director of ACU’s Carl Spain Center on Race Studies and Spiritual Action, will speak in Chapel on Tuesday in a session entitled, God Imagines Our Future: Being Filled With the Spirit.

The same day, Taylor and his colleague, Curtis King, will host the Racial Wholeness Pathway. A special presentation of the stage production The Mountaintop by Katori Hall will be presented that evening at 7 p.m. in conjunction with the opening of the new Carl Spain Center.

Make your plans today to join us for these powerful conversations and experiences at the 112th annual Summit at ACU. Find more information about speakers, times and locations at



  • “A major factor in the disintegration of teamwork is a breakdown in open, informative, complete, and effective communication. Team members immediately feel unwanted, detached from the process, and unappreciated when they detect that they have been left out of the communication loop. Suspicions of manipulation surface, and any effective team dynamic is destroyed.” – Dr. Ian Fair, Leadership in the Kingdom: Sensitive Strategies for the Church in a Changing World
  • “In spite of the complexity of the concept of integrity, it is possible to identify certain qualities that form the ‘grid’ through which we ‘sift’ integrity. Personal values such as honesty, sincerity, fairness, trust, loyalty, consistency in thought and behavior, a well-identified ethical system, a consistent standard of morality, sincere desire for the well-being of others, and a lack of malice and manipulation, seem to be those qualities that surface most when integrity is discussed.” – Dr. Ian Fair, Leadership in the Kingdom: Sensitive Strategies for the Church in a Changing World

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