October 2018 E-news from the Siburt Institute

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Remembering Your Baptism

This fall, I am on a small team of ministers doing interim preaching for a local congregation. For the series, we decided to preach Paul’s letter to the Romans – light stuff, right? Last Sunday, I was preaching and Romans 6 was my text. I began by recalling a notable film released in 2000.

Remember Joel and Ethan Coen’s film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the Homeric exploration of depression-era Southern culture? Perhaps you recall the three main characters, Ulysses, Pete and Delmar, the escaped prisoners from the chain gang. They hear singing and see men and women walking through the trees to the river, where people are gathering to be baptized. Delmar, good ole Delmar, joins the crowd and runs into the water. He comes out of the water and excitedly proclaims to Ulysses and Pete, “The Lord has saved me from all my sins … the preacher’s done washed away all my sins and transgressions, including the Piggly Wiggly I knocked over in Yazoo.”

Ulysses interjects, “I thought you weren’t guilty of that.”

“Well,” says Delmar, “I lied about that, but God has forgiven me of that, too! It’s the straight and narrow from here on out. Neither God nor man has anything on me now. Come on in boys, the water is fine!”

Delmar understands baptism as a self-initiating act that offers the freedom to live however you wish to live. We might call it a form of fire insurance for the hereafter. Delmar says, “This is too good to be true! God’s grace is so powerful that it takes away whatever evil sin dishes out.”

Coming back to Romans 6, Paul’s response takes his listeners right back to the meaning of baptism. Paul expects them to know – from their own experiences – a clue to the question he is asking: “Do you not know?” Paul seeks to evoke memory and a renewed connection to a shared body of knowledge, a shared tradition.

What is that knowledge?

Namely, that baptism is not merely a ritual of initiation; rather, it is an active participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The action of baptism is a reenactment of Jesus’s own story.

  • In Jesus’ dying, we die. We participate in his dying.

  • In his rising, we are raised with him. We participate in his rising.

  • Baptism is participating in the central aspect of Jesus’ identity – his dying and rising, his obedient death and his new life.

  • This is the pattern of Christian existence! Paul says it in a similar way in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.”

Baptism is not an arbitrary ritual. To quote Karl Barth on baptism, “it is what it signifies.” As disciples and as leaders, one question we might ask of ourselves is whether we are living a “baptized life.” Do we claim the implications of our own death to sin? Are we living a life characterized by the grace-filled love of Jesus? Churches and families need leaders who are committed to live out the reality of the baptized life. May God bless you in such rich living!




Baker among ministers to host ElderLink North Carolina

Since its launch 18 years ago under Dr. Charles Siburt’s leadership, ElderLink continues to seek to equip, encourage and link those who serve as leaders in Churches of Christ. This year, the Siburt Institute team is grateful for the opportunity to partner with several congregations to bring ElderLink to Greensboro, North Carolina, on Nov. 16-17.

We recently caught up with Drew Baker (’02) to talk about his ministry with the South Fork Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, his leadership with ElderLink North Carolina and several challenges and opportunities facing congregational leaders today. Baker’s interview is featured this month on the Siburt Institute blog, Mosaic.

ElderLink is open to adults engaged in congregational ministry, including elders, ministers, spouses, and ministry leaders of all types. We would love to connect with you at ElderLink North Carolina or ElderLink San Antonio this fall. Contact us at elderlink@acu.edu with any questions or needs.

Taylor leads third annual Racial Unity Leadership Summit (RULS) Prayer Retreat

Dr. Jerry Taylor, associate professor of Bible, missions and ministry, and founding executive director of the Carl Spain Center on Race Studies and Spiritual Action, will lead the third annual Racial Unity Leadership Summit (RULS) Prayer Retreat at Camp Garaywa, just outside of Jackson, Mississippi, Nov. 29 – Dec. 1. This year’s retreat will focus on Hebrews 11 and include a Civil Rights Pilgrimage to key locations in Mississippi.

RULS is a national collective of church leaders whose mission is “to foster a contemplative community, beginning within Churches of Christ and open to all, that will provide spiritual inspiration, theological teachings and practical methods to bring all people, regardless of race, to reconciliation and true communion in Jesus Christ.” For more information or to register for the prayer retreat, click here.

Fitzgerald speaks at Carmichael-Walling Lectures, Nov. 8

You are invited to ACU’s 32nd Annual Carmichael-Walling Lectures on Thursday, Nov. 8. The lectures, featuring Dr. John Fitzgerald (’70) of the University of Notre Dame, are free and open to the public. The event will take place in Room 114 of the Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building on ACU’s campus.

This year’s theme is “Friends and Drunks: Two Glimpses Into the Social History of the Early Christians and Their World.” At 4 p.m., Fitzgerald will speak on “The Testament of Jesus: Wills, Friends, and the Fourth Gospel,” exploring the role of friendship in the making of wills in antiquity, and how this practice illumines aspects of the Gospel of John. At 7:30 p.m., he will discuss the topic, “Wine and the Problem of Intoxication in the World of Early Christianity.”

The Carmichael-Walling Lectures are presented each year by ACU’s Center for the Study of Ancient Religious Texts to bring distinctive New Testament scholars to campus. For more information, contact csart@acu.edu.

Locke explores power, privilege and humility

In a recent Mosaic article, “Why Are You Afraid of Losing Your Privilege?,” Dr. Jason Locke (’11 D.Min.) challenges his readers to examine their definition of humility and compare it with the age-old struggle of relinquishing power. Pointing to Jesus as the ultimate model of humility in leadership, Locke notes the gap between what is often said and what is often done on both an individual and congregational level. Locke is a minister for the College Church of Christ in Fresno, California.

To connect with Mosaic, visit mosaicsite.org, subscribe to weekly email updates or multiple RSS feeds, or follow Mosaic on Facebook and Twitter.

Summit 2018 reaches thousands

The 112th annual ACU Summit was a resounding success, offering a time of spiritual renewal for many people. The event opened Sept. 16 with a joint concert of the ACU Alumni Chorus and A Cappella Chorus, along with a keynote address by Bible instructor Randy Harris. That same evening, Summit collaborated with several Abilene-area churches to present the empowering marriage workshop, Fight Night, led by Les Parrott. Concurrently, Jordan Dooley, celebrated blogger of SoulScripts, inspired more than 500 young women as she spoke on the topic, “Your Brokenness is Welcome Here.”

On Sept. 18, in an historic event, Summit partnered in the launch of the newly formed Carl Spain Center on Race Studies and Spiritual Action, which featured a moving keynote address by the Spain Center’s founding director, Dr. Jerry Taylor. The presentation has received almost 10,000 views online. Click here for additional keynote presentations.

Over the course of the four-day event, Summit held 68 presentations in 16 pathway series, a dramatic reading of Ephesians, several a cappella musical performances, a play, a film festival and a presentation by the Barna Group on their latest research with ACU, Christians at Work. We are grateful to everyone who took the time to join us in person and online, and we look forward to seeing you in 2019!



  • “Making love an issue of identity is crucial for Christian faithfulness and for the perception of Christians by others. It is not merely a matter of changing some beliefs or trying to be more loving. We need to cultivate an identity that reflects Christ in a way that intrinsically influences everything we do, because our actions flow from our identity.” – Dr. Rod Reed, “An Identity of Gospel Love: The Centrality of the Second Great Commandment for Christian Identity,” in The Self Examined: Christian Perspectives on Human Identity (Dr. Jenny McGill, editor)
  • “Busyness hinders a life with God … Some Christian leaders tend toward over commitment of activities, which not only hinders our walk with God but also sets a bad example for others. Not only do we need physical rest, but our hearts also need space to listen to God.” – Dr. Klaus Issler, “Learning From Jesus to Live in the Manner Jesus Would If He Were I,” in Until Christ is Formed in You: Dallas Willard and Spiritual Formation (Steven L. Porter, Gary W. Moon, and J.P. Moreland, editors)

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