Vol. 02 • NO. 04
The Mandate for Christian Education The Need for Higher Education Is Sunday School Still Relevant?
A PUBLICATION OF THE FULL GOSPEL BAPTIST CHURCH FELLOWSHIP DEPARTMENT OF Christian EDUCATION Theology Digest • 1
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Bishop Paul S. Morton International Presiding Bishop Bishop Andy C. Lewter, D. Min. Publisher/Editor in Chief Pastor Justin Cohen Associate Editor Elder Deidre Sealy Administrative Assistant to the Editor Nadine Johnson Executive Assistant Contributing Writers Bishop Andy C. Lewter, D.Min. Pastor Justin Cohen, Ph.D. Bishop Dennis M. Golphin Ivory D. Payne Graphic Design â€˘ 614-743-6179 The Theology Digest is a quarterly publication published by the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship Department of Christian Education. We welcome all submissions which become the property of the publication and is subject to editorial revisions. For more information please contact Theology Digest, 2 Monroe Street, Amityville, NY 11701. 631-8427091or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
A publication of the full gospel baptist church fellowship department of education
Dr. Jeffrey Bowens By Bishop Andy C. Lewter, D. Min. Beloved, we are so excited and proud to share with you that another one of our students has successfully completed the curriculum and study program of our Graduate Theological Doctoral Program that meets on the campus of major universities across the country. The most recent graduate of the program is Pastor Jeffrey Bowens of the Love Alive Baptist Church in Buffalo, New York. Dr. Bowens spent the last six years working on this degree which culminated in the writing of an extensive doctoral thesis on Theology Digest â€˘ 3
have been few and rare opportunities for there to be a wholesome and healthy conversation on the topic. Dr. Bowens tackles much more than the superficial rhetoric that is usually associated with this genre of preaching. What is spectacular about the writings of Dr. Bowens is the brilliant matter in which he address the underlying theological assumptions that undergird the The “Prosperity Gospel” has Prosperity Gospel. been active in African American pulpits for several years now and I strongly encourage you take as such, has gained a wide audi- the time to read the overview ence. While the topic is con- of Dr. Bowen’s work which is troversial to say the least, there included as a separate article in the topic of the “Prosperity Gospel”. Dr. Bowens successfully defended his dissertation before a panel of scholars, all of whom overwhelmingly endorsed and approved the defense of the dissertation by Dr. Bowens. Bishop Lester Williams along with myself travelled to Buffalo to publicly confer the degree upon Dr. Bowens.
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this issue of our journal. Again, we want to congratulate Dr. Jeffrey Bowens on doing such a wonderful job on his academic work and completed the journey that he began several years ago. I am prayerful that the completion of his work will inspire others of you who are reading this article to follow his example and consider enrolling in our school
for the pursuit of your own theological education. By the way, we are meeting on the campus of Yale University on January 24th and 25th., 2012, we would love to have you join us and be a part of the wonderful experience that we have in our theological intensives. Theology Digest â€˘ 5
The Mandate for
Christian Education By Pastor Justin Cohen, Ph.D. The Body of Christ has the responsibility to safeguard the true and original doctrines found in Scripture and commit them to others without compromise or corruption. This implies the necessity of Christian Education.
guard, and teach the true Biblical faith and righteous standards. (II Tim. 3:15; Jer. 2:8; II Tim 1:14; I Tim 4:6; II Tim 2:2; Rom. 6:17).
The Bible gives the following reasons for Biblical or theological training:
2) To show students the vital necessity to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints and to give them the means by which to defend it against all false theolo-
1) To entrust the Gospel of Christ to faithful believers in order that they may know,
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gies. (Jude 3; Acts 20:31; Gal. 1:9; I Tim. 4:1; Titus 1:9; I Tim. 6:3-4). 3) To lead students into continual growth in character via Godly teaching (Jos. 1:8; Ps. 1:2-3; Ps. 119:97-100; Mt. 28:20; I Th. 4:1; I Tim. 1:5; II Tim. 3:16). 4) To equip students to strengthen and bring to maturity other believers, so that together they may reflect Christ’s image in the home, the local congregation, and the Body of Christ at large. (Ephesians 4:11 – 16). 5) To bring students to a deeper understanding and experience of God’s kingdom on earth and its conflict with satan’s power. (Ephesians 6:10-18). 6) To motivate students by the eternal truths of the gospel to be wholeheartedly committed to evangelizing the lost and preaching the gospel to all nations in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20). 7) To deepen student’s experience of Christ’s love, personal fellowship, and
gifts of the Spirit by urging them to follow the leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit by bringing them into the filling and controlling power of the Holy Spirit and by teaching them to pray, fast, and worship, as they long for the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ with the spiritual intensity of the first century church. (John 17:3, 21, 26; Eph. 3:18-19; Rom. 8:14; Acts 2:4; Mat. 6:9 + 16; II Tim. 4:8; Titus 2:13). It is obvious from these purposes of Biblical training that the teaching ministry must be performed by those who are fervently loyal to Scripture as God’s fully inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word and to the Holy Spirit and His ministry of truth, righteousness, and power. (II Tim. 1:13-14; Ezra 7:10). True Biblical training emphasizes true righteousness (knowing, being, and doing) rather than the mere apprehension of Biblical facts and truths. The great doctrines revealed in Scripture are redemptive truths, not academic ones. As issues involving life or death, they demand a personal response and decision from both teacher and student. (James 2:17; Phil. 1:9) Theology Digest • 7
The Need for
Higher Education Bishop Dennis M. Golphin, Th.D., Ph.D The Church has a rich history of education. In fact, from the early days of Christian discipleship to the need to cultivate catechism, the Church has always sought to educate and advance its members. The purpose of Christian education is to uphold an indoctrination of Christian values that can be defended intellectually and meet human necessities. The student must learn to fear God and trust Christ so that his thinking will develop biblically. John Calvin and John Knox both created Christian schools to further the goals of the reformation in Europe. In America, education developed in the Church through Sunday school and later the state took over the responsibility to educate children. This has developed a battle between Christian and secular education. The question then is whether or not one can be educated without being indoctrinated. I believe that if we expect Christian education to strive, pastors must teach their people the necessity of the discipline of study. In order for the modern church leader to be effective today, one must seek higher education. This quest is not to make one a preacher or a leader, but to sharpen and equip them for the task at hand. The more we comprehend the nature of our Faith, 8 • Theology Digest
the better equipped we are to assimilate the issue. Every discipline has its own language and in order to properly understand the discipline of theology one must learn the language of theology. It is imperative that one not only be skilled, but disciplined in their quest to perfect the assignment given to them. So we learn sciences, such as, Homiletics and Hermeneutics, to sharpen our sermon preparation and interpretive skills. In summary, without higher education, one cannot be appropriately trained to both defend and communicate a qualified presentation of one’s beliefs. We must prepare our minds to receive what our heart already knows. We must develop an understanding of our nature, in order to foster an intelligent design for our Faith. In Proverbs, Solomon points out that “Wisdom is the principle thing, but in all your quests, seek understanding (Prov. 4:7). Get training, education, and discipline and blend it with the fear of the Lord.
The Value of A
Christian Elementary Education Tiara-Kerrin Hawkins “Direct your children onto the right path and when they are older, they will not leave it,” are words of wisdom found in Proverbs (NLT). As an Educator, these words resonate in my mind as I recall
the values I found in a Christian Elementary Education. Upon reflection of my years of study at a private Theology Digest • 9
Christian elementary school, I cherished the mission of the school that provided the blueprint for both my academic and spiritual growth. It is the place where I gained the confidence to express my love for the Lord early and freely. The seeds deposited in me in this small and comfortable environment have grown and matured, transforming me into a progressive follower of the Word of God. This process of learning and growing from one stage to another resonates with some educational theorists. They believe that a young mind is better able to absorb knowledge than an older one. Once the mind has mastered the skill or knowledge, the person then can apply it to life. Knowing this as a teacher and a Christian disciple, I can pass on the spiritual foundations that were imparted to me; the essentials such as the Creation Story, Ten Commandments, The Affirmation of Faith, and all other valuable words of wisdom. These foundational materials are important in the history of our faith. We take these morals and build upon them for the explanation for the words of Christ. I can also encourage young students of the Bible to express their love for Christ through their own interpretation of the Word and teach them to not be afraid of asking questions. This gives them a 10 • Theology Digest
chance to freely express and gain a personal understanding for the Bible, as I received earlier in my life. I find passages that abide in their minds and hearts in times of need like, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take,” (Proverbs 3:5 NLT). A staple in the life of a mature Christian, but a new babe can and will come to know why this message is so relevant, especially growing up in the world today! Today, as I look over what has helped me get to a confidence place in my Christian walk, I realized it was that little Christian school in Queens, NY along with my church upbringing that created the hunger for God that I now feed. I thank my parents for the privilege of experiencing this nurturing foundation for my Christian growth. It may not be feasible for many to send their children to a private Christian school, but consider the benefits which will be appreciated in the future; Christian schools offer smaller classrooms, better books and supplies, and a lifestyle to be cherished. Therefore, when it comes to schooling for your little ones, you should consider a private Christian school. If it takes many villagers to raise a child, we must make sure they are in a “village” where God is.
The Value of
Continuing Education While in The Ministry Dr. Dwayne R. Cook We are living in the “information age”. At the push of a button individuals have access to literally a world of data. The internet gives almost everyone connection to resources that can help answer any question. There was a time when the minister was the main source of information. People believed that because he was the representative for God then he should be able to deliver accurate solutions to life’s quandaries. Since the Age of Enlightenment less and less faith has been put in the answers of the clergy. Some even feel that Christianity is nothing more than superstition and myths to
satisfy the unlearned and gullible. The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to study to show that he was well qualified for his position as spiritual leader and thereby would not be made ashamed. This is a message to ministers that is even more relevant today. The Church is being bombarded by those who claim that scientific discoveries have refuted biblical claims. Many church-goers are confused and feel Theology Digest • 11
cheated when they can’t receive an adequate answer from some Christian leaders. God calls people into the ministry but He does not place all the information needed for that call into their minds instantaneously. I believe the days of just relying on select passages of Scripture to carry on ministry are long gone. There must be a desire to build upon one’s knowledge of God’s Word. This does not just include an increase of Bible study. As the world becomes more ungodly there will be more complex issues that the Christian leader will have to confront. There will be problems that are not easily answered by plain Scripture alone. This does not imply that the Bible does not address those issues, but that they won’t appear to have a direct Scripture to resolve them. I was speaking with a Pastor who had completed his M. Div. degree and was contemplating returning for a doctorate. As he looked over his Master’s thesis, he noted that he doesn’t speak or write 12 • Theology Digest
in that manner any more. I knew exactly what he meant by that statement. There is a certain way of thinking when you are in school for Theology or Biblical Studies. There is a theological mindset. This is looking at the Word of God firstly to see what it is saying in its context, then applying a biblical philosophy to answer life’s deeper questions. It is a discipline that should be a continuous reality in our ministries so that we can “be ready always to give an answer…” Another value in continuing education for the minister of the Gospel is that it trains the servant of the Word to expand his mental capacity. The Scriptures tells us to love the Lord with our minds. There is a theological mindset that we must have in order to successfully minister to this generation. We are not dealing with a society that is primarily Judeo-Christian in worldview. The minister must study broadly to be able to touch people’s minds as the Spirit draws their hearts.
Elder Mary Ellis A recent poll was conducted by the Bible Gateway Institute on their website where those willing to participate answered the question: “Does Your Church Have Sunday School?” It is interesting to note that just the thought of questioning church members about whether or not their particular house of worship still conducted Sunday
school, seems almost sacrilegious. Nowadays for churches to be deliberating on this concept invokes the question; has Sunday School become passé? As one of the conductors of the survey Theology Digest • 13
writes, “Growing up, I remember Sunday school being a mandatory part of church life. We had two services that sandwiched an hour’s worth of classes for every age group in the church.” I echo the same sentiments, and remember the family’s unwritten rule, that to enjoy the rest of your Sunday, it had to begin with Sunday school and church service. The foundational classes of the Sunday School were considered by many to be the cornerstone of the church. Participation was emphasized, encouraged, and endorsed; at least in part, for the youth or young adult worshiper. Has Sunday school lost its relevancy? The idea of obtaining the basic knowledge of God and why we serve Him is not a concept that goes out of fashion or becomes irrelevant. I believe we should hold fast the biblical teaching found in the letter to Timothy to study to show oneself approved or acceptable to God. I believe the essence of church school is still important and potent. The educational nuggets gathered are invaluable and long-lasting. When we look around, we see the composition of many of our classes filled with adults from a generation that grew up on Sunday school. Herein lies the church’s dilemma, how to make their Sunday School more attractive to the newer generation of church attendees. With so many other interests vying for the attention of this group, the 14 • Theology Digest
church is hard pressed in finding ways to stay competitive. There is also a shifting attitude about church attendance. Many churches today are realizing a decrease in overall membership, a trend that is increasing among the “X” and “Y” generations. An article in Ebony magazine on “Shifting Faith” quotes Dr. Suzan D. Johnson Cook, “It’s not only about thinking outside the box, who says there has to be a box at all? This is an instant generation, they’re not committed to sitting for long periods of time… my most successful service is Wednesday at lunchtime.” Creativity is the key! The survey results showed that an overwhelming number of responders said that their church did have Sunday school (62%). It was great to see that only 11% said their church did not have an organized program. Embedded in the poll, was the thought; ‘what kind of Sunday School opportunities does your church make available for those that attend?’ Another interesting result was that the most neglected group was college-aged young adults. Pastors and teachers will have to become more creative and forward thinking in their attempt to attract a greater attendance of youth or young adults, or to sustain our traditional participants and to keep Sunday School relevant.
Prosperity Gospel and it’s affect on the 21st century Church A historical and theological perspective on the Prosperity Gospel
Editor’s note: the following is an abstract of Dr. Jeffery Bowen’s Doctoral Dissertation. It is intended to give the reader a brief introduction to the topic to be explored.
Dr. Jeffery B. Bowens The Prosperity Gospel has been one of the largest discussions of the 21st century, particularly within the Christian Community. The battle line has been drawn by prominent theologians, influential scholars, pundits, and televangelist alike, who are on different sides of this debate and no one is conceding ground.
Wherefore, the goal and objective here is not solely to discuss the controversialist position or to talk about who is absolutely precise or who may or may Theology Digest • 15
not be on the radar screen. Instead, the focus is the manner in which the Christian community has critiqued, evaluated, and defined the actual message of prosperity. In considering the subject of the prosperity gospel, it is most apparent that the reason for the great deal of the controversy is the failure to define the variations of meanings of the word itself. What prosperity means depends upon who conveys it. I believe the prosperity gospel can be articulated from two different points of view which will be referred to as the narrow view of prosperity and the broader view of prosperity. The narrow view simply places emphasis and focus on a materialistic view of prosperity, such as exquisite homes, fashionable wardrobes, excessive wealth, expensive cars, and temporal possessions. Things which are visible and tangible have, in the eyes of many, come to symbolize happiness, achievement and success.
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The broader view has come to mean more than just materialism or possession to make one prosperous. This broader view includes good health, enjoying the bountiful blessings of the Lord, having a changed life or seeing loved ones and family grow in the fear and admonition of the Lord. This broader view focuses on an unbroken relationship or long term friendships as a byproduct of prosperity. My position in this dissertation is that the prosperity gospel is nothing more than the Gospel of Jesus Christ exclusive of all the hype, fanfare, exaggeration, bells and whistles. I do understand how one can become side tracked about this subject for after one excursion into the Holy Scripture it can lead to misinterpretation and eventually misappropriation if not divided rightly. My dissertation therefore provides the background, history, and theological perspectives of the Prosperity Gospel and itâ€™s affect on the 21st Century Church.
School of Ministry Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International Bishop Tommie L. Triplett, Jr.
Compiled by Dr. Janice Witt Smith, SPHR, CC and Bishop Cheryl Brown Under the leadership of Bishop Tommie L. Triplett, Jr., the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International’s School of Ministry provides education and training for Christian leaders and laity from around the world. School of Ministry is part of FGBCFI’s Training and Church Development Department whose purpose is equipping and empowering lay leaders through effective teaching and victorious living strategies. World-class faculty from the School
of Ministry delivers instruction at the annual International Conference, where, on average, more than 4,300 participants attend classes. Christian Education classes are also offered at the District, State, and Regional conferences. The classes focus on spiritual growth and development as well as practical strategies for individual empowerment, entreTheology Digest • 17
preneurship, grant writing, and ministry development. In addition, attendees have learned how to (a) become better leaders; (b) develop more effective leaders as part of their ministries; and (c) empower and encourage others to make a difference in the communities in which they live. Participants renew their commitment to serving God by serving others. They develop and refine networks where they can collaborate with other ministries and leverage their collective resources in making a sustainable difference in the lives of others. Business and other professionals provide information resources to facilitate the development of the business savvy needed in financing capital improvements and writing business plans before expanding ministries. Because each individual is a tripartite being (soul, body, and spirit), the School of Ministry offers an opportunity for the entire person to develop. The mind is developed through detailed, organized study of the Word with practical applications that can be implemented immediately. Healthy lifestyles are emphasized and health- and wellness-based instruction is included as part of our slate of course offerings. Word-based teaching is at the core of what we do, and we align the School of Ministry with Bishop Paul S. Morton, Sr.â€™s overall 18 â€˘ Theology Digest
vision for the Fellowship. Regardless of the level of experience one has with the Word or length of time as a believer, there are classes and experiences incorporated in the School of Ministry to expand oneâ€™s understanding of the Word and what God is requiring of us. Attendees are able to leverage what they have learned and can apply in building the Kingdom and making a difference in their own communities. To ensure that individuals across the Fellowship have an opportunity to learn and grow both as people and as believers, the same courses can be offered at Local, State, and Regional Summits, using the same detailed syllabi and materials shared at the International Conference. The international conference faculty either teaches at those conferences or later works with local, state, and Regional Christian Education Directors to prepare area faculty to teach the classes. The School of Ministry is responsible for ensuring instructional consistency and the quality and commitment of Christian Educators across the Fellowship through credentialing Christian Educators and certifying individuals to teach within the Fellowship. We will continue to celebrate our legacy through instruction and empowerment, preparing us to pursue our destiny. Join us!
Which “cap” Should You Wear?
“My people perish for a lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6) Elder Deidrea Sealy A major challenge in Christian education is one’s theological foundation. It differs between what one believes as truth and what is orthodoxy. One’s belief has a bearing on the concept of education. It is vitally important to understand that Christians are responsible for knowing the truth about the One by whose name we are called, Jesus, the Christ. It is also important to clarify that theological education is not a search for God, but a search for clarity and illumination. How then can we adequately distinguish, prejudice, and/or determine what we truly believe? Where do we find the “facts”? How do we determine what is a “fact”? Therein lies the challenge of knowing what is considered truth or should we say ‘whose truth’? Truth could be defined as that which is relevant to one’s experience and relationship with the Lord. As the Apostle Paul so rightly stated “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 3:16). Studying is not limited to what is written in the canonized Bible.
Christians are limited only by the extent to our desire to know more. Learning changes our perspective and worldview. There is always so much more to learn. There are many Bible colleges that offer classroom and online courses with majors such as The History of the Church, Biblical Foundations, Biblical Theology, Early Church Fathers, just to mention a few. Those who have an unquenchable thirst for knowing the full gospel truth can receive a wealth of information through these schools. While acquiring this information students are faced with the position of having to wear two caps, that of “Practitioner of Faith” and that of “Student of Religion.” As “Practitioner of Faith” it is accepted that the Bible is the infallible word of God. The believer finds verses of scripture that offers words of encouragement, guidance and direction through life’s journey. It trains and transforms those called by God for ministry. Yet the Bible is punctuated with statements Theology Digest • 19
which need further clarity where the student is forced to switch caps to that of a “Student of Religion.” For example, Jesus said, “Thou are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church”. Some erroneously believe that the rock is Peter, but in the original Greek text the word Petros (rock fragment) and on this petra (massive rock) I will build my ekklesia (a chosen assembly) Jesus referred to himself, who is the Christ,
the Son of the Living God. It is a matter of interpretation found only through research. There are more intellectuals sitting in religious audiences than in the past so the practice of ‘anything goes’ is no longer acceptable. The more educated a Christian becomes the more equipped he/she will be to reach the masses. So why choose?
Building Kingdom Builders The Teaching Ministry of Pastor Justin Cohen, Ph.D.
www.fgbbi.org Listen in and join in! BlogTalkRadio Brodcast. A Weekly teaching and call in talk show Tuesday Nights from 6-7pm http://www.blogtalkradio.com/fgbbi 20 • Theology Digest
Official Christian Education Materials Bishop Earnest Palmer The Full Gospel Baptist Publishing has officially launched its expansive Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and commentary materials to Full Gospel Baptist Churches all over the country. These materials represent the “official” publication of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Publishing, established by the Fellowship more than four years ago. Since its inception with an online presence, the Full Gospel Baptist Publishing, Incorporated has met the needs of those in Christian Education within the local churches. The Sunday School materials follow the
International Sunday School lessons for teens through adults. Though printed and shipped from the Abingdon Publishers facilities in Nashville, TN, the lessons provide commentary through the input of an editorial group of Full Gospel Baptist pastors and church leaders. Each lesson conforms to the Full Gospel Baptist Distinctives, as compiled by the Department of Church Training and Development. The materials include: Theology Digest • 21
teachers’ Manuals, student books, and supplementary materials which can be adapted to any class format. One of the pieces that have been in high demand has been materials designed for the “mature” church members – those seniors who find information and inspiration from sharing of topics of interest, which also have a spiritual and theological basis. Traditional Sunday school materials have contained lessons that may have been visited and revisited by this category of attendee for years. As an alternative, the Maturity Series provides a diversion from those materials, as well as the traditional teaching styles that accompany them. Of particular note are the age and interest appropriate materials for youth. These materials can be used in the traditional Sunday school format or in sessions that
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are conducted mid-week. These materials are often accompanied by CD’s and DVD’s that create enhanced interest in this category of attendees. The Vacation Bible School Series is excellent and should be part of every church offering during the summer time or during Spring Breaks. They are topical and designed to match the dynamics of youth and adult interests. Materials may be ordered online or directly from: The Full Gospel Baptist Publishing Office Office hours are: 9:30 to 5:00 CST. Phone numbers are: 855 640 3427 (toll free for clients), 205 343 0304, or FAX 205 343 0314. Office Manager: Calandria Knox. Office Associate: Robin Petty www.TheFullGospelBaptistPublishing.com.
Regional Christian Education Directors Central Region Dr. Gideon Olaleye 615-568-5991 email@example.com
Southern Region Dr. Aleta Crawford 662-494-1854 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mid West Region Pastor Dwayne R. Cook 708-275-4733 email@example.com
Southern Atlantic Region No Assignment Made
Mid-Atlantic Region Pastor Justin Cohen 215-847-3979 firstname.lastname@example.org Northeast Central Dr. Kim Yancey James 201-240-6567 email@example.com
Southwestern Region No Assignment Made Western Region No Assignment Made Bahamas Overseer Ivry Johnson 242-322-4821 firstname.lastname@example.org
Theology Digest â€˘ 23
Join us for the
2012 Theological Intensive
Held on the Campus of
Yale University, New Haven, CT Tuesday & Wednesday Tuesday 1/24/12 Wednesday 1/25/12
tuition Only $295
For more information Please visit http://www.theologicalintensive.com or call Tonya Lewter at 516-223-3855