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Opening Night of the Pepperdine Bible Lectures is why it is still alive when virtually all other Christian college lectureships have faded!

Opening dinners start at 4:00pm, one for the women sponsored by Associated Women of Pepperdine and one for the men.  I suspect this gender-divided agenda is a fossil remnant once required so that the many women leaders who raised over $250,000 for Pepperdine last year can stand at the microphone, and so women like Emily Spivey, the dinner speaker for the AWP Dinner, can speak the Word of the Lord as powerfully as the preachers I have heard at the men’s dinner.

No one really sees this as an issue at Pepperdine—because the people who are looking for fights don’t come to Pepperdine Bible Lectures. 

Helen Young continues to grace the dinner and the lectures with her godly presence. She is a continuing inspiration and a link to the past that reminds us that there have always been gracious, forward-looking people in our fellowship!

In a matter of minutes after the dinner, I had short conversations with national evangelists from Senegal and The Gambia, with church leaders from Greece, and with Christians from Rwanda and New Zealand. With each of these, we had true koinonia—true fellowship in the gospel—hugged, shook hands, whatever was appropriate and talked about the work of God in their country.  This is why we and thousands of church leaders come to Pepperdine.

I especially loved the moment when Dennis Okoth, an African evangelist of the first order, led the thousands of saints in prayer, beginning with these words, “Brothers and sisters, let us believe and pray!”  Oh, yes! Let us believe and pray!

I don’t know how many people were at this opening service, but I would guess about three thousand, Christians from all over the world and from across the United States. We have already been with friends from Michigan, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas (of course), Oregon, Washington, and Florida—just on the first day—oh, and California too!

My personal moment to remember though was every voice singing Great Is Thy Faithfulness, the great hymn written in 1923 by Thomas O Chisholm. I was introduced to this hymn by Owen Olbricht in 1966 when I was a part of Campaigns Northeast. We used it as our theme song, so we sang it often. Sherrylee and I adopted this hymn as ours and have certainly sung this song with each other more than any other hymn, I’m quite sure, so to sing it with the Pepperdine crowd was very special.

The theme for this year’s Lectures is “God’s Unchanging Faithfulness” based on the Psalms. The program  variety is huge! The number of classes so many that hard choices are made all week. The singing groups are the best in our fellowship. There is nothing missing from the Pepperdine Bible Lectures.

But what truly sets these lectures apart is a sense of fellowship!  In years past, Christian college lectureships were known for their “Open Forums” where Bible professors would pontificate on every conceivable question.  Other lectureships were known for “defending the faith.”

Make no mistake, the Pepperdine lectures have not avoided the hard questions. On the contrary, probably most “hot” topics are discussed here—but they are discussed in an arena where people are respected, not ridiculed, and where at the end of the day, we join hands across the aisle and sing “The Lord Bless You and Keep You!”  It’s the spirit of a fellowship on the mission field where fellowship is precious—where fellowship is unity!

I’m not sure the lectureship format will last another generation—but if it does, Pepperdine’s Bible Lectures will be the shoulders the future gatherings stand on!

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