Posts Tagged ‘Pepperdine University’

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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If you are one of the people who have never thought well of Pepperdine, well, shame on you!  Let me tell you about Pepperdine University from my experiences with it.

Yes, Pepperdine has one of the most beautiful campus settings of any university in the nation. That’s what people see on the surface. And, yes, Pepperdine has a national reputation, being mentioned in the same breath with much larger, private universities, a reputation which it no doubt deserves. But this is not what I want to tell you about.  I want to tell you about the well-being of the Christian faith at Pepperdine, specifically with regard to its relationship to churches of Christ.

Pepperdine is a place where you can send your child to school and they will be taught by people of faith. Our three children and two of their spouses graduated from Pepperdine in the late 90s. While they were students, their faith was tested, their faith grew, and their faith was affirmed.  One was an English major, one a history major, one a biology major, one in sports medicine, and one was a religion major. Some were members of fraternities, one played collegiate sports, some were active in the campus ministry, and others were not particularly.  All of them graduated with a stronger commitment to serving God in better ways because of Pepperdine people who inspired them.  Even that occasional faculty member who does not share our faith tradition and who challenged my children were an opportunity for them to prove their faith. They learned not to be afraid.

Pepperdine actively seeks to serve churches of Christ with whom it has always had a strong relationship. We have just finished the Bible Lectures at Pepperdine—and it was a spiritual feast. The gathering of thousands on the campus each year is a highlight for Christians from across the country.  At these lectures, the best speakers/teachers in our fellowship gather. Classes are offered from 8am to 10pm, almost non-stop and the only bad thing is, so many are addressing issues, questions, methods, challenges, and ideas among our churches that it is impossible to be everywhere at once.

The evening venues are filled with a capella singing groups from throughout the country—and they are always packed. Next week, Pepperdine hosts one of the most unique conferences in the country, called “Ascending Voice” which is a celebration of a capella music from many traditions.

Conferences and opportunities are offered to California ministers, to families who want to grow in faith. Pepperdine just opened a Center for Restoration Studies, which is a repository for rare and valuable Restoration Movement pictures and documents. You really do not have to mine the Pepperdine website very much to find lots of events specifically for building up and serving Christians.

The very openness of the conversation at Pepperdine and the fact that a small percentage of its undergraduate students are from our fellowship make it suspect to some. My children thrived here as Christians for these very reasons. They found a real world environment that did not artificially protect them, but rather helped them learn to live as ambassadors for Christ in a way that did not alienate those they were living among. Sounds like the first century, doesn’t it, when the earliest Christians lived in favor in their community.

Has Pepperdine presented itself on every occasion appropriately; have any of our Christian universities? Are there faculty members who cross lines? Do some of the students do things that offend our sense of right and wrong?  Aren’t we just asking if it is full of people, some Christian, who don’t always do the right thing?

I love Christian education. I graduated from Ft. Worth Christian High School and from Harding University; I taught twenty-four years for Oklahoma Christian University. Over the years, LST has had much to do with Lipscomb, ACU, York, OVU, and many of the Christian colleges. I am proud that Pepperdine University is tended and supported by our fellowship.

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