In 1992, I presented a series of lectures as part of the annual Leadership Seminar at Rosedale Bible College, a small, two-year Mennonite school in central Ohio. Those lectures were so well-received that, beginning in 1995, I was hired by the college to teach two courses each year on an adjunct basis. I did this for six years. In 2000, I was asked to increase my teaching load from two to six courses per year. When EAF closed in 2001, RBC increased my teaching load to eight courses per year.
I never expected to fulfill my call to vocational ministry in a Bible college classroom. I have been a pastor, and I found the experience both challenging and rewarding. I have been a parachurch executive, and there the challenges and frustrations outweighed the rewards. Then, for fourteen years, I was a Bible college instructor, and after a tentative beginning I came to feel very much at home in the classroom.
Indeed nothing else I have done over the course of my career has brought as much satisfaction and joy as the privilege I had to contribute to the education and spiritual formation of hundreds of students who took at least one of my courses at RBC. I took my job as a teacher seriously and sought to increase my effectiveness in that role with each passing year.
The hard work paid off. I am a far better teacher today than I was when I started teaching at RBC in 1995. I think more clearly and communicate more effectively. I also recognize that teaching is far more than merely transmitting information. “The mediocre teacher tells,” I once read somewhere. “The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” I don’t know if I am a great teacher. But if the scores of notes and letters of appreciation, affirmation, and commendation which I received over the years are any gauge of effectiveness, I am a pretty good teacher and was an asset to RBC.
The college’s vision was to be “a center for the advancement of an engaged and evangelical Anabaptist faith.” This cannot be realized through books and lectures alone. It requires a model. It demands a laboratory. I believed that our students had the right to expect some visible demonstration of the school’s vision at work in a congregational setting—a church equally committed to both evangelical orthodoxy and radical discipleship. Where would they find such a church? It would have to be planted.
As I envisioned this effort, it would have begun on the RBC campus and then, after it was well-established, it would either move to Columbus (likely the vicinity of the OSU campus) or commission a “daughter church” to take up that vision. Any Christian effort to make a significant impact on the contemporary culture will require an intentional presence in urban America. We had a major American city and the nation’s largest university on our doorstep. What an opportunity!
Sadly, I will not be involved in the development of such a congregation, at least not under the auspices of Rosedale Bible College. May 2008 marked the end of a significant chapter in my personal and professional pilgrimage. My contract was not renewed, owing to my failure to comply with a bylaw which requires all full-time faculty to attend a Mennonite church. As I will explain in my next post, the course of my pilgrimage in pursuit of authentic faith had brought me to a place where it was no longer possible for me, in good conscience, to comply with that requirement. And so, after fourteen years of service as a member of the faculty, my association with Rosedale Bible College came to an end.