It’s a tricky thing to bring a highly respected biblical scholar / professor into a church setting to teach a Bible class or preach a sermon. Some of these guys can be a little stuffy. They can use too many big words. They can have a difficult time relating to and communicating with the average guy or gal in the pews. At best, a lot of these scholars are just awkward in front of a bunch of people in church; at worst, some of them can be downright narcissistic and rude.
We brought Dr. Mark Shipp from Austin Graduate School of Theology up to Central this past weekend with no worries.
For four hours on Saturday morning, Mark presented his class notes on the Minor Prophets to 25 of our adult Bible class teachers. And for another hour yesterday, he spoke to 550 of us in a combined Bible class, kicking off our ten weeks congregational series on the Book of the Twelve. And the Shipp who inspired me while sitting at his feet for 22 months at Austin Grad also inspired our church. Shipp’s passion for the Word of God that captured me in his graduate courses also captured our church. His knowledge of the Scriptures and the application he always made to my life was appreciated by the congregation as they realized the application in their own individual and church settings. And it was really quite neat.
The passion I have for the Old Testament comes, in large part, from Dr. Shipp. The ways I interpret the Hebrew Scriptures, the ways I see God revealed, the ways I see our Christ predicted, all come from Shipp. When I use words like mishpat and hesed and tsedaqa, they have come from Shipp. My confidence that every word of the Old Testament is relevant for God’s children today is a gift from Dr. Shipp.
When Madison, our sweet sixteen-year-old sister here at Central died almost a year ago, I wouldn’t have thought to go first to Habakkuk for comfort and grace and understanding for our congregation, except for Dr. Shipp.
I had so much fun this weekend sitting at Dr. Shipp’s feet again. I learned so much. Again. I enjoyed talking to him about raising teenaged daughters. I was blessed to introduce him as my teacher and my friend. I was honored that he expressed so much admiration for our church. We talked together about reading and writing, teaching and preaching. We talked about God’s people. I learned much more about Dr. Shipp’s story, his family, his history. Shipp had fun talking Longhorns football with us at Blue Sky on Saturday, holding back a bit (only a bit) when he discovered that Tim’s not that opposed to replacing Mack Brown, and falling just short of admitting that the cheeseburger and vanilla shake had indeed changed his life . I think he also had fun critiquing my sermon yesterday (Yes, I know the noise and terror at Sinai was intended for God’s people, not the nations! I know!).
We’re better off as a church family for Dr. Shipp having spent the weekend with us. Our teachers are more confident. They’re armed and equipped and maybe even a little dangerous. And I’m thankful. He relates to us and he inspires us. And I’m thankful. I can’t wait to dive in to the Minor Prophets in our Bible classes together this next Sunday, knowing how ready we truly are.