Campbell Divinity alums innovate to keep their ministries fresh

We recently caught up with three Campbell Divinity graduates to find out how they are innovating within their ministries.

Headshot of Dr. John Inscore Essick Jr. (’03), associate professor of church history at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky.  Dr. John Inscore Essick Jr. (’03)
Associate Professor of Church History
Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, Georgetown, KY

I’m not sure church historians are the most innovative of people, but I am trying to help my students think historically (and theologically) about the past. Part of the effort to think well about how the past became the present necessarily involves grasping and grappling with the complexities of the past.

For example, I have recently been trying to complexify the period known as the “Crusades” by having my students interact with Paul Cobb’s “The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades” (OUP, 2016) alongside the more traditional (western) perspectives in a classroom context.

This approach has helped us discover not heroes or villains in history, but humans in all their complexity. Learning an Islamic history of the Crusades has been extremely helpful in allowing the “other” to speak to us and, at times, correct us. The work of history is not easy, but it is worth remembering that good theology does not grow out of bad history.

Headshot of the Rev. Michael Tolar (’10), pastor of Mount Moriah Baptist Church in RaleighThe Rev. Michael Tolar (’10)
Mount Moriah Baptist Church, Raleigh, NC

In the years that I’ve been pastor, I’ve tried to lead our church to do the usual things churches do in ways that are fresh for our congregation. I wouldn’t say that anything we do is particularly innovative, but I believe we are trying to be faithful in ways that are engaging and meaningful to our people.

We might try something that other churches have done for years, but if it’s new for our people, it feels innovative for our context.

As the result of a recent renewal weekend, we’re beginning something called the “5th Sunday Switcharoo” where we randomly assign adults and youth into new Sunday School groups just for the day. On that day, groups will follow a guided sharing time. People are excited about this opportunity to learn about each other, and to go a little deeper with people they don’t know well.

Our deacon meetings have historically been dominated by “church business matters” rather than spiritual growth and prayer. However, we have recently begun scheduling a second meeting each month with the sole purpose of spiritual growth and prayer. It is a great time for discipling currently serving and potential deacons.

Our prayer ministry has expanded in recent years to include intercessory prayer teams who pray during worship services. Teams of 3-4 people, led by adults, teens and children, are assigned a Sunday to pray. They pray throughout the entire service on their week, and often comment on how quickly and meaningfully the hour passes!

Headshot of the Rev. Jayne Davis (’04), associate pastor of discipleship at First Baptist Church WilmingtonThe Rev. Jayne Davis (’04)
Associate Pastor – Discipleship
First Baptist Church Wilmington, Wilmington, NC

For two years we have been on a journey called Love Does. We began with a year-long mission trip into broken places in our community that we called KOG2ILM, bringing the Kingdom of God to Wilmington, NC.

We looked at our community through God’s eyes. What would break God’s heart? Where would God have us to lean in? In areas of education, hunger, refugees, homelessness and incarceration we sought to understand how God wants to use the best of who we are to meet the deep needs in our community. We learned, served, gave, built relationships and loved.

And all along the way we discovered that we were the ones who were being transformed. In this second year, we have been focusing on reaching out and sharing our faith, and seeing our lives – where we live, work and play – as our mission field. What heals a broken world? Love does!