Experiencing the New Testament in Context

This week, I’m touring Israel with 17 Northern Seminary doctoral students in New Testament Context, spouses, and friends. A week with this cohort would be enough to feed the mind and heart biblical food for a year. We just happen to be spending a week together where Abraham, Jeroboam, David, Jesus, Mary, Mary Magdalene, Joseph, the disciples and a few other biblical characters walked. One of the pastors in the cohort leads a Bible study to start the day. Dr. Scot McKnight teaches a parable along the way. Our local guide informs us about the sites. Dr. Joel Willitts instructs us on the local geography and archeology. Let’s just say that this a biblical feast for the senses. I’m lucky enough to tag along, tip the maître d’ at the meals, and read a scripture or two.

Most of the students are pastors in local churches. Some are church planters, others are in established churches, and one in a very large church that just celebrated its seventh year of ministry. They serve diverse congregations and all hunger to grow deeper in their faith and knowledge of the Bible. They inspire me with their stories of renewal in the local church, growth in their communities, and initiatives to lead people to Jesus. They struggle with the same issues every pastor does. Their community at Northern encourages, strengthens, and challenges them for the journey.

They come from Oklahoma, Nevada, Oregon, Ohio, Illinois, Nebraska, California, North Carolina, Texas, Ontario, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan. They serve Christian Missionary Alliance, Free Will Baptist, Southern Baptist, Cooperative Baptist, Free Methodist, Church of Christ, American Baptist, Evangelical, Covenant Evangelical, and Nondenominational churches. This is North American group represents the best of Northern and the best of church life today. They came to Northern because we decided not to offer “just another Doctor of Ministry.” Under Dr. McKnight’s leadership, they’ve learned how the context of the New Testament world is just as relevant to today’s ministries as it was 2,000 years ago. This week, they walk through that world, many of them for the first time.

Along with these students are 21 spouses and some of Northern’s closest friends. I am grateful for the opportunity to get to know this group and to learn even more how the local church is changing the world. Every person has marveled at the small beginnings of Jesus’ ministry in Capernaum. These pastors, in churches both large and small, are agents of the power of the risen Christ across North America. I believe in the power of the church. These pastors, their families, and our friends are living proof.

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