Growing up, the only thing I ever wanted to be was a preacher. My studies in college and seminary, and my experiences as an associate and a student pastor, only confirmed my sense of call. When I graduated from seminary, my bishop appointed me to serve two country churches in West Virginia—and I was happy. Even with its frequent frustrations, parish ministry was a joy.
My first inkling that God might be leading me in a hitherto unsuspected direction came a year or two into my ministry, when I was visiting one of my elderly shut-ins. This day, her brother was with her. He had heard about me from his sister, and wanted to meet me—in order, I soon learned, to confirm his suspicions. Though he had never set foot in the churches I served or heard me preach, he knew that I was a heretic because 1) I was a United Methodist, 2) I wore a clerical collar, and (I strongly suspect), 3) because I had a beard! Almost immediately, he began to quiz me. “What does the Bible say about baptism?” When I started to answer that the Bible says a lot of things about baptism, he interrupted me: “No. Acts 2:38: ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.’” And so it went. For every question, a memorized proof text was the right answer; my fumbling attempts to address other texts, to express a range of biblical answers, were brushed aside. All the while, I kept thinking, “Why can’t I talk to this man? We both care for his elderly sister. We both love the Lord. We both love the Bible. Why can’t we communicate?”
After this encounter, my wife Wendy and I prayed long and hard about where God was leading us. We realized that I needed to go back to school, to pursue deeper study into the Bible and how to communicate its message more effectively. When my doctoral degree in Hebrew Bible was completed, a friend invited me to interview at a small, church-related college in South Carolina, where I discovered a new passion: I love to teach! For the next seventeen years of my life, I found myself a college professor, teaching Bible and religion to undergraduates first in South Carolina, later in Virginia—something I had never thought about doing, but now found to be God’s new direction for my ministry.
While I was teaching in Virginia, a colleague one day emailed me a question about the Bible, prefacing it with “Since you are the Bible guy. . .”. Immediately I thought, “That is exactly who I am. I love the Bible: I love studying it, I love teaching it, and most of all, I love the God revealed in its pages. I am a Bible guy.” Now, eight years into a new career as a seminary professor, helping women and men prepare for the pursuit of God’s call on their lives, I am even more persuaded that this is my calling. I am a Bible guy!
In this blog, I want to share the Bible I love with you, and invite you to join me as fellow Bible guys. As time goes on, I hope that we will engage in conversation across these pages. Perhaps I can answer some of your questions; certainly, I will pose many of my own. John Wesley, founder of Methodist Christianity, referred to himself as homo unius libri: that is, “a man of one book.” I pray we will find ways to speak across our differences, united by our love and respect for Scripture—that we might become, following Wesley’s example, a people of one Book.