For almost a decade now, a donor has been blessing Bryan College with strategic funds for the Worldview Initiative. These funds made it possible to have me on staff as the Director of Worldview Formation, and on faculty as Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Culture, while overseeing the valuable work of the Worldview Initiative. The donor’s funding of my department has now come to and end, and it has been communicated that Bryan does not have the margin in the budget to financially cover all of my salary. My supervisor, VP Rick Taphorn, and the rest of the leadership at Bryan have generously promised me employment through the end of the fiscal year, June 30th, and have extended any help they can offer in my transition to what God has next for me.
Ashlee and I know that the Lord’s hand is in these circumstances, and we are confident that He has a wonderful opportunity prepared for us to step into. Please be in prayer for our family during this time of transition as we seek God’s will for our lives. God has blessed us tremendously through our time at Bryan College and I’d like to highlight many of the amazing relationships and experiences my family and I have had here:
1. The Community and Staff: My first semester teaching, we had our fourth daughter, Cardin. The faculty, staff, and students at Bryan were such a hospitable community to our children. Many colleges would have offered an awkward glance at our daughters running around campus, but the Bryan community welcomed them with open arms. I’ve never been at an institution that asked for prayer requests as often as the staff at Bryan College. I can’t say enough about the encouragement my family and I’ve received from the support staff at Bryan such as Rhonda, Sharron, Judy, Diana, Valerie, Janis, Margie, Alice, and Sharon. They put up with my whistling and singing throughout the halls, even when it disturbed meetings. Dean of Students and Assistant Dean of Students, Bruce Morgan and Tim Shetter, have also been great friends to help me get to know Bryan and to walk with during my time here. David Holcomb, in advancement, has become a great friend as I’ve partnered with him to build a strong sense of community at Bryan. Members of the coaching staff have also poured into my life; men like Jason Smith, Taylor Hasty, and Sandy Zensen.
2. Department of Spiritual Formation: When I was brought on as the Director of Worldview Formation under the VP of Spiritual Formation, Dr. Matt Benson, I was invited into a leadership team that consisted of three other amazing guys; Jonathan Doran, Benjamin Norquist (now at Wheaton), and Jeff Eenigenburg. These gentlemen welcomed me with genuine camaraderie and set an example of academic and organizational excellence for me. I’ve had some great bosses in my time, but Matt Benson (now with Operation Mobilization, and Saints Bible Institute) was the best. He introduced this Baptist boy to the broader academic world within evangelicalism, and I will always be thankful for that. The other individuals in my department were also a joy to work with: men and women such as Kauri Tallant, Amy Hutchinson, Danielle Rebman, Eric McEachron, and Anna Adams. I have fond and deeply meaningful memories with all of them.
3. Worldview Initiative Coordinators: I could not speak of my time at Bryan without mentioning the two partners that God placed in my life within the Office of Worldview Formation. I walked in as Andrew McPeak’s supervisor, but I learned so much from him. Few young men could have dealt as well with the transition that Andrew faced with my hiring. I only wish we could have worked longer together. Andrew now serves with the great organization in Atlanta, Growing Leaders. The other young man who has held the position of Worldview Initiative Coordinator under my care is Jack Saunders. Jack is one of the most talented young men I know. Our time together has been a great blessing to me. Thankfully he is staying on at Bryan to lead the Worldview Initiative team next year.
4. Faculty: I wouldn’t be at Bryan if it wasn’t for the best Spanish professor I know, Dr. Michele Pascucci, and the man she sent me to, Dr. Paul Boling. Michelle, the former Spanish professor at Bryan, was a friend from church who informed me of openings at Bryan College. I made the 45-minute drive up to Dayton from Chattanooga, and met with the coolest philosophy professor I’ve ever met. Paul Boling graciously sat down with me and listened to my story, and then offered me an adjunct teaching position teaching worldview….to which I responded, “what’s worldview?” Paul walked me through what it means to be a college professor, but always encouraged me to be my own man in the classroom. I felt free to teach out of my experience and passion. I’m thankful for all of my colleagues in the Christian Studies department: Sam Youngs, Jud Davis, Peter Held, Scott Jones, Drew Randle, Ken Turner, and Jeff Eenigenburg. They have all invested in my life in one way or another. There are many other professors, like Michael Palmer, and staff members at Bryan that have invested in me at Bryan, but this post would feel like biblical genealogy if I listed them all.
5. The students. I can’t list individual students here, because there have been so many that have been a great blessing to me. It has been an honor and privilege to work with so many young men and women who are passionate about Christ and desirous of growing excellent in their fields of study. The Worldview Initiative team, specifically, has been an amazing community of young people to invest my life in. I’ve had some exceptional interns that have poured their hearts and souls into our community. My family has had the honor of eating with, crying with, laughing with, arguing with, praying with, and learning with this team week after week over the past 4 years. It truly was the best community of discipleship that I’ve ever had the privilege to participate in. I will seek to be available to these friends the rest of my life.
6. Conferences. I didn’t even know what conferences were until Matt Benson introduced me to this sweet satisfaction of going to conferences. I went to more conferences in my first year at Bryan, than I had in all the prior years of my life. The following are a list of conferences that Bryan paid for me to attend:
Willow Creek Global Leadership Conference, Franklin, TN, August 2012
Catalyst Conference, Atlanta, GA, October 2012
Q Conference, Los Angeles, CA, April 2013
Story Conference, Chicago, IL, Oct. 2013
Reimagining Faith Conference, Georgetown College, Georgetown, KY, January 2014
Q Conference, Nashville, TN, April 2014
Q Conference, Boston, MA, April 2015
AEI Values and Capitalism Conference, Washington D.C., June 2015
Story Conference, Nashville, TN, Oct. 2015
Q Conference, Denver, CO, April 2016
7. Traveling: Prior to working at Bryan, the furthest I’d been away from Merica was on my honeymoon to Cozumel. My second semester working full time at Bryan I was asked to teach a course on the Book of Romans in northern Italy at our study abroad partner site, Saints Bible Institute. It was a pleasure to get to know Sam Spatola and his son Samuel. I had always dreamed of teaching overseas, and Bryan kept giving me opportunities. The next year I went to India to partner with the great educational ministry, Yuvalok, and the missions organization Word for the World. I’ll never forget walking through the slums of Mumbai with brother Lima, fellowshipping with the family of Augustine Asir in Chennai, or traveling through the jungles of southern India with Sam Rajshekhar to help them start their first community school.
This past semester I went out of the country twice. I headed down to Sao Paulo, Brazil in October to partner with the good people at Pan American Christian Academy. Their campus was a refreshing oasis, and their hospitality was even more notable. Kevin Flurry and company introduced me to the rich culture and food of Brazil, while giving me the opportunity to discuss the challenges of the fallen world with the youth at PACA. The first week of last December I headed out to Olomouc, Czech Republic to partner with Dr. Vaclav Rericha and the faculty at Palacký University. The Executive Director of External Relations at Bryan College, Dennis Miller, was truly kind to offer me and my traveling buddy, Michael Whitlock, with this opportunity. It was an honor to be able to lecture to the Czech students on issues of spirituality and faith.
I’m hopeful to get back to all of those communities someday, and to take my family with me.
8. Exceptional Guests: I had the great honor of meeting, hosting, and/or facilitating discussions with some amazing people during my time at Bryan. I was blessed to facilitate panel discussions with the likes of Jonathan Merritt (author, columnist for RNS), Tyler Wigg-Stevenson (author, nuclear disarmament advocate for World Evangelical Alliance), Jeff Shinabarger (author, Plywood People), and Dr. Dale Kuehne (author, professor of political science). I also facilitated discussions and had constructive interaction with Barnabas Piper (writer), Mark Stuart (former Audio Adrenaline lead, and founder of Hands and Feet Project), Michael Card (singer-songwriter, author), Joni Eareckson Tada (author, leading evangelical voice on issue of disability), Eugene Cho (author, founder of philanthropic organization One Day’s Wages), Sean McDowell (author, Christian apologist), Dr. Gary Phillips (author, pastor, former prof. of Biblical Studies), John Stonestreet (author, Director of the Chuck Colson Center), Dr. Bill Brown (Senior Fellow for Worldview & Culture at Chuck Colson Center), Rev. Leroy Barber (author, Exec. Director of The Voices Project, and former pres. of Mission Year), Jason Locy (author, and exceptional GenXer), John M. Perkins (author, and civil rights activist), Jeremy Courtney (author, founder of Preemptive Love Coalition), Christopher Yuan (author, professor at Moody Bible Institute), and Dr. Brian Fikkert (author, professor of economics, and Director of The Chalmers Center). I’m sure there are more, but I’m still amazed at the amount of fruitful followers of Christ that God has brought me into contact with.
9. County, Town, and Campus: Dayton’s a small town, but it is surprisingly rich with interesting people and opportunities. I can’t say how valuable my time at the local coffee house, Harmony House, has been. The owner, John Piatt, is roaster and theologian extraordinaire. John has created a space where city manager, women’s basketball coach, city police, Papa John’s manager, dentist, philanthropist, and philosophers alike can meet and mingle. The annual Strawberry Festival, coupled with Bass Pro fishing tournaments make for a lively atmosphere every spring. And the jewel of Dayton, Pocket Wilderness, is a secret that every Bryan community member must discover for themselves. It’s a Rivendell tucked away in the mountainside right outside of town. I baptized one of my daughters there just last year. Dayton also has one of the best Mexican food establishments I’ve ever eaten at. Delia’s Taqueria has the best burritos and tacos regionally, and is gold for taking visitors to. The Dayton Coffee Shop (not known for its coffee) has the best ham and egg biscuit in town. This town also gave me one of the best friends I’ve ever had, Nathan Lorenzen. In short, it’s a splendid small town.
My family and I have also been blessed by our own local church plant community, The Gathering, as well as the broader community of believers in Dayton, including: Grace Bible Church, New Union Baptist Church, First Church of Dayton (UMC), Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCA), and MountainView United Methodist Church.
The Bryan College campus itself has been a place of peace and enrichment. It sits atop a hill covered with Yoshino Cherry, Redbud, Bradford Pear, Dogwood, Ginkgo, Oak, Pine, and Chestnut trees. The Grassy Bowl, as the community calls it, is a grassy field on the hillside that overlooks the town of Dayton and the surrounding mountains. It’s a pleasant spot to talk to God….or, apparently, a place to snuggle with that loved one and look out at the stars. The campus was actually classified as an arboretum several years ago. It’s a joy to walk around and take in God’s creation.
I could go on and on about our time at Bryan College and in Dayton, TN. It’s a special place for sure, but it’s not the only special place. I’ve been in many a special place, and I look forward to the next. There’s always a temptation to think that you’ve got “THE good thing” vs. “A good thing.” Don’t get me wrong, there have certainly been some challenges at Bryan during my time here, but there will be challenges everywhere. I’ve experienced it. I’ve also experienced the reality that you choose, with Holy Spirit empowerment, to see the beauty in the moment and the joy to be had. Beauty and Community surround us wherever we’re at in life. God is present and calling us to celebrate what we have in the here and the now, while remaining grateful for what we’ve had in the past, and hopeful for what we will experience in the future. I’m planning on enjoying my last few months here and pouring my life into those that God has put in my path. In the meantime, my family and I are also getting ready to celebrate the next county, city, town, college, organization, community, local body of believers, and environment that God walks us into. It’s a privilege to be alive, and it’s a great responsibility to increasingly bear the likeness of our Creator.