Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Course Information for Fall 2006

The following day classes will be offered by the Religion Department at Amarillo College in Amarillo, TX for the Fall 2006 semester. Unless otherwise noted, the course instructor is Frank Bellizzi:

RELG 1301
Old Testament
9:00 -10:15 MW

RELG 2302
Life of Paul
10:30-11:45 MW

PHIL 1304
World Religions
1:30-2:45 MW
*J. Klein, Instructor

RELG 1302
New Testament
9:00-10:15 TTh

PHIL 1304
World Religions
10:30-11:45 TTh

All of the above classes are part of Amarillo College’s core curriculum. They may be taken for Humanities credit and will apply toward any degree program.

Classes may be taken for “Leisure Studies” credit, and anyone is welcome to simply audit a course free of charge. Students at Amarillo College may choose to major in Religion.

All course work is guaranteed to transfer to any four-year college or university in the State of Texas.

Pre-registration is underway, and classes begin August 21, 2006.

For more information, you may call (806) 372-5747, or visit the website at www.amarillobiblechair.homestead.com/

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A New Blog for Songs

It’s been a week since I posted anything here.  That’s mainly because an idea came to me and I’ve been going with it ever since.

The idea was for a new blog.  This one’s called “Vacation Bible School Songs” and the name says it all.  Necessity being the mother of invention, the thought came around when it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be able to attend a song practice that I myself had scheduled and announced.  
To help make up for that, I’m posting the words for some of the songs we’ll sing during V.B.S. at the San Jacinto Church of Christ later this June.  

Along with the words to each song, I’m including audio posts for those who’d like to hear it sung.  While working on the new blog, I’ve been thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of this approach.  Of course, the first big plus is that anyone on-line can see the words and (with speakers) even hear the song sung.  Also, as with a CD, you can skip past the songs you know and go to and repeat the ones you want to learn.

On the other hand, because the audio posts are done by telephone, the sound is about as poor as you can get these days.  Not to mention that some of these songs have physical motions that you can’t see and appreciate.  (Could video be next?)

Also regarding the audio posts, you should know that not one of those three tenors were available for the recordings, which means you’re stuck with me.

And, yes, a lot of our traditional songs are sung to a variety of different tunes.  Of course, I went with the ones I know.   If you sing these same words to slightly-different or completely-different tunes, (you know, the right ones) then go on singing them that way.  Just realize that I’m now blogging my tunes to a world-wide audience (smirk).

About content, I’m going with all kinds of devotional and camp songs as well as the traditional and newer children’s songs.  I hope it’s a blessing.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

On Pensions and Preachers

Michele and I watched a "Frontline" episode last night about retirement. Here's some of what we learned.

The days of the old-style pensions are over. Even if you have one, if the company you worked for goes bankrupt, you could lose much of your retirement benefit. The new alternative to the pensions, of course, are company 401Ks. The problems here are:

1. Only about 10% of employees max out their contributions, which is what most or all of them should be doing.

2. Many employees can't resist the urge to dip into these savings. In some cases, they use them in real emergencies, to make ends meet between jobs, etc. Other times, the withdrawals are not so necessary.

3. Some employees terribly mis-manage their portfolios and wind up making the least of their savings.

4. Sometimes corporate restructuring results in a change for the company's 401K plan. The new plan isn't as attractive as the old one.

Like a lot of segments in this series, the impact was mostly negative. "Frontline" sort of specializes in revealing nothing more than how bad things are. There's a place for that, I guess. But I also like to hear something positive and practical.

Anyway, the whole thing got me to thinking about independent congregations (i.e., those not affiliated with a denominational structure) and their ministers. Exceptions aside, from what I've observed most preachers and other church staff have a limited number of years they can stay employed with a church. On top of that, most independent congregations do nothing to encourage and help their staff members to be good stewards of the financial long-haul.

I wonder, if people with pensions and 401Ks won't necessarily be financially sound in their golden years, what about people without such benefits?

It seems to me that independent congregations should, at the very least, insist that their staff knows about and has easy access to good financial advice and resources for retirement planning. Some preachers know a lot of Bible, are people fluent, and with God's help succeed at building up the body of Christ. A lot of those same people are financially illiterate and will not fare well in the coming decades.

Monday, May 15, 2006

About Blogging

At the very end of June 2005, six months after my start here, I went ahead and added a site meter to this blog. Ever since then, my blogging experience has included regular checks of the meter.

I’m writing this now because, nearly a year later, I’ve just passed 5,000 visits and 10,000 page views. Those were milestones for me.

I know, some blogs generate that much traffic in a week, even a day. Not to mention that if it weren’t for me and a small circle of family and friends who show up here at least once a week, my numbers would be much, much lower. I’m thankful for my regular visitors. And I especially appreciate it when someone thinks this blog is worth adding to his or her own list. “Referrals,” visits to this blog by way of another one, account for a good number of my visits.

In addition to regular commenters here, I’ve been intrigued by the significant number of lurkers. If you regularly stop by but don’t ever comment, that’s fine with me. I hope you’ll keep coming. I’d also be happy to hear from you sometime.

Speaking of comments, you have to wait a little while for yours to appear on this blog. That’s because, sometime back, spammers plus a certain person who didn’t have good intentions made comment moderation a practical necessity. Barring those exceptions, I post all comments as soon as I see them, usually within the day.

I’ve been interested to see which days are busiest here. Evidently, most bloggers take the weekends off. That perception probably has something to do with the religious routines of most of my readers.

It’s also fun to try to figure out which kinds of posts generate the most interest and response. Most of the time, if it’s closely related to the Churches of Christ, my religious family, then it gets at least a few responses.

Like my early experiences with email, I’m still figuring out what blogs are best for. What compares to a blog? What are its best uses? What is blogging all about? Any thoughts?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Music of Kenny D, etc.

Okay, so maybe you’ve read “Inorganic Music,” a recent post over at Mike Cope’s blog. And maybe you’ve read some of the 100+ comments.

Either way, don’t walk, run to Ken Danley’s blog and read his latest, “Greener Grass."

- - - - - -

"Unfortunately, most of the theology I learned in seminary was in the translation mode. Take this biblical image and translate it into something more palatable to people who use Cuisinarts. The modern church has been willing to use everyone's language but its own. In conservative contexts, gospel speech is traded for dogmatic assertion and moralism, for self-help psychologies and narcotic mantras. In more liberal speech, talk tiptoes around the outrage of Christian discourse and ends up as an innoucuous, though urbane, affirmation of the ruling order. Unable to preach Christ and him crucified, we preach humanity and it improved. . . . By the time most of us finish qualifying the scandal of Christian speech, very little can be said by the preacher that can't be heard elsewhere."

William Willimon in Peculiar Speech: Preaching to the Baptized

What Willimon describes helps me to understand why early leaders of the American Restoration Movement insisted that we"call Bible things by Bible names." When we use biblical vocabulary to discuss biblical realities, it's so much more likely that we will truly go back to to the genuine message of the Bible, to the Word of God that will endure forever, to the truth that we cannot live without.

But the problem with back-to-the-Bible movements is that, because of human sin, they come to use biblical passages, always word for word, in order to support teachings that are less than and foreign to the Word of Christ. The fact that Satan can both quote and apply the Scriptures fails to make them wonder if, perhaps, they're doing it the devil's way rather than God's.

By the grace of God, such movements, if kept alive, produce a few people who announce not what has been repeated to them by others, but what they have recently heard when prayerfully, closely listening to the Word of God.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

New Article by Evertt W. Huffard

One of the journals I never fail to read is Restoration Quarterly. Since its beginnings nearly 50 years ago, it’s been the scholarly serial publication among Churches of Christ. [The Stone-Campbell Journal, also by and for scholars, started much more recently; it is a decidedly Christian Churches and Churches of Christ publication. Like RQ, the S-C Journal contains a lot of great stuff].

The latest issue of RQ showed up in my mail box yesterday. As usual, I immediately read the cover and decided what I would dive into first. With one glance, I knew.

The lead article is by Evertt Huffard, the dean of my alma mater, Harding Graduate School. About 15 years ago, I took my first class with Evertt: “Church Growth.” One of the many things I loved about that class was the kind of response the teacher would give to some question about, for example, how our required readings connected to our work as church leaders. By the time Evertt was through, I’d think to myself, “That sounds like something Jesus would have said.” His answers were, at once, spiritual and practical and gracious and wise. Just right. Evertt has become one of the few people I really sit up and listen to every time. He has a good mind and a good heart, and he works hard for the Lord. He deserves to be heard by the churches.

The title of this new article is, “When Scholarship Goes South: Biblical Scholarship and Global Trends.” And it’s an eye-opener. For people with any sort of global vision, his facts aren't news. The contribution of this article is not what it reports, but how it synthesizes what many have already heard, and how it challenges leaders within the Restoration Movement.

Huffard basically says that the worlds of Christendom and of the Churches of Christ are radically changing. Here are two quotes:

In 1800, one percent of all Protestants lived outside Europe and America; today 66% do so.

The Churches of Christ have more congregations in Africa than in the USA. From 1989 to 2000 the number of congregations doubled from six to twelve thousand, at a time the missionary force decreased.

He goes on to explain some of the causes and effects of such change, as well as some developments that will impact (change!) the change. Above all, he describes how the world wide web, especially multiple reciprocal email, will “completely globalize the scholarly community.”

Finally, as you come to expect from him, he has a short, practical list. He calls it “Implications for Scholarship.” They are:

1. Globalize the audience of our scholarship

Huffard points out that this is important not only for connections between the USA and, say, India. It can also be positive for the American church’s mission where it is. If American scholars gave more attention to the conservative, traditional, and biblicist convictions of the global south and east, they might find a bigger audience at home too. He writes, “The churches that are growing numerically in the USA have a public respect for the Bible but less appreciation for scholarship.” (i.e., at least as scholarship has been done).

2. Equip the church to be a witness to the nations

“If the missiological call for incarnational ministry applies to scholarship, then several things will have to happen. The first, and possibly most difficult, is the openness to those who are more conservative than many scholars have become” (obviously related to the first point).

3. Make scholarship accessible—share resources

In short, recognize that there are hundreds of millions of poor people where Christianity is rapidly growing. Be merciful and kind. Make the process and results of scholarly work available to them too.

Finally, Huffard turns specifically to scholars in the Restoration Movement and, in so many words, says “You too. Let's do better. For example, we should publish things in this journal that, say, an African church leader can appreciate and use.”

Years ago, at a Restoration Quarterly breakfast, I heard John Wilson speak to Church of Christ Bible scholars. What he said to them was, You’ve earned respect among the world’s scholars. But for the most part you’ve neglected the church(es) you came from. Do better (which is not to say, necessarily, do better academically).

Years later, here’s another trusted voice saying much the same thing, only this time from a much more global perspective. I don’t know how many people effectively listened to Wilson’s speech. I wonder how many will make changes because of what our brother Evertt is saying. God, help us.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Looking Back, Looking Forward

This morning, my students take the final in Old Testament.  On Wednesday, the New Testament class will get their turn.  I’ve really enjoyed my first semester of teaching at Amarillo College.  And I think it’s going to get better.

Putting together the finals for these survey courses took me back to some of the questions I started with:  What is it that students should get from these classes?  And, what’s this all about anyway?

Sure, I want to know more about strategies for teaching well.  I’m all for good form.  But even more, I want to clarify what it is I think I’m trying to do and why?

My experience says that those sorts of questions can be taken up before and/or after a semester, but not during.  That’s because the pressure of week-to-week teaching doesn’t leave much room for exploring your philosophy of education, not to mention that objectives really should be established before you start.  So now that I’m in between, it’s time to get busy.

This summer, I’ll get to probe some of those questions and do some of those things.  And even though I have plenty to keep me occupied already, I’d be glad to hear about more.  So if you’ve come across a book or a website or an event or something else you know I should know about, please comment.  

I’ve heard great things about Palmer’s book on “The Courage to Teach.”  At a community college in Connecticut where I had an adjunct gig, most of the full-time faculty were reading and discussing that one.  It’s on my list.

Oh, and then there’s the question of content.  That is, do I have something to teach?  That one’s also going to take up part of my summer because in the coming fall I will officially lose my new-guy status and will teach a full load, including “Life of Paul” and “World Religions.”  

The text books for those classes have already been selected and ordered.  Right now, I’m focused on reading as much as I can.  For “World Religions” I’m also putting together a schedule of guests, devotees of the various religions we’ll explore. Send word if you want.  For now, I’m praying:

Dear Lord, thank you for the joy of learning and for the pleasure of teaching.  Thank you for words and for the wonder they describe.  Thank you for others who have searched and who search with me.  

God, help me to become, more and more, the teacher you want me to be.  For times when my subject was rich but my portrayal of it was poor, please forgive.   I give thanks to you and ask for your grace in the name of Christ, Amen.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Thanks to the folks who submitted ideas for my "Top Ten" list. I'll take all I can get. So when you think of more, make a comment.

By the way, I once read that Letterman has 12 writers for his list. Each day that they tape a show, the writers get the name of the list that morning. Each one has to come up with his own list of ten within a few hours. Then, Letterman sits down with the list of 120 and makes his picks.

- - - - -

This year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees should have included The Cars instead of Blondie. And that's a fact.

- - - - -

Two recently-seen bumper stickers:

"Save the Whales -- Collect the Whole Set!"

"God Bless John Wayne"

- - - - -

Michele and I are thinking about a trip that would take us to Carlsbad Caverns, the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and Las Vegas. If you've recently gone to any or all, I'd appreciate hearing from you.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Top Ten Reasons to Study Biblical Hebrew . . .

Okay, so it looks like as early as the coming Fall semester, I might get to offer a section of Biblical Hebrew. If that happens (please, Lord) then I want to put together a flyer that names ..."The Top Ten Reasons to Study Biblical Hebrew."

Since this idea just hit me, I haven't had a chance to come up with more than one or two of my own ideas. Here's the best I've got so far . . .

1. Nothing clears your throat like a good "hchet"!

2. Rabbis make six figures.

3. It's God's first language.

Help! Suggestions?