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December 2016 -January 2017


Beyond the Walls


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Reflections on the Master’s in Theology program at Welch College…

Practical  (prak-ti-k_uh_l)

By Todd Parrish

Practical adj. – designed for actual use; fitted for actual work.

If I had to sum up my most recent course in the Welch College graduate program, the term practical would allow me to do it with just one word. Busy pastors and church leaders spend time, effort, energy, and money attending workshops, taking classes, and sitting in on conferences. While some of the information gleaned from these endeavors is useful, many times the pastor or church leader walks away with material that will rarely, if ever, be put to use. My experience in the class Ministry and Leadership I has been different.

As the course began, we were encouraged to read Jonathan Leeman’s book Reverberation. Leeman’s call for the church to make God’s Word central in everything challenged me. I took that challenge with me to a weekend leadership retreat for our pastoral staff and deacons, where we spent Friday night and Saturday in a remodeled 1700s farmhouse.

Before the retreat, I shared selected portions of Leeman’s book. We spent Friday night sharing our hearts and vision regarding Leeman’s call to “get back to the Word.” I was amazed when our leaders were hungry for the challenge. I shared additional thoughts from Mark Dever’s The Deliberate Church, where he urged the church to preach, sing, pray, and see the Word of God—the regulative principle.

What a joy it was to kneel on 200-year-old, heart-pine boards and remember the Lord’s death and resurrection. We celebrated communion and washed one another’s feet, bringing to life the story recorded in John 12-13. We spent the rest of that night praying and casting vision for the coming church year.

But the practical influence of this class didn’t end at the retreat. After sharing the ideas of Leeman (and other authors), I challenged our congregation to attend the upcoming celebration of the Lord’s Supper and washing of the saints’ feet. I explained that we are to “see” the Word of God (as Leeman and Dever teach). I told them if they would return that Sunday night, they could do that when we gathered around the Lord’s Table and picked up the basin and the towel. To my amazement, a record crowd attended the communion service that night. And it was standing room only during the washing of the saints’ feet that followed—an overflowing crowd of men and women and observers.

As the class read Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health by Donald S. Whitney, I began to share key ideas in staff meetings. As we sat around a conference table, my heart warmed to hear church leaders discuss the importance of regularly evaluating our walk with the Lord. They were grateful for guidance in this area. After the meeting, one associate pastor immediately returned to his office and ordered Whitney’s book.

During the following midweek service, I met with the men of the church for prayer and reflection. Again, I shared Whitney’s thoughts and questions. Again, men with a heart for God began to share their own desire to know more about the Lord, and how we can keep from becoming “dry souls.”

When recently asked, “What did this course mean to you?” my response was simple. It was one of the most practical courses I have ever taken. I applaud the leaders and faculty of Welch College for having the heart and wisdom to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, to craft a program that not only touches the intellect but also speaks to the heart and trains the hands. This class made a difference in my ministry personally, to the family I love, and in the people I lead. Thank you for a tremendous experience where I was challenged, renewed, and sharpened by my interaction with others who have a similar heart for ministry.

About the Writer: Todd Parrish is a 1989 graduate of Welch College. He has been senior pastor at First FWB Church in Washington, North Carolina, since June 2012. He and his wife Merinda have two adult daughters, Emily (Vickery) and Ellen. Learn more about the Master's in Theology:






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