Dig Deeper – An Exclusive Interview With the Deans

The College of Theology seeks to encourage spiritual development amongst our students and modern scholars. The concept of “Anchors Away” was developed with a recognition towards the concept of pursuing God’s purpose despite the difficult circumstances that one might face.

An interview conducted with Dr. Jason Hiles (Dean – College of Theology), Dr. Peter Anderson (Assistant Dean – College of Theology), and Dr. Paul Smith (Assistant Dean – Grand Canyon Theological Seminary) prompted the understanding of things offered through the pursuit of this relationship.

We began our interview with an exploration of the past. Before coming to GCU, Dr. Smith identified himself as “a bit of a nomad.” He worked in global theological education and taught in 16 different countries on 5 different continents. In contrast, Dr. Jason Hiles grew up in a small town just northwest of St. Louis, Missouri as the second of four children. He met his wife Jennifer while in high school and held an interest in becoming a renowned artist. Through the twists and turns of life, they landed in Louisiana with 3 children and a role developing a divinity school that served pastors throughout the state of Louisiana. As we explored the history of Dr. Anderson, we found that he and his wife of 15 years are parents to 5 amazing children. As a family, they enjoy good books and remaining active in God’s creation with an appreciation for purpose, creativity, and love. His life has been shaped by the time he spent raising his family near Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and the years he spent living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia in his youth. If asked, Dr. Anderson will share that he maintains a strong connection to small rural churches which have shaped his deep and abiding love for the culture of a meaningful Christian life. The history of our administrative leadership team is distinct. However, it is tied together with the understanding that we are enabled to pursue unforeseen opportunities as we fix our eyes on Jesus despite the challenges that lie ahead.

As our discussion continued, we asked our Deans to explore the ways that students within the College of Theology and the Grand Canyon Theological Seminary have remained steadfast and committed to their training. Dr. Anderson shared, “In many ways, the siren’s song {See newsletter} of cultural pressures, political illusions, economic curdles and so much more remains enticing to many students. Yet, I’ve seen our community recommit to listening to God’s voice first and following him in the face of many challenging circumstances.” Dr. Smith expanded on this point by sharing that, “For many students, seminary is a safe harbor. But just like how ships are not designed to stay in a harbor but go to sail in the sea, humans are not designed to stay at a seminary but serve where God has placed them. We hope that while at GCTS our students take the time to repair the ship, learn how to navigate, practice how to sail, and stock up supplies for the long voyage ahead of them, but ultimately we are preparing them to sail.” We began to explore a recognition for students and faculty members within our college. Dr. Hiles considered that it is evident that the mission of remaining gospel-centered, church-focused, and mission-oriented is a standard value held by those within the College of Theology and the Grand Canyon Theological Seminary. He shared, “In a practical sense, faculty members embody missional values through teaching, research, and ministry. This enables students to embrace a commitment to God’s purpose by serving their communities despite the pressures of the pandemic and economic challenges.”

As a final point to our conversation, we asked the Dean’s to share some essential resources for those who are seeking to pursue the concept of “Anchors Away” {see newsletter} in their own lives. An initial recommendation was offered for Pilgrim’s Regress. In summary, the story leads one to understand the result of determination despite the challenges of a long journey. As one-character remarks, “You may be sure the Landlord has brought you the shortest way: though I confess it would look an odd journey on a map.” Beyond this resource it was noted that Gordon Smith’s book, The Voice of Jesus, offers excellent counsel in becoming more discerning and Spirit-led as an individual Christian, as well as in community with a local church. Eugene Peterson’s book, The Jesus Way, is another excellent exploration of the ways Jesus does and must shape a truly God-honoring life. One final resource, Craig Ott’s book, The Church on Mission, offers a strong biblical vision for how churches can and ought to be missional, transformational communities in the world today, reaching all people by proclaiming and living out the powerful, life-changing story of Jesus.

In the past year, the College of Theology has embodied the pursuit of God amongst students, faculty, and staff. It is evident that the obstacles we face have met their superior in comparison to God. In John 16, Jesus takes note of the difficulties we may experience. However, the passage concludes by considering the truth of our circumstances in Jesus’ statement, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33, NIV). The College of Theology has endeavored to pursue the development of new projects, events, curricular resources, worship albums, and student engagement. These endeavors represent the strength of hoisting our anchor and sailing in expectation of God’s sweeter song.

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