Faculty Spotlight – Brett Berger

Alongside his work as the Director of the Barnabas Pastoral Program, Brett Berger is an instructor for the College of Theology and a Department Chair for the Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry program at Grand Canyon University. For the release of our Fall newsletter (2022), we had the opportunity to discuss his work over the years and his goals with respect to the Barnabas Pastoral Program.

Tell us about yourself! What are your current interests and hobbies?

My research and teaching interests are really focused on ethics and character formation. Specifically, and those who have had my classes recently can insert groan here, I am interested in virtue and the process of character formation. How do we know what is good in our day-to-day decisions, especially when they are not matters that are obviously right or wrong? What is the process by which we change and become people more like Jesus? As a specific outworking of this, I am very interested in the intersection of faith, work, and economics. What kind of virtues and character must we take into our work Monday through Friday? How does it shape our sense of the meaning of our work in what are thought of as secular spheres? How does it affect the way we earn, use, and invest our money?

Outside of my research and teaching, I tend to be a homebody. I usually catch up with my wife and my sons. I am really into landscaping! I like plants! Those under 50 may insert their groans here. I enjoy working in the yard and looking upon my work as God looked up on his work and saying, “It is good.”

I am committed to regular exercise. When I gave my students opportunities to ask a personal question, I was asked several times last year, “How much do you bench?” To which, I took great delight in answering, “I have not benched in 20 years.” Different priorities I suppose!

What is it like working with students at GCU?

You know, Boomers and X’ers (of which I am one) like to complain and lament about this generation and boast about how back their day they were so much more virtuous. I even find Gen Z complaining about their own generation. Working with our COT students and those in the Barnabas program has me very hopeful. I find our students to be very hungry and very eager to know God and serve him. Our students have been pushing us and pushing me to be more precise and more rigorous. To put it bluntly, they are inspiring me to do more and be better.

Tell us about your call to work for Grand Canyon University.

When I finished up my ThM at Gordon-Conwell, and we were living in New England, my wife and I knew that God was taking us back home to Arizona where we had roots at least for a time. We just didn’t know to what. There was no open ministry or teaching opportunity waiting for me.

We packed up and moved back hoping and praying God would make it clear with an open door. Just months later, I took opportunities to patch together some classes teaching adjunct at different schools including some online classes here at GCU. Before I was even done with my first online class, GCU announced that they would be launching their full-time online faculty model. I applied and got hired and was one of the first 12 full-time online faculty hired here at GCU.

From there, I have just tried to be faithful with the job before me, which has led to many opportunities including my position now as the Director of the Barnabas Program.

What do you think is important about the theme of this newsletter (Anchors Away)?

If I can connect it back to my interest in virtue and character formation, unless you get a vision of the kind of life you ought to live and begin to love and want it, you will have little hope of transformation. Most Christians spend their energy just trying to resist temptation. They are stuck on trying to say “No” without having a corresponding “Yes” toward which they are striving. Until you can see the life of wisdom and faithfulness as the path to joy and peace, sin, which leads to shame and despair, will continue to have its grip. In this sense, you have to nurture love for that sweeter song {see newsletter}. As you do, the siren’s songs {see newsletter} begin to lose their power.

If you could give one piece of advice to a student seeking to pursue the characteristics of this theme, what would it be, and why?

Do the work of understanding your calling, your make up, and your vision for life. Here I am referring to the kind and quality of your life as opposed to any specific job. Until you understand where you are heading, you will flounder. Once you understand your vision for life, begin to structure the rhythms and practices of your life to that end. Don’t think you are too young to begin doing this. Just like compound interest works for those who invest their money early, the time and energy investments you make now will also have compound interest, resulting in greater skill and fruitfulness down the road.

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