Gardner-Webb University: Divinity School Spotlight

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My sense of calling came in undergraduate
experience. I joined a Baptist church, I grew up in a different denomination and over the
first two or three years, I really got involved in church, I’d never really been that involved.
Went on mission trips, went to Bible study, led Bible study and it was through those experiences
that I started feeling a pulling, a tugging to vocational ministry. I was really struggling with making sure that
I was doing what I needed to do to get myself set up to enter the film industry and to make
those connections, and to do those extracurricular things that were going to help me get a job
when I graduated. And it was in that that I started asking myself, “is this really
what is going to fulfill me? Is this really what makes me truly happy?” And it was those
times where I had volunteered as a children’s Sunday school teacher and worked at vacation
bible school that I felt, I felt really happy and fulfilled. I came to Gardner-Webb as a football player,
I played here for a year, ended up getting injured and had to make a big decision whether
or not to stay here. Really I believe that was the beginning of God transforming me and
leading towards my calling because I stayed here I got involved with Young Life, which
was a ministry that I was a part of. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, I knew who Jesus
was, I knew who God was, but for me it was just something as an afterthought. I’d always
thought that ministry was something people who were perfect had to do. Over time and
through the courses I took in undergrad and the people I worked with and through Campus
Ministries here at Gardner-Webb, God really started to do a number in my life, to lead
me to where I am now, sitting in Divinity School. The thing that I enjoy about teaching is the
way students stimulate my thinking. It is not a guru sitting on a stool imparting wisdom
to disciples who are sitting around the guru in a circle. It is a truly a collegial give
and take. I tell my students, “if you leave my class with 5 times the number of questions
you had before you came in, I’ve done my job.” You must identify out of your own calling,
your own sense of engagement of the text who you believe God has called you to be in relationship… My name is Danny West I am a professor of
preaching and pastoral studies at the School of Divinity. Most of our students are congregationally
based in some capacity, and it’s one of the things that we frankly encourage our students
to do while they’re here. To not view their days at Divinity School as a waiting room
where you twiddle your thumbs and wait until you get the degree and then someday well in
the future, you begin to serve God and the church. We really encourage our students to
get into the laboratory of the church early on to learn what it is to work with people,
to work within a congregational setting, whether they are called ultimately to that setting
or not is immaterial, it’s good to begin to test your kingdom skills. Every single student who comes to Divinity
School is here because they have a relationship with Christ. When a student enters this Divinity
School we promise them and we make a covenant to them that their relationship with Jesus
will grow while they’re with us. Being a student at Gardner-Webb Divinity school
was more than just being in a classroom. It was more than just learning the things that
we were supposed to know to pass the test. Those are important things, but it was growing
as not only a minister, but as an individual and my spiritual formation. When working with young people, with teenagers
or college students, I’m just so driven by their passion for Christ and their fervor
to grow in their faith to see the gospel come alive to them. It just blows my mind every
time I see them have this “ah-ha” moment or when something clicks for them and they
say “wow, this why I follow Christ, this is what this is all about. I love watching the children begin to understand
who God is and how much God cares for them and how much God cares for the world around
them. There will be times when you’re teaching a lesson or giving a children’s sermon or
just talking with one of them, and you’ll see a little light bulb go off. And those
are just the best moments where you can tell they’ve understood something about who God
is. The great joy for me is engaging our students
everyday, every week watching them grow is such a joy to see them come in at this level.
They’re excited, they’re passionate, they’re a little starry-eyed early on, and then they
go through the rigors of our program and candidly, they face the realities of church and how
messy we can be together sometimes and they come out on the other side a much more mature,
and focused, and seasoned student and minister of the gospel. My advice to someone beginning to explore
their own call would be to let yourself explore it, to not be afraid that you don’t know
all of these theological terms, and you don’t know everything there is to know about the
Bible, and you don’t read Hebrew or Greek. To not be afraid of not knowing. Part of theological education is the discernment
process itself. And you may not know the day you walk in through the door as a prospective
student, you may not know the day you apply, or the day you sit for your first class precisely
what God wants you to do, but you know that where you need to be is right there.

 

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