First, you may notice that I’ve illustrated this post with the famous Escher woodcut of countless staircases. Well, that’s Pepperdine. You can’t go anywhere without climbing stairs. There are places where they actually make you go down stairs just so they can make you go up stairs! To get from the Fieldhouse (gym) where the keynote speakers speak to the classes, you have to climb over 200 steps!
Fortunately, the provide a shuttle service. But even with the service, it’s steps just to get you where you can climb more steps. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but notice that there are no fat Pepperdine students! They all look to be in pretty good shape. I may have lost a pound or two myself.
Now, that being said, Pepperdine’s campus is one of the most beautiful places in the world. There are mountains on one side and a beach on the Pacific Ocean on the other. The campus literally is on the side of a mountain, which is why there are so very many steps.
I’m typing on a dining table, outside, in perfect weather, with a fountain on one side, the ocean on two sides, and the mountains behind me. Two does passed in front of my car while on campus.
Not far from here I’ve seen surfers, parasailers, kayakers, pelicans, dolphins, sailboats, and gigantic waves. It’s truly a place especially touched by God.
In fact, right next to campus — as in less than 10 feet from campus — you can see where the fires of last year came to the very edge of the grounds. Just across the street, a church building was burned to the ground, but the campus was untouched.
The lectureship is the largest within the Churches, with attendees from 28 nations and 40+ states. You hear all kinds of accents and meet marvelous, Spirit-filled people from all over the world.
And you get to hear many of the best speakers and teachers and singers the Churches have to offer. And say what you will about us, we can flat out preach, teach, and sing! And there’s nothing like being led in worship by Hallal together with 3,000 other Christians.
It’s obvious that the Spirit has been busy across the Churches. Congregations are getting involved in service to their communities, in domestic and foreign church plants, in cross-denominational cooperation, and in cooperation with each other.
The changes from just 10 years ago are dramatic in just the way people talk. Listening to elders from other churches talk about their churches and how they are facing challenges is inspiring beyond words. God has given our churches some great men.
And so, this has been an oh-wow experience from the get go. I’m coming back for sure. In fact, I’m going to recommend that all my congregation’s elders and their wives try to make the trip next year.
Two of our ministers and our praise team were here. I had one class to teach. Our minister, Shon Smith, and the praise team led by our involvement minister, Tom Perkins, had 4 sessions, as I recall. But as much fun as the teaching is, just being present and learning from the very best about youth ministry, singles ministry, eldering, and church planting — just for example — is well worth the trip.
By the way, it’s free. And if you reserve early, you can stay on campus inexpensively and eat all your meals here at very modest prices (with a quartet from some place like Russia or Arkansas singing to you as you dine!) Or you can drive down the Pacific Coast Highway and eat at top notch restaurants. We are, after all, in Malibu.
And you get your money’s worth! The sessions start at 7:30 and continue until 10:00 or later. They have get togethers over breakfast, lunch, and supper. It’s the deepest, richest seminar of any kind I’ve ever come across.
My class seems to have gone well. When there are 21 classes going on simultaneously, the trick is in picking your course title, and I picked “Why There Are So Many Divisions in the Churches of Christ: The Underlying Theological Problem.” And even though they put me in the most obscure possible location (two floors beneath the level of the center of campus, accessed by a labyrinthine series of hallways), it was standing room only. In fact, 20 or so came and couldn’t get in.
The lecture is available on CD from the Pepperdine website. And the PowerPoint presentation is available for download at Why Are There So Many Divisions In the Churches of Christ? (For a fuller explanation of this material, go to Do We Teach Another Gospel?) It was really wonderful teaching such a group of people.