After finishing my ThM at DTS in 2011 and working a bit in corporate America, I moved to England to work on a PhD in textual criticism. I took up a post four years ago at LCC International University in Klaipėda, Lithuania, after my thesis was defended. There I taught Bible and Theology courses to predominantly secular, Eastern European students. Despite being at a Christian university there was push-back from the students as to why they were required to take Bible courses to complete their undergraduate degrees. It was during this time of teaching reluctant students that I had a bit of a re-education. It was also during this time that I began to get an idea for a podcast.
In my last semester at LCC, I began The Word of Pod podcast as a way to make my course content available online to people who were interested in the Bible and wanted to understand it better. I had recently bought some recording equipment for music and found it to be perfect for podcasting. I was also preparing to move to the capital of Lithuania where I would be pastor at the International Church of Vilnius (ICV), which would prove to be a completely different experience than teaching Bible at the university.
I still believe in DTS’s motto “Teach truth. Love well.” I’ve found that to do those two things looks different in different contexts. I could not teach truth to an 18-year-old atheist the same way DTS taught me or the way I preach from the pulpit on Sunday mornings at ICV. Because I loved my students and I wanted them to be engaged during the entire course, I found it most effective for me to present the material as neutral as possible. There was always a compromise between teaching effectively and teaching missionally; perhaps due to the Eastern European context, the more my students felt my own perspective the less they engaged with me and dismissed the need to understand what the Bible says. I took the stance that I would rather have my students know the Bible long-term through an objective approach than to be dismissed as an evangelist posing as a professor in a compulsory class. Of course there were drawbacks to this approach, but it was effective and gave me the idea to transition the same content to a different platform. As I investigated other biblical podcasts, so few actually taught sound biblical content without proselytization. Like my university courses, I wanted the content to be accessible and welcoming,—where any questions could be asked with no theological assumptions. So in the context of The Word of Pod, I try to stay as neutral as possible. On the other hand, now that I am a pastor in a church, I have the privilege and right to be intrusive in a way that might be unprofessional in the classroom setting. It is expected of me to ask personal questions and approach each member of the congregation as their shepherd instead of a professional educator. I have found through each of these experiences that the balance of contextualization is real and one must always make a choice.
Looking back at my time at DTS, my level of interest in studying the Bible could not have been more different than that of my own students. Some of my fondest memories of DTS have a backdrop of excitement as I soaked up the lessons from my professors. Howard Hendricks inspired me. Stanley Toussaint taught me joy and grace. John Hilburn and Buist Fanning taught me interpretation and nuance. Michael Svigel taught me the Church Fathers and their strange world. Mike Pocock taught me about tolerance and context. I had great friends, too. Whether it was throwing a football on campus, training in the Landry Center, hoarding the reference section in Turpin, or talking through some of the issues and lessons I was facing, I will always fondly remember those friendships.
I went through a lot of changes while at DTS. I remember Hendricks saying something like “Seminary can be a place where Christians go off to die,” and it’s true. I allowed myself to become somewhat dry like so many academically-leaning seminarians do. When I look back at DTS, the biggest take away for me was not that I reached some spiritual level or found all the answers to my questions, but that I was equipped with the tools to find and practice those answers for the rest of my life. I really loved the biblical languages. I still translate almost every day, especially when I preach, lead a study, or record an episode of The Word of Pod. Translation has become a great joy for me and I will never forget that it all started at Dallas Theological Seminary. The impact of DTS at the time of my study was great, but since then I have come to understand the ongoing impact and, no doubt, the future impact those four years will have as I continue as a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Editor’s Note: The Word of Pod can be found on Spotify or anchor.fm/thewordofpod. The worship services of ICV and Matt Steinfeld’s music can be found on Spotify.