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The Ongoing Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

December 05, 2012

Bryan Galloway is Senior Pastor at Harvey Oaks Baptist Church in Omaha, Nebraska. Bryan graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in May 2009 with a Doctor of Ministry. His thesis-project was on the difference that Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes in twenty-first century preaching.

I’m grateful that Bryan was willing to answer some questions about Bonhoeffer and his ongoing legacy.

How did you get interested in Dietrich Bonhoeffer?

I became interested with Dietrich Bonhoeffer when I was a college student at Bethel College in St. Paul, MN. Dr. Al Glenn introduced me to Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship. I was fascinated by Bonhoeffer’s blunt approach to discipleship and fellowship; and by his story of a pastor who stood up to Hitler and Nazi polices.

For the rest of the interview…

On October 14 and 15, I will be in Manhattan, KS for the Sixth Annual Western Professors and Scholars. It is sponsored by Manhattan Christian College. I was there two years ago and presented my Doctor of Ministry Thesis on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This year’s conference is focused on Bonhoeffer. I was asked to present a research paper how the pastoral side of Bonhoeffer can be seen in his circular letters to his former Finkenwalde students.

The Preacher’s Seminary of Finkenwalde was one of the five Confessing Church seminaries.[1] Bonhoeffer was the director of the Finkenwalde seminary from 1935 to 1937.[2] In September of 1937, all the Confessing Church seminaries were closed by the Gestapo.[3] Bonhoeffer continued to correspond with his students through these circular letters. The pastoral heart of Bonhoeffer is seen in these letters.

This was especially evident when he wrote of former students who were killed in battle. His August 15, 1941 circular letter is an example of this. He gave the names of four former students who were killed on the eastern front: Konrad Bojack, F.A. Preub, Ulruch Nithack, and Gerhard Schulze.[4] Bonhoeffer then went into great detail about their faith and ministries:

Konrad Bojack was with us in the summer of 1935. He became a pastor in Lyck (East Prussia), where he leaves behind his wife and two small children. With the earnestness and joy of Christianity, his sermons emerging completely from the Word of God, and his love for the church, the ministry, and the congregation, he was a fine witness of Jesus Christ for us all. As a native of Silesia who chose to make his home his home in East Prussia, he had allowed the questions and needs of the German border region to grow dear to his heart. He proved his love for this new homeland as a faithful pastor of his congregation. He found his mission and his congregation’s salvation in the authentic preaching of Jesus Christ. He was killed on June 22 close to the East Prussian border. We grieve the loss of this quiet, honest brother. In this life, he trusted in Word and sacrament. Now he may behold in which believed.

F.A. Preub was with us the same time as Konrad Bojack. He became a pastor in Landsberger Hollander in Neumark, where he leaves behind his wife and two children. In him we had a brother who was always friendly and joyful, whose faith in Jesus Christ was secure, who attended faithfully to the office entrusted to him even under difficult conditions, and who served his congregation with great love and devotion. Now Christ has called him to his own heavenly congregation.

Ulrich Nithack was with us in the summer of 1938. No one who met him could have failed to experience his radiant happiness and inner confidence, rooted his faith in Christ. His never-failing readiness to serve other members of the community and his thankfulness for the smallest things brought him the love of all the brothers. His pursuit of a personal life of sanctification through Jesus Christ emerged from a faith that was in the best sense childlike. For him, prayer was at the center. In a certitude that strengthened all of us, he saw his path and calling to be entirely within the Confessing Church, which he loved with all his heart. He gave himself completely to every task assigned to him. With his death some of the light of Jesus Christ, which we are given to glimpse here and there through one another, has gone out for us—but only so as to shine all the more brightly in the eternal sun of Jesus Christ.

Like Ulrich Nithack, Gerhard Schulze was with us in the summer of 1938. He came from a conflict-ridden congregational post in which he represented the concerns of a church bravely and clearly. With his lively, cheerful, winning manner he quickly found friends and community wherever he went. He desired to devote his life completely to the Confessing Church’s struggle. God led him in a special way through depths and heights; he was allowed to experience the power of the grace of God in his life more powerfully than others. He wished to proceed in his future ministry from within this experience. His death affects many friends who accompanied him through his life. Yet a life so rich in grace fills us anew with the certainty that the mercy of God has no end.[5]

Bonhoeffer must have spent significant time with his students to know their backgrounds and families. His relationship with his students also went beyond their years together at Finkenwalde since he also was aware of certain details of their lives after the seminary was closed. In an era long before e-mail, Facebook, Skype, cell phones and text-messaging, Bonhoeffer invested the time through good-old-fashioned face-to-face conversations and letter writing in order to get to know his students


[1] Mark S. Brocker, ed., Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 16; Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Conspiracy and Imprisonment, 1940-1945 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006), 4.

[2] Brocker, ed., Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 16; Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Conspiracy and Imprisonment, 1940-1945, 4.

[3] Brocker, ed., Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 16; Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Conspiracy and Imprisonment, 1940-1945, 4.

[4] Brocker, ed., Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 16; Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Conspiracy and Imprisonment, 1940-1945, 44.

[5] Brocker, ed., Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 16; Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Conspiracy and Imprisonment, 1940-1945, 206.

 

I am still in Lake Geneva, WI this week for a study retreat. This retreat is for anyone who graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with a Doctor of Ministry degree with The Preacher & The Message under Dr. Haddon Robinson.

One of my cohorts, Darryl Dash is also here this week. I sat with him during lunch today and we were discussing how I was allowed to set up this blog site to help me with my writing project for this DMin degree. Darryl said…

“You blogged your way to a doctorate!” 

   

I arrived in Lake Geneva, WI on Monday afternoon  for a study retreat for those who graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with a Doctor of Ministry degree with The Preacher & The Message. It was good to see Dr. Haddon Robinson again. The last time I saw him was when I graduated 2 years ago. 

Most of the people I do not know, but I am already am having a great time. I guess it is a tradition for those who can to go out to a movie on the first night. We saw Thor. It was a wonderful Norwegian documentary. 

We are staying at the Covenant Harbor Geneva Bay Center in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

 Dr. George Guthrie, who is the Benjamin W. Perry Professor of Bible, Theology & Missions at Union University will be the teacher, and the focus will be the book of Hebrews. 

On Monday morning, I head out to Lake Geneva, WI this week for a study retreat. This retreat is for anyone who graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with a Doctor of Ministry degree with The Preacher & The Message under Dr. Haddon Robinson. As you may or may not know, this blog was created to help me with my writing project for this DMin degree. There is more information below…

It’s time once again to get the word out about the upcoming Gordon-Conwell study week. The 2011 Gordon-Conwell Retreat will be May 9-13, 2011, at the Covenant Harbor Geneva Bay Center in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Dr. George Guthrie, who is the Benjamin W. Perry Professor of Bible, Theology & Missions at Union University will be the teacher, and the focus will be the book of Hebrews. He is considered to be one of the premier authorities in the United States on the book of Hebrews.

Haddon Robinson was included in this list.  Dr. Robinson was the faculty mentor of The Preacher & the Message, the DMin track I graduated with.  (Below is Billy Graham)
By Michael Duduit | Founding Editor of Preaching and Dean of the College of Christian Studies at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. He’s been blessed to hear every one of our 25 “influencers” preach either in person or via recording.

When Preaching magazine was launched in 1985, a look at our list of contributing editors gave you a sense of who would be listed among the most influential preachers in America. That original group included Stuart Briscoe, Maxie Dunnam, Jim Henry, David Allen Hubbard, John Huffman, D.E. King, James Earl Massey, Calvin Miller, Lloyd John Ogilvie, Stephen F. Olford, Haddon Robinson, J. Alfred Smith, John Wesley White and William Willimon, along with several more. (See the sidebar to see the full list of original contributing editors.)

Thankfully, many of those preachers are still on the scene, though others have gone to be with the Lord. A quarter century has brought great changes to the preaching landscape, and today’s list of contributing editors includes names that would have been unknown to most pastors 25 years ag Rick Warren, Bryan Chapell, James MacDonald, Robert Smith, Dave Stone, James Emery White and Ed Young Jr. (though his pastor dad would have been a good candidate for the original list—and is now among our senior consulting editors)

For entire article

I finally hung up my Doctor of Ministry diploma in my office..

As you may or may not know, this blog site was developed to help me complete my Doctor of Ministry degree at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  I graduated in May 9, 2009.  On May 10, my wife, Lois, and I attended a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park.  I have been a Red Sox fan since I was a little boy.   My congregation at Harvey Oaks Baptist Church is fully aware that I love my team.

So it is no surprise that I received a very nice picture to put in my office…

Since this blog site was set up to help me complete my Doctor of Ministry degree The Preacher & The Message through Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, I thought I would post the following…

Don’t be a Preacher

By Yancey Arrington | January 20, 2010

Don’t be a preacher…

…if you are thin-skinned. It’s a given that people will take shots at your sermons, even more so, they will take shots at you. Get tough or get gone.

…if you are lazy. Preaching is work. No matter how gifted you are, studying and preparing well should regularly take hours out of your week.

…if you are cowardly. The “whole counsel of God” has parts which will challenge and provoke even the godliest of your congregation. Be ready to “gird up your loins.”

…if you are prayerless. The worst sermons are preached by men who confidently but independently alight upon the pulpit. Only God can bring life to dead men’s bones.

…if you are insecure. Preaching doesn’t need to be about you, but unfortunately it will be if your identity is based on your performance in the pulpit. Let preaching be about God’s glory, not yours.

…if you are loveless. Anyone can preach at people, but loving people leads us to preach to people. How we say something really does matter. Loving people will motivate you to practice this well.

What would you add to this list?

I am a blogger who reads blogs.  I read this blog today by Russell D. Moore about preaching.  Since the bonhoefferblog was formed to help me complete my Doctor of Ministry preaching track at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, I want to post Dr. Moore’s blog.

A Word to Young Preachers

— Friday, October 30th, 2009 —

Your first few sermons are always terrible, no matter who you are.

If you think your first few sermons are great, you’re probably self-deceived. If the folks in your home church think your first few sermons are great, it’s probably because they love you and they’re proud of you. If it’s a good, supportive church there’s as much objectivity there as a grandparent evaluating the “I Love You Grandma” artwork handed to them by the five year-old in their family.

So your first set of sermons, unless you’re very atypical, are probably really, really bad.

So what?

The great thing about Christian ministry is that Jesus doesn’t start all over again with his church every generation. He gives older men in ministry who shape, disciple, and direct younger men in ministry. This includes (although it’s not limited to) critiquing your sermons.

Your sermons will be critiqued. You want them to be critiqued, and harshly.

Now you don’t want them critiqued harshly by your congregations (and a critical attitude toward your pastor’s preaching, church members, is not a fruit of the Spirit). But you want them critiqued, and you want them critiqued now.

Your sermons will be highly critiqued early on in your ministry, when you’re still being shaped, or you’ll just be left alone.

The great preachers you hear or that you read about in your church history books are not almost never those who were preaching great sermons from the very beginning of their ministries.

Great preachers are the ones who preach really bad sermons. The difference is that they preach really bad sermons when they’re young, and are sharpened for life by critique.

Mediocre preachers are those who start off with sermons that are, eh, pretty good, but they’re never critiqued and thus never grow.

So if you’re early on in ministry and you preach a bad sermon, so what? You’re in a train of previously bad preachers that extends from Moses to Aaron to Simon Peter to about every good gospel preacher you’ve ever heard with your own ears.

Your bad sermon says nothing about your future. If you’ve got folks in your life saying, “Hey, that was a really bad sermon,” that does indicate something about your future, so praise God for it. It’s probaby a sign that God has something for you to say, for the rest of your life.

 

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