On MLK Day

On MLK Day

I’m reading John Meacham’s book, His Truth is Marching On. It is the story of John Lewis, U.S. Congressman from Georgia and Civil Rights leader. His commitment to nonviolence in the pursuit of human dignity rises from the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. The gospel story of Jesus forms and shapes a moment calling for change in America.  

Lewis studied at American Baptist College in Nashville in the late 1950s. This same college was a temporary home for Trevecca in the early ’40s when we had no campus and little prospects of a future. While a student there, Lewis became a leader in the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins and was beaten and arrested. He wrote the following “rules” for his fellow nonviolent protesters.  

  • “Don’t strike back or curse back if abused. 
  • Don’t laugh out loud. 
  • Don’t hold conversations with floor workers. 
  • Don’t leave your seats until your leader has given you instruction to do so.  
  • Don’t block entrances to the store and aisles. 
  • Be friendly and courteous at all times. 
  • Sit straight and always face the counter. 
  • Report all serious incidents to your leader. Refer all information to your leader in a polite manner. 
  • Remember the teachings of Jesus Christ, Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King. 
  • Remember love and nonviolence, may God bless each of you.” 

As the protestors sat at the segregated lunch counters, angry white responders poured hot coffee on them, burned them with cigarettes, punched them, spit on them, cursed them, and threatened them. When police arrived, they arrested the people sitting quietly at the counters, taking them to jail for disturbing the peace and inciting violence. They found in their suffering a fellowship with Jesus, who was arrested in a garden and eventually charged with political insurrection because he was “no friend of Caesar’s.”  

I wonder if evangelical Christians today need to sit at the feet of the early Civil Rights leaders. While our situation is different from theirs on many levels, we may need to revisit the Sermon on the Mount to find the courage embedded in a nonviolent response. The Sermon on the Mount may extricate us from the pagan beliefs that have infiltrated our faith. We have been infected by belief in American exceptionalism, the idea that we are, like Israel, God’s chosen favorites among the nations. We have been infected by Christian nationalism, the merger of political power and faith in a way that justifies any response to the opposition. We have been infected by the pursuit of political power on the right and left, suggesting that this is the ultimate victory and is synonymous with the kingdom of God coming to earth. All of these are about winning, gaining power, and crushing opposition. 

If Jesus walked among us today, I wonder if he would recognize us as his followers. Do we bless when persecuted, mourn for our world, hunger and thirst for God to set things right, pray for those who curse us, turn the other cheek, love the enemy, walk the second mile, deal with the beam in our own eye, perform our righteous deeds in secret, reconcile with our brother/sister, seek first the kingdom of God, refrain from judging, walk the narrow road, bear good fruit, and build our house on the solid rock? Can we accept social media bashing without responding unkindly? Can we accept the suffering of being lumped and labeled with others who do not represent us? Can we speak truth that meets the standard of God’s truth? Can we love our enemies? Can we suffer and lose with joyful hope in God? Can we lament our own complicity in the condition of our culture without pointing fingers at everybody else? Can we stop being defensive and strategize reconciliation?  Can we live the radically different life of love that marks us as children of our Father in heaven?

As I read Meacham’s biography of John Lewis, I am reminded that the kingdom of God takes shape in the flesh and blood followers of Jesus. On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I habitually read King’s “Letters from a Birmingham Jail.” This year I plan to add Matthew 5-7. I find myself longing to be identified as a follower of Jesus, not a person consumed by a political posture.

With great grace upon all,
Dan Boone

The Gift of 2020

The Gift of 2020

I usually work my way through things by writing.

This practice forces me to gather the experiences of my body, stroll them through my brain, and force them down my arms into my fingers, making computer keys create a screen image of what I am thinking, feeling and living. I have written very few reflections or thoughts about 2020. I’ve just been absorbing it. 

The self-centered individualist tendencies we are born with cause us to do whatever it takes to fix the things that trouble us most. We tend to think primarily about ourselves. Even with a robust experience of the sanctifying grace of God, which redeems us from self-centeredness and restores us in the likeness of Jesus, I must admit that the old self still screams loudly when life gets complicated. I’ve struggled with this, as have many of my Christian friends whose posts and blogs reveal more than they might admit.

There has been a lot of self-protection: my stimulus check, my candidate, my read on the election, my mask rights, my conspiracy theories, my racial thoughts, my tribe, my government critique, my opinion about worship gatherings, my pro/con vaccine theory, my tribe. The old self still screams loudly when life gets complicated.

In many ways, Trevecca has been God’s gift to me through this pandemic. The weight of caring for employees and 4,000 students has gotten me up every morning with work to do. This work has been humbling because fixing a pandemic is far beyond my human capacity. I’m reminded of something that Anne Lamott once said about prayer … that life boils your long-winded prayers down to one simple expression: “Help me, help me, help me. Thank You, thank You, thank You.”

I don’t feel very profound as a college president these days. But I do feel grateful. 

My family has a motto: “Life is wrapped up in who we loved, who loved us, and what we built together.” This motto has little room for self-absorption because love lifts us out of our tiny controlled kingdoms and enmeshes us in the lives of others. At the core of the faith that has been handed down to me is the belief that humans are made in the image of God, capable of loving relationships that build families and friendships, which become communities of worship, caring, and service, which enable institutions, economies, and governments to function for the common good. It begins with the recognition that we are radically loved by God in ways we have never deserved. As the beloved of God, we are enabled to love others—or we can just sink into self and get all we can get. If we love and belong to communities that love us back, we find the capacity to build something. Denise and I have spent our lives loving our family and friends, being loved back by them, and trying to build something together—a church, a college, a city, a world. 

That’s why Trevecca Nazarene University has been God’s gift to me through the 2020 pandemic. We are building something together that matters. And our strength comes from being loved by God. Now I don’t want to avoid the stark realities of this pandemic and all the challenges it has brought our community.  We’ve had our fair share of tests, twists and turns. This is why from the very beginning we rooted our response to the pandemic in the upward call to love our neighbor. You cannot do this and be preoccupied with self or convenience. It’s also why we decided to face the pandemic with a community covenant rather than a regulatory penalty system. As a university that is committed to maturing whole persons rather than backfilling individual brains, we see this moment in time as a character formation opportunity.

Let me testify to the strength and character of the people I am privileged to serve. We asked our employees and cabinet members to make financial sacrifices in their personal and professional lives by changing departmental budgets during the pandemic. To date, not one single complaint. We ran a clinic, tested students, contact traced and quarantined our way through fall semester while offering the option of face-to-face or remote for almost every class. Our student leaders took on the task of creating a culture of protocol compliance while keeping campus life as active as possible. The character they demonstrated gives me hope for our future world. A task force met weekly under the direction of a selfless provost and each member brought their best to the table for the sake of the community. We laughed together, grieved together and worked tirelessly together. A team of people in our finance office worked to distribute government funds to our neediest students, to establish an equitable refund for spring room and board and to keep students on track to graduation. Our leaders came together to provide free online instruction for 20,000-plus K-12 teachers, teaching them the tools and technologies of remote instruction. They also created a website to help parents of remote-learning students. A board of trustees demonstrated compassion, lent wisdom, and kept us on mission. A group of campus leaders hunkered down and gave serious thought to what we look like on the other side of the pandemic, resulting in new programs, new facilities, and stronger community partners. We worked with our sponsoring denomination and a local friend to provide emergency funding to DACA students whose families had lost jobs, needed food, and could not pay their rent. We housed and fed international students who could not return to their homes over the Christmas break. I do not say these things to inflate egos. I love these people and I pray that they recognize they have sown seeds that will enlarge their souls, connecting them with their friends and neighbors in eternal ways, building something that matters.  

Being in the middle of all this has been my salvation from shrinking into my own fearful skin, becoming smaller and missing the gift of 2020. Because life is wrapped up in who you love, who loved you, and what you built together.

Traveling Together

Traveling Together

Are there seasons of life during which we are more susceptible to bonding with other people in deep, lasting ways? Are there specific ages when what happens in our relationships sticks in our memory, our heart, our identity more readily?

I can’t name many people that I went to first grade with. I faintly remember the things that happened to me in the John F. Kennedy Elementary School right across the street from my 220 South Myrtle house in McComb, Miss. I just don’t remember a lot. And I’d have to say the same about junior high and senior high. I remember a few more classmates and a few standout incidents and a handful of friends that I have quasi-kept-up-with across the years. But I haven’t been back to any class reunions—though I tried one time—and I’m interested in the McComb High Class of ’70 Facebook page. The friendships were good ones, but they haven’t stayed near enough and dear enough to my heart to draw me home.

But the college years are a different story. Four years—actually 12 quarters or about 32 months on this hilltop—have formed me for life … or maybe warped me for life. My college years found me open and susceptible to formative friendships that are alive in me to this day.

Was it Trevecca or was it just that time of life? Was it moving away from home and being thrown into the den of lions called a dormitory? Was it the sense of independence from parents that opened us? Was it that most of us were the first-generation college students in our families, and we felt like these “brave explorers of brand new worlds”? Why did our college years imprint on us in ways that bring us back here again and again?

My dad is 94. Most of the time when he calls, he tells me about someone who died. He’s called me over the past years about all his friends who died – and he doesn’t do that anymore because, well, all his friend didn’t live to 94. Now he’s calling me about people he thinks I may remember from McComb who are closer to my age than his. He reads the paper to see who died. Then he calls me. And I barely remember them.

But when news of a Trevecca friend comes my way, a network of Facebook memories begins that reminds me of people and events and days that lie closest to the center of my heart.

The same is true for a lot of you. Charles Davis told me the news about Dave Edwards yesterday. In the late ’60s, there was a group of guys who lived in C-Suite of Wise Hall: Charles and Dennis Moore and Jim Quiggins and Jordy Conger and David Dodge and Dale Killingsworth and Dave Edwards. They’re getting together for dinner tomorrow night here on campus. Dave Edwards won’t be with them. He’s in day one recovery from major surgery in an attempt to beat bladder cancer.

The news was not good.

But Dave sent the message before his surgery. At the dinner, the men of C-Suite were to circle up, arms on shoulders, bowed heads touching in the middle, wives holding hands in a circle behind them. And they were to pray, not for his healing, but that God would give him grace and strength to face whatever came his way. As Charles told me the story and then read the email from Dave, he was choking back tears.

Explain that.

Fifty years ago these guys were together in a dorm—and with half a century of water under the bridge, 50 years of life experiences, thousands of other people having tromped through their lives—these relationships are the ones they draw on in a moment of need.

I could tell the same stories about Glen English and Charles Torain and Bill Green. About Morris Stocks and Corlis McGee and Bob Brower. About the Streits, the Knights, the Formans, the Shropes, and the Welches. About women’s trios and men’s quartets and basketball teams and intramural football. About religion majors who have traveled through life together serving God and church. About Circle K and K-ettes and Civinettes. About Kings Kids and Solomon’s Porch and dramatic productions. About student pranks and academic profiles.

And it’s all about one thing: friends.

Show me any other 32 months of life that have greater capacity for lifelong bonding, deep friendships. Is it Trevecca, or is it just that time of life? In the wise words of Forrest Gump, “Maybe it’s both.”

Maybe it’s that time, those college years, and maybe it’s something deeply embedded in the culture of Trevecca.

And it’s still happening. I see the signs of it every day. But the students who are here now don’t know it. We didn’t know it in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and 2000s. You have to live awhile before it dawns on you what those 32 months did to you. I wish I could explain to prospective students that if they’ll enroll here, they will be grateful ’til their dying days.

Maybe what sticks to our souls so deep that we can’t shake it is that here, during our college years, we learned that we matter to other people. They matter to us – we matter to them. In a world where we are customers and clients, patients and patrons, buyers and bosses; in a world where we have economic rules to play by and pecking orders to perform; maybe we are two quarts low on believing that we really matter to someone. And then we touch our college friends, and it all comes spilling out like it was yesterday.

And if we feel like we matter to them, then they matter to us. I love the word chesed in the Bible. It’s the Hebrew covenant word that says that when you’re in a covenant with someone, you have the right to expect certain behaviors of them—and they have the same right to expect certain behaviors of you. So we go into the world trying to live up to the expectations of our covenant friends. We want our lives to be a blessing.

I’ve been humming a tune this week. You know the song, the old hymn “Make Me a Blessing” with that familiar refrain that out of our lives “may Jesus shine.”

This is what friends do for each other. We make them feel like they matter. We place hopeful expectations on them, and we live faithfully to fulfill their expectations of us. And we bless them. We act in ways that are life-giving.

Trevecca has given us a unique opportunity in a specific chapter of our lives to form lifelong friendships. I pray that future generations will experience the same. In their world, where darkness is rife, they will need the covenanted friends that can be found here.

The last verse of the “Trevecca Hymn” says, “God Who set Thy hand upon her, who has long supplied her need, wilt Thou keep our Alma Mater Thine in service as in creed. Give her guidance, give her wisdom, from Thee never let her roam. All the way to heaven’s portal, bring her sons and daughters home.”

I’m thinking of the C-suite guys praying for Dave Edwards as he faces a life-threatening disease. Our finish line is not a diploma, but heaven’s portal.

And so we travel that direction together.

ENC Fall Top 10

ENC Fall Top 10

The Eastern Nazarene College family gathered for a celebration of its future on October 13-17. You commissioned me as your new president-elect, and we championed our mission, welcomed friends for Homecoming and held our fall Board of Trustees meeting. Here’s a list of our unofficial top 10 things that happened. Feel free to share with friends, post on social media, put in your church bulletin, or just smile when you think of the list.

  1.  Core Vision. We articulated and celebrated our mission in the commissioning of me as the new president-elect. You can view my “Why ENC?” address at this link or below. If you wish to view the entire commissioning service, you can find it here. I regret that the flavor and joy of the pig roast on the lawn following the service is impossible to convey in print.
  2. Successful Financial Campaign. We challenged our friends and alumni to give $98k in a day. We excelled to the tune of $192,000 over the Homecoming weekend. The campaign started with the celebration dinner on Friday night where we honored the accomplishments of many alumni.  We are grateful for the support of the American Christian Credit Union, Assurance, Dick Pritchard and many other sponsors and volunteers who made the evening exceptional.
  3. New Students. A record 42 prospective students visited ENC’s campus on our Red Carpet Day on Oct. 14, and are considering making Eastern their college choice. The recent tuition reset for incoming students in 2018 makes ENC one of the most affordable Christian colleges in the Northeast.
  4.  Spiritual Vitality. The report to the Board of Trustees by our College chaplain, Lynne Bollinger, expressed the vibrant spiritual atmosphere of the students. Three students have come to faith this year, and 13 ministers are serving on the chaplain’s team, including Pastor Stretch Dean, who leads a vital Wednesday night gathering.
  5. Engaged Alumni. Alumni are feeling empowered and energized by a culture of generosity. We saw that through Work and Witness teams volunteering to help us restore the residence halls, the overwhelming response to the $98k in a day campaign, crowdfunding, more than 400 people attending the Friday evening banquet, and the attendance at 13 alumni reunion gatherings.
  6. A Plan for the Future. The ENC Board of Trustees approved the report of a Joint Task Force on the merger of ENC and Trevecca Nazarene University. The process lays out a plan for the ongoing mission of ENC on the Quincy campus with established benchmarks of sustainability in enrollment and finances. The board adopted a new Board Policy Manual and approved a Faculty Handbook. The Eastern trustees also named the new cabinet comprised of the joint ENC/Trevecca team.
  7. New Website. The new Eastern website is now functional with minor changes still underway. Visit the website for more details on these highlights and other stories.
  8. Church Support. The number of local Nazarene churches who are voluntarily committing to a double educational budget this year continues to grow. In addition, the eight districts of the ENC region/field are combining their efforts for a significant gift to the College. Every church is being asked to place a priority on sending a student to Eastern.
  9. Athletics. The ENC incoming freshman class has 90 student-athletes. The athletic department is mentoring these students with devoted intentionality. Over the Homecoming weekend, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, and our conference-winning tennis team competed, while men’s and women’s basketball teams kicked off their practice schedule.
  10. HOPE. From the commissioning service to the alumni gatherings to the banquet to the Sunday worship at Wollaston Church to the opening prayer gathering of the Board of Trustees meeting, the weekend was saturated with an optimism that God has work for us to do, and we are ready to embrace it.
Reflections on the bombing in Manchester

Reflections on the bombing in Manchester

Friends, the following is a reflection of a Trevecca alumnus, Joseph Wood, who works as a theology professor in Manchester. His theological leadership is a healing touch following the terrorist attack in his city. May God grant grace to our friends in the U.K.  
The old motto holds true: the sun never sets on Trevecca. Our graduates serve globally. 
—Dan Boone

A screenshot of Wood’s reflections at Seedbed, movement and media platform whose mission is to gather, connect, and resource the people of God to sow for a great awakening.

Terror. Death. Grief. Pain. Anguish. Fear.

These are the words which appeared on my social media feed and the news two days ago. I live in Manchester, UK and our city was attacked late Monday night by a suicide bomber. Almost 2 dozen people, many of whom were children, lost their lives, and many more are still in hospital fighting for theirs. Yesterday was a day of grief, pain, and deep sadness.

As I opened my social media apps yesterday, another word appeared: Aldersgate. In the midst of tragedy, I see a word which sends my mind racing.

Yesterday, people around the world recognized a significant moment in the life of John Wesley. Nearly 300 years ago on that day, a young John Wesley, ‘went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street.’ For months he had been struggling with faith and doubt, grace and works, and he had been praying for God to bring him a sense of assurance of faith. In this meeting a passage from Martin Luther’s Preface to Romans was being read. Luther, too, struggled with faith and fear. As a young monk, he longed to have an assurance of the state of his soul. As he began to study the letters to the Romans and Galatians, he became convinced of the fact that assurance comes through faith alone and faith is a gift of God, made available through the righteousness of Christ.

As Wesley was hearing Luther explain the depths of love being expressed in Paul’s letter to the Romans, he recorded later in his Journal, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” This was a pivotal moment in the life of Wesley, one which many see as a catalyst for what would become of his life: the leader of a worldwide movement in the Church.

So, I am thinking today about Aldersgate and I am still grieving of what happened in my city on Monday and I wonder, what does it mean to have a ‘heart strangely warmed’ in the midst of tragedy?

On a day like yesterday, hearts in Manchester could easily feel cold and sad. People affected could have hearts of hostility and anger. The hearts of those in the emergency services could be simply weary and tired.

But this is not what I saw in the town square yesterday. Thousands of Mancunians gathered together to speak hope over the city, to pray for the city, and to show their love for the city. I have heard story after story of ordinary people caring for the injured, giving rides to those who were stranded, and offering hospitality to strangers. I saw church building after church building with doors opened wide, welcoming anyone who wanted to pray, speak with someone, or simply find a place of quiet to reflect.

This week, in many ways, I saw a city with a “heart strangely warmed.” This may seem an odd phrase to use to describe the atmosphere, as not all of those people at the town hall were Christians and not all of those willing to help would claim faith in Christ. But as I reflect on Aldersgate and as I observe the response of a city in which Wesley preached many times, I wonder if the Spirit of God may be moving over our city, gently warming the hearts of this great place, offering the gifts of faith, hope, and love.

Please continue to pray for the people of Manchester.

I saw something beautiful today

I saw something beautiful today

A few reflections from this past Sunday. 

I saw something beautiful today: a new church was born.

The congregation that my wife and I attend opened their arms 16 months ago to a pastor couple who have worked among us to collect a group of people with the commitment to launch a new congregation in a different part of the city. Ours is a congregation that had its own birth less than 10 years ago in a storefront building. Now it has reproduced itself in loving generosity. With the world awash in “big,” it was moving to see something tiny and small take its first steps today.

The launching pastor, with tears in his eyes, compared the mother church to a pregnant woman glowing in the beauty of new life. The two congregations gathered as one for the last time today and shared the Lord’s Supper, sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” and spoke a blessing. Next week, another part of the city will be graced with the presence of a loving new congregation.

I saw something beautiful today.

 

Celebrating Legacies of Service

When I think about people who have graced my life, the men being honored by our sister university fit that category. Before moving to serve at Southern Nazarene University, they were professors in the Trevecca School of Religion. I admire them both, consider them friends and wish them well in the next chapter of their lives. Men like these make the term Christian winsome.

Thanks, Don and Hal, for your exemplary service to the people of God.

Long-time Educators Leave Lasting Influence

With over 80 years combined service to Nazarene higher education, two stalwarts of ministry are bidding farewell to SNU. Dr. Hal Cauthron, Professor and Chair of the School of Theology and Ministry at SNU, and Dr. Don Dunnington, former SNU Vice President for Academic Affairs and currently Professor in the School of Theology and Ministry, have announced their retirements at the close of the current academic year. Their service to the Church of the Nazarene has impacted multiple Nazarene educational institutions and thousands of students preparing for ministry. Their influence on our denomination is reflected in the lives of those who sat under their teaching and now serve in ministry roles around the globe.

Dr Hal CauthronDr. Hal Cauthron received the BA degree in Religion from BNC/SNU in 1967. Now, fifty years later he is retiring as a faculty member and Chair of the School of Theology & Ministry at SNU. He received the MA degree in Religion from BNC in 1969, and later completed the M.Div. degree at Nazarene Seminary and the PhD degree (in New Testament) at Vanderbilt University. In January of 1995 he began teaching at SNU, serving 22 ½ years in the same department. His teaching ministry included service at 3 other Nazarene institutions – Trevecca in Tennessee and two theological colleges, one in Swaziland and the other in South Africa. The combined total years of ministry in those places is another 22 ½ years.

Of God’s call and his preparation for Christian higher education, Cauthron said, “I have been given the highest of privileges that I could ever imagine in serving my alma mater in the role of teacher of New Testament. My sense of gratitude arises out of the profound, life-changing influence of the New Testament teacher under whom I studied at BNC. That teacher was Professor Richard Howard. He was the Spirit’s instrument in making the New Testament writings become so very powerful to me.” Cauthron’s impact on students over the years has been immeasurable, but he expressed the return on his investment in them by saying, “My heart is full when I see or hear of former students fulfilling God’s call to ministry as pastors, evangelists, teachers, and church leaders.”

When asked about future plans, Dr. Cauthron said, “Retiring from full time work in ministry does not mean retiring from God’s call to minister. I am already finding opportunities of continuing the ministry of God’s word.” Beyond some much-anticipated travel with his wife, Nancy, and spending time with their two children and their families, Cauthron hopes to work on writing projects and be available for some teaching and preaching as God leads. “We are just looking forward to things which we cannot necessarily imagine at this point,” he said.


Dr. Don W. Dunnington has served SNU for 26 years. Dr Don DunningtonDon came to SNU in 1991 and served for 15 years as Vice-President for Academic Affairs/Academic Dean before returning to his love for students and teaching in the School of Theology and Ministry for the last 11 years.

Prior to his years at SNU, Don was Chaplain and Professor of Pastoral Ministry at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee from 1980-1991. Early in his career he served the Church of the Nazarene full-time as an evangelist and pastor for 7 years. His areas of teaching have included Preaching/Homiletics, Pastoral Ministry, Pastoral Counseling, Worship, Spiritual Formation, Christian Life, New Testament, and Introductory courses in Christian Theology.

Throughout his work at TNU and SNU Don has been active in preaching and teaching ministries of the Church of the Nazarene. In addition to regularly teaching a Sunday School class at Bethany First Church of the Nazarene for many years, he recently developed and led an elective seminar at BFC on “Christian Life in the Wesleyan Tradition.”

When asked to reflect on his career in ministry preparation, he said, “I am grateful for the privilege the church has given me to serve in Christian higher education and for the great partnership that exists between our church and Southern Nazarene University. I look forward to serving Christ and the church in whatever opportunities that might develop in the days ahead!”

Don and his wife, Jane, who retired in 2014 after 16 years as a valued member of the SNU staff, will continue to live in Oklahoma City–when they are not traveling. They have three sons who are all SNU grads and 7 grandchildren living nearby who fill their lives with joy.

(Information about Dr. Hal Cauthron and Dr. Don Dunnington is from SNU’s Good News-February 2017 update.) 

A few thoughts on presidential inaugurations

A few thoughts on presidential inaugurations

My inauguration was a deeply meaningful event in my life. Both humbling and energizing, it launched me into 12 years of work as the president of Trevecca Nazarene University. In retrospect, I’ve been thinking about the things I’ve learned following my own inauguration. Here are my top 10.

  1. I stepped into a stream of history that did not begin with me and most likely will not end with me. The blood, sweat, and tears of those who have gone before me represent a depth of wisdom that I can draw on, if I’m humble enough to receive the lessons of history.
  2. Honoring those who held office before me makes me larger, not smaller. Unlike the mass executions of royal relatives in the Old Testament takeover stories, it is not necessary that I murder—with my words and actions—the friends and family of those who preceded me.
  3. Positional power is seductive on more levels that I originally knew. The trappings of inaugural power are accompanied by sinister sweet voices in my head that affirm my worst prejudices and opinions. An inaugural ceremony does not make me omniscient or infallible. Resisting these voices is the hardest work I do.
  4. An inauguration doesn’t signal a graduation from listening and learning. I need to know what I don’t know. The intoxication of inauguration tempts me to think they elected me because I could fix everything. I have found that leading a Christian university is fraught with complexity on more levels than I suspected. I’m still trying to figure it out, thus the posture of a listening learner.
  5. It isn’t about me. Yes, I am the one who was paraded down a center aisle, introduced with fanfare, had hands placed on me by holy people, pledged things in printed response liturgies, had a heavy medallion hung around my neck, and gave the keynote address. But that was all over in an hour. This enterprise was not created for me or by me, and it does not exist to showcase me. Trevecca is about those it serves, and the world they serve in the name of Jesus. As an inaugurated person, I need to get over myself quite rapidly.
  6. The work is too demanding to spend a lot of time defending myself. People are rightly suspicious of institutions and their leaders because the path to leadership is usually through the thickets of people-pleasing and favor-collecting. People assume the right to critique institutions and their leaders. I have to understand that this comes hand-in-hand with the medallion they hung around my neck. Yes, the criticism is often unfair, uninformed, and unkind. But sometimes it is dead right. So rather than living in a defensive posture, I must enlarge my soul, become thoughtful and develop a thick skin. I can be criticized without being enslaved by the criticism.
  7. It takes significant discipline to remain mission-centered rather than becoming enemy-centered. Loving one’s enemies is actually the most cost-effective way to deal with them. Their influence expires faster. Of course they don’t like me, and, of course, they said and did that. Now let’s get to work.
  8. I have to know when to take center stage and speak and when to shut up. An inauguration gives me platforms of importance, but I don’t need to climb atop each platform that presents itself. The quiet conversations and deep dives into complexity are often more needed than applause. When public presence is called for, I must be there. When the wisdom of quietness and reflection beckon me, I must be there, too.
  9. I must surround myself with people who are wiser than I am, then convince myself that they are wiser than I am. I must respect their wisdom and offer them the opportunity to contribute. I am not qualified to fill the role of a single cabinet member on our team. They are better than I am at what they do. I am neither threatened by their leadership nor jealous of it. My role is to shape a collaborative culture in which they can work together for the good of Trevecca.
  10. My inauguration does not erase my accountability. Rather, it increases it. I remain accountable to the King who was crowned Lord at his ascension to the right hand of God the Father. I am also accountable to trustees, employees, students, parents who entrust their children to us, accrediting bodies, bankers, laws, civil rights, alumni, donors, and constituents—and to my family, living and dead. While I am free in Christ, I am a slave to all. Inauguration only increases accountability.
An open letter to the students and employees of Trevecca

An open letter to the students and employees of Trevecca

The past two weeks have wearied me.

College campuses are the perfect tinderbox for conflict regarding the presidential election. In one unique place, you find diversity, passion, inherited parental politics, newly emerging generational politics, old-people politics, professors with differing viewpoints that are held with unflinching certainty, women who were hoping for a shattered glass ceiling, immigrants who were hoping for a responsible path to citizenship, LGBT persons running the gamut from “seeking dignity as persons” all the way to “affirmation of any and every sexual behavior,” white working middle class people who are tired of being called uneducated, black persons who hope their lives matter, economic-minded citizens hoping for lower taxes and more jobs, Democrats defending the poor and minorities, Republicans wanting less government interference, students just out of the military, 22 nationalities, about 3,500 very different people, and the normal immaturity of the human race. Add to all of this the fast-moving gas fumes of social media looking for a fire somewhere.

I live and work in this community.

So, yesterday I went to church hoping for salvation from my weariness. It was Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the Christian calendar year. In a sense, it was the day we celebrate the end of time. We read Psalm 46. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (You may want to pause and read the entire psalm in light of the election.) Then we sang “This is my Father’s World. O let me ne’er forget that tho’ the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world. The battle is not done; Jesus who died, shall be satisfied, and earth and heaven be one. This is my Father’s world, why should my heart be sad. Jesus is King, let the heavens ring. God reigns, let the earth be glad.”

Then my pastor simply told the story of Jesus, laying aside power, absorbing brokenness, dying in love.

I found myself asking, how do people who believe Christ is King live now? What is the posture of a Christian in a frightened, fractured, fighting world? After two weeks of “How can you be a Christian and vote for x?”, two weeks of people taking and giving offense, two weeks of seeking to reconcile the unreconcilable … I found myself drawn into God on Christ the King Sunday. And similar to an Augustine moment, the Spirit instructed me to pick up the book and read Romans 12. The title of this section in the NRSV is The Mark of the Christian.

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9-21, NRSV).

I won’t attempt a full exegesis of this because—in keeping with the ethic of the kingdom of God—it pulls us in odd ways. My takeaway? Stand in the middle of the mess, seek to understand first, honor people, love, suffer in the mode of Jesus, stay humble, leave room for God to be God rather than rushing in with my answers, remain hopeful, offer blessing everywhere possible in every way possible.

Is this possible today? Only if Christ is King and the end of time invades this day. Back to work.

Dan Boone

Voting Booth Questions

Voting Booth Questions

For a few election cycles now, I have gone to the voting booth with specific questions in mind. I shared these with Trevecca students last night and several asked me to post them today.

Rarely has any candidate been the answer to all seven and quite often the answer is neither. But these questions do help me to think about why I vote for a person or choose to write in another name.

  1. Under which leader is the world most likely to be at peace?
  2. Under which leader will the people of God have the most freedom to carry out the agenda of the kingdom of God?
  3. Under which leader will human life and God’s creation be protected, valued and nourished?
  4. Under which leader will justice be carried out in creating a peaceful society of neighborly concern?
  5. Under which leader will I be expected to be a more responsible citizen in my community rather than a dependent consumer of government goods?
  6. Under which leader will honorable work be valued and made available for all to participate in?
  7. Under which leader will fragile persons be given dignity, then helped to become as whole as possible and then be expected to live as responsible citizens?

I hope these questions help you as you enter the voting booth today.