AGTS Academic Dean Dr. Joseph L. Castleberry's Installation Address

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The Shrewd Manager and AGTS

Thank you, President Klaus, President Spence, Dr. Bueno, Dr. Wood, Dr. Lee. While I have worked all my life to prepare for such a moment as this, nothing could have prepared me to expect so extravagant a welcome as you have given me. I have been in my office long enough, however, to realize that the honors of today are those that pertain to my office, and not my person. So on behalf of the Office of the Academic Dean, let me thank you all for your presence here.

I am, more than anything else, a preacher. So I hope you will forgive my choice to turn this short address into a sermon. Today’s text is found in Luke 16:1-9. Please stand with me for the reading of the Word. Luke 16:1-9. Listen to the Word of God:

  1. Jesus told his disciples: "There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions.
  2. So he called him in and asked him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.'
  3. "The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I'm not strong enough to dig, and I'm ashamed to beg--
  4. I know what I'll do—so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.'
  5. "So he called in each one of his master's debtors. He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'
  6. "'Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,' he replied. "The manager told him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.'
  7. "Then he asked the second, 'And how much do you owe?' "'A thousand bushels of wheat,' he replied. "He told him, 'Take your bill and make it eight hundred.'
  8. "The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.
  9. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. (NIV)

This story, the parable of the shrewd manager, is relevant to my work as academic dean at AGTS, since my job here is essentially to serve as manager of the academic programs of the seminary. The story is also interesting to me because I remember being a small boy on a warm summer afternoon in Sylacauga, Alabama, in which I sat on a back porch, shelling purple hulled peas, and listening to my father and grandfather debate the meaning of this puzzling text. Why would the master commend the manager for what seems to have been a dishonest act against him? Bible students from the academy to the back porch have proposed a range of ingenious solutions to the passage, but Jesus himself tells us why the master commended the manager: the people of this world admire shrewdness. Jesus himself tacitly lamented the fact that the children of the Kingdom of God are not often shrewd in dealing with their own kind. He further makes it clear that Kingdom shrewdness implies using worldly wealth to gain the salvation of what we might call “Our Kind of People.” A careful reading of Luke’s Gospel shows that for Jesus, our kind of people are those blind, lame, poor, sinful, and even those rich men and women who hear the message of the Kingdom of God as Good News, and respond in repentance.

Jesus means for us to be shrewd in dealing with Our Kind of People. But what does it mean to be shrewd? Being shrewd often involves the use of money, but one doesn’t need much money to be shrewd—a fact that AGTS should definitely celebrate. Being shrewd simply means “using what you have to gain what you want.” Those who are good at Kingdom shrewdness will be admired, both by the people of this world and by Heaven itself.

But what is shrewdness without money? I had a great, great grandmother who is still greatly admired in my family, and for me, she provides a perfect example of what shrewdness truly is. She had no money, no education, nothing that anyone would envy, except her shrewdness. In January of 1865, the War Between the States was less than three months from ending. Nancy Little’s husband, a Confederate soldier, had been captured in battle by the Yankees, and was being offered back to the Southern army in a prisoner of war exchange. Landing in a hospital in Richmond, Virginia, he was dying from blood poisoning.

The word filtered back into the piney Appalachian woods of Alabama that if Nancy wanted to see Enoch again, she had better go to Richmond. So, after three days on flat, uncovered railway cars, she arrived at the hospital. Seeing her husband so weak and dying, she determined to take him home. But she was informed that he could only have nine days of leave due to the problem of late-war desertions, and she protested until she was sent to the commander of the hospital. Her pleas met with no success, and finally, the commander said, “nine days, take it or leave it.” She accepted the nine days, and the commander took a stubby pencil and wrote her out a note to the hospital clerk, authorizing nine days of leave.

Since the pencil was used up, he threw it on the ground and took his leave. Nancy eyed the paper, and she eyed the pencil. She didn’t have much. No money, no education. She couldn’t even read the note. But she did know that a zero on a nine makes 90. In a flash of courage and shrewdness, she grabbed up that pencil and accelerated from nine to 90 in one second. The hospital clerk, a mere teenager, marveled over and over as he made out the miracle 90-day pass. Nancy took Enoch home, and before the 90 day leave was over, the war ended. Due to her special ministrations, Enoch found the strength to go on, and just nine months later, welcomed another baby daughter into the world. That baby was my great-grandmother Rebecca, and without Nancy’s shrewdness, I wouldn’t be here to tell this story.

But the story goes on. Years later, after the turn of the century, Nancy was a widow, and the U.S. Congress declared a pension for the widows of Civil War soldiers of either side. When she went to the courthouse to sign up for the pension, she found that she was ineligible, since her husband had been listed as AWOL at the end of the war. She was incensed, since she knew full well that he had had official leave. She had made out the papers herself! Unfortunately, the papers had been destroyed in a house fire and she could not produce them to prove his innocence and her eligibility. Instead, she went around to all the old soldiers in her county, getting them to sign affidavits that they had seen the leave papers.

When she went to the courthouse again to file her papers, the old county clerk, a veteran of the war himself, looked over his glasses at her and said, “I remember you. You’re the one with the miracle 90-day leave.” So she got her pension and drew it for the rest of her life. This was a women who knew how to use what she had to get what she wanted. She was shrewd, and people admire shrewdness, don’t you.

It is my prayer, at the beginning of my tenure as dean, that I will be shrewd in my management at AGTS. I realize the need to use every thing we have to gain what we want the most—the souls of men and women who will hear the Good News of God’s Kingdom and repent. I do not want to come to the end of my service here and have Jesus lament that I wasn’t shrewd in dealing with “our kind of people.”

Out in the secular world, in my formal studies of higher education at Teachers College, Columbia University, my greatest area of interest was curriculum. I had the opportunity to sit under the remarkably shrewd Dr. Arthur Levine, President of Teachers College and the nation’s foremost expert in higher education curriculum. He taught us his own theory that curriculum is a bridge between resources and goals. In other words, curriculum is the way a school marshals what it has in order to get what it wants. A good curriculum is a shrewd one that maximizes resources to optimize goal achievement. Such a theory is remarkably apropos to today’s text and to my task ahead. As dean of AGTS, I need to marshal all the resources of our seminary to achieve our goals. To the extent that I succeed in this task, you will see me as either wise, or foolish.

Springfield and the General Council of the A/G, together with all of our churches in the United States and around the world, provide an enormous pool of resources for AGTS. Our founders and curators in the past have left us with a remarkable building and a formidable faculty. Our President is a man of vision and vigor, and his personal credibility has garnered respect and confidence for us around the world. Our administrators and staff are skillful and willing. Our students bring literally a world of experience to our community. We have a lot with which to work in answering the charges that our constituents have so eloquently laid before us today, and we must use our resources to the fullest. If we fail to use our human resources to the fullest, we may lose them to Fuller (with apologies to Gordon-Conwell and the rest).

So first and foremost, we will marshal the totality of our resources to fulfill the mission our Board of Directors has formulated: to shape servant leaders with knowledge, skill, and passion to revitalize the church and evangelize the world in the power of the Spirit. That statement of mission neatly crystallizes my own priorities as a minister and as an educator, and we will work tirelessly to fulfill this mission.

In responding to the charges with which I have been entrusted today, I have a clear vision. With the spirit of a committed, fourth generation Pentecostal, an intellect formed most decisively at Evangel University and then enriched at Princeton and Columbia, and the will of a missionary tried in Central American wars and tested in South American woes, I will do the best I can to bring all that I have become and become all that I need to be to use the resources of AGTS and make our dreams come true.

To that end, I offer a personal creed, and a personal commitment:

  • I believe in a vibrant Pentecostal movement that will last until our belief in the soon-return of Christ is confirmed in the clouds. So I pledge to strive to see the essential power of Pentecost—power for healing, service, evangelism, holiness, and intimacy with God—transferred into new cultural forms that postmodern humanity will embrace with the same passion that our forebears showed 100 years ago. And I pledge to work to make sure that same power lives on so obviously in Biblical and apostolically faithful doctrines that my great-grandparents would recognize it.
  • I believe that we are more powerful together than we would be as independents. So I pledge to work to make AGTS an important player in the renewal and revitalization and rebuilding of the Assemblies of God and its churches in the USA. I dream of an Assemblies of God that will recapture the culture of church planting that made it a great tool in God’s hand, and I dream that we will plant new churches and replant failing churches in every community of our nation. For that reason I will advocate and push to use all of our resources to make church planting a primary focus at AGTS.
  • I believe the AGTS faculty is equal to the challenge we face in serving the church. So I pledge to work hard not only to marshal existing resources, but to raise additional funding that will make it possible to lighten teaching loads for faculty and make research and writing, traveling and speaking, a realistic expectation for all of our faculty. We will know the truth, and we will set it free. We’ll know it better than we have ever known it before, and we will set it loose, so it may serve the church.
  • I believe in the final stage of world evangelization in which the full number of the children of God will be revealed, the whole Gospel will be preached to the whole world, and Jesus will return for his people. So I pledge to recruit and deploy the finest Pentecostal missions faculty in the world. We will work in partnership with AGWM, our global sister churches and their missionaries, to publish and promote Biblical, Pentecostal missiology. We and our students will apply it to the fullest, so that every willing heart can believe, and every loosened tongue may confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
  • I believe in and dream of an AGTS that is not an ivory tower, but rather, an air traffic control tower, highly involved in the intellectual guidance and leadership of our church. So I pledge to work for the development of our culture of research and writing, reading and speaking, and active engagement with the church and the world.
  • I believe the Body of Christ is not complete until it includes every race and nation, until it speaks in every tongue, until both sons and daughters can prophesy. So I pledge to work to make AGTS an inclusive model of harmony and reconciliation where every good gift is made excellent, where every human jewel of every color is polished to a high sheen, where every human resource is marshaled into the service of our King.

And so, before the weight of such charges, such a creed, and such commitments, I humbly pray to the master who has made me manager, and say, “God grant me the sagacity to see every resource, to marshal every soldier, to garner every idle dollar, to shape servant leaders with knowledge, skill, and passion, to revitalize the church and evangelize the world in the power of the Spirit. Let us all work together so that AGTS should so serve and bless the Assemblies of God that we can lead our whole movement in announcing, more truly than ever before, those golden words of A/G tradition, “across the nation and around the world, THIS, is revival time.”

 

Updated: Friday, February 6, 2004 8:52 AM

 

 
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