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Published: Saturday, 9/6/2008

Disciples should have relationship with the Lord, scholar says

BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

FINDLAY What is the definition of a Christian disciple? The Rev. Gary Staats, an American Baptist pastor and professor of Old Testament at Winebrenner Theological Seminary, addressed that question in a lecture this week to open the school year.

Speaking to an audience of 90 at a theology summit, Mr. Staats gave a scholarly but not elitist talk that quoted numerous Bible verses, including references to the original Hebrew and Greek scriptures, as well as Latin and English translations.

The multilingual professor even interjected a few phrases from an ancient Canaanite language to add cultural perspective.

There are four primary criteria to being a disciple of Jesus Christ, he said: a relationship with God; living a Bible-centered life; standing in awe of God s holiness, and following the Great Commission by spreading the Gospel.

Mr. Staats said the first chapters of Genesis repeatedly describe how Adam and Eve, Enoch, and Noah enjoyed personal relationships with God.

Sharing with God is a major theme of discipleship, Mr. Staats said. It is a reciprocal relationship, it is walking with God.

He cited the verses in Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve fell from grace and tried to hide from God, when the Lord called to the man, Where are you?

Adam and Eve s relationship with God was something that was lost and then repaired, Mr. Staats said.

In Genesis 5:22, the prophet Enoch is described as someone who walked with God 300 years.

And in the New Testament, in James 2, Mr. Staats said Abraham is called God s friend.

He said he envisions biblical characters walking with God the way he walks with his wife on the beach, the two discussing their innermost thoughts and feelings.

Real discipleship is sharing in a loving friendship with the Lord, he said.

Mr. Staats, who earned a doctorate from New York University and has on the Winebrenner faculty since 1999, said that awe of God also is a frequent topic in the Bible.

He read Exodus 3, in which Moses sees the Lord in a burning bush. God tells him, Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.

The Hebrews gave us awe, the Greeks gave us philosophy, and the Romans gave us practicality, Mr. Staats said.

He said the Bible makes numerous references to the importance of God s word.

In Psalm 119:11, for example, it says, I have hidden your word in my heart, and in Psalm 1:3 a person who meditates on God s law day and night is described as being like a tree planted by streams of water.

The Great Commission is found in Matthew 28, when Jesus tells his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations.

Mr. Staats said Christian disciples must not just be disciples, but must follow the Great Commission in teaching others to be disciples.

The lecture was attended by Winebrenner students, faculty, and alumni and is part of the seminary s year-long emphasis on discipleship, according to James Smarkel, vice president for institutional advancement.

The daylong theological summit included table discussions, prayer, worship music, and talks by the Rev. Jack Selcher on The Praxis of Discipleship Today and Creating a Personal Plan of Discipleship.

Winebrenner Theological Seminary was established in 1942 as a graduate school of theology of the University of Findlay and now has 117 students representing more than 30 denominations.

David Yonke



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