Ozark Christian College

I was privileged to give the Faith Forum lectures at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, MO, the location many of us came to know because of its horrific experience of the tornado last year. I saw enough — and the community has amazingly accomplished so much rebuilding and restoration already — to get a feeling for the magnitude of destruction. I heard a number of stories — and it seemed everyone had a story to tell. Including Chad Ragsdale, my wonderful host and the administrator of Faith Forum.

What impressed me most about OCC was this: as part of the Restoration Movement, which I think belongs in the evangelical movement even if I can’t get my friends at CT to agree, it is firmly committed to the Bible. So much so that its undergraduates aren’t required to take Intro to Theology or Intro to Systematics or Systematic Theology 101. OCC requires every student to take 15 — count ’em folks — 15 courses in the Bible, and these courses are books in the Bible. Like Romans, Luke (not Luke-Acts), Acts, 1 Corinthians, Isaiah, etc..

What can we do to restore biblical book studies as central to the curriculum of the church and Christian colleges? Why do we not do this as much anymore? What do you think of the model of teaching Bible books and letting theology flow from the books of the Bible themselves?

I had lunch with a group of faculty and I told them we’d love to have their students at Northern Seminary.  Students entering seminary with a full background in biblical studies both make a seminary better but are also more prepared for pastoral ministry if that is their calling. I’ll stop with this: We study too much outside the Bible and not enough Bible.

My lectures were called “What Jesus Wants” and I explored the word “More” in the Sermon on the Mount. I believe that term can be used as a window to see the whole landscape of the vision of Jesus in the Sermon. The first day I opened with the seven challenges to the church found in Helland and Hjamarson’s book, Missional Spirituality, to set the social context we face as we seek to be faithful disciples of Jesus — and one good place to begin is the Sermon on the Mount. The second day I set Jesus’ moral vision over against current ethical theories (virtue ethics, deontological ethics, and consequentialist ethics). Also they gave me an afternoon slot to discuss King Jesus Gospel stuff, and I began that session by skipping through the history of the gospel among revivalists, from Whitefield and Wesley and Edward to Billy Graham.

I cannot thank Chad Ragsdale enough for the invitation, the opportunity to have wings at Hackett’s in downtown Joplin, and for the invigorating and challenging conversation with both students and professors. Thanks too to Ryan for hauling me around and to Justin Gill and his fine (and patient) wife for taking me out for some coffee, and to the several student with whom I had lunch on Tuesday.

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  • Adam Turner

    I’m glad you enjoyed your experience at my alma matter. I received a great biblical education and it prepared me greatly to enter local church ministry and preaching every week. I love that school and only wish I was about 15 years younger so I would have been there for Faith Forum this go around.

  • Adam Turner

    Oh – and Hackett’s? You make me jealous!

  • Caleb

    As a grad from there, I’m so glad you loved it. Why do your friends at CT not think they are evangelical? That surprises me

  • Yep, I’m with Caleb here. Is “CT” “Christianity Today?” What about the RM folks would be non-evangelical?

  • Don Dennison

    Thanks, Scot, for your statement, “We study too much outside the Bible and not enough Bible.” I had the privilege of attending Lincoln Christian University (a sister college to OCC) in Lincoln, IL. Their emphasis on biblical studies (Gospels, Acts, Pastoral Epistles, Prison Epistles, Prophets, Pentateuch, Corinthians, Thessalonians, etc.) provided a solid foundation for pastoral ministry. Would not have traded that experience for anything!!

  • Jerry Sather

    It is a rare thing to actually see a true bible study any more. Many churches are studying books that “guide” people into what the bible says or deal with a topic (even books by you, Scot–sorry!). I loved the last two years of a men’s study that didn’t read “Man in the Mirror” but simply opened their bibles and discussed the word itself.

  • What’s fascinating to me about this post, though, is that my wife and I were just discussing this topic last night. We both did our MDivs at Cincinnati Christian University, and she’s now doing her PhD in New Testament at Asbury. We received a very different education than a lot of the folks she’s going to school with. They all had really interesting-sounding classes that I would have loved to have taken: stuff like “Philosophy of the New Testament Authors” and “Theology of Redemption in the Old Testament” (I made those up, but they’re right in essence). We just took classes like “Joshua/Judges” and “Daniel” and Jeremiah” and “Synoptic Gospels” and “Johannine Literature” and “Prison Epistles.”

    If the meta-Bible classes had been available, I’d have probably taken them because they sound so much cooler. But I’ve not regretted it since then. And it’s fascinating how much better-prepared my wife is for her PhD program than a lot of her classmates.

  • Writing my third comment here… bad form. I just wanted to mention, for those that aren’t aware, that Cincinnati Christian is also a sister school to Ozark and Lincoln (like Don in comment 5).

  • CGC

    Hi Scot,
    Ozark is a good school and I also have my roots in the Restoration Movement. I found it strange and disconcerting several years ago when I was at Wheaton College at an Evangelical event. There were every stripe of Protestants there from every tradition from the theological right to the theological left. I sat at a table full of people from different denominational backgrounds. Everybody said what their theological background was and got a pass but me. When I said I was a minister of a Stone’Campbell Christian Church I was asked two questions (1) How can you people believe in baptismal regeneration? (which we don’t!) and; (2) Why are you all semi-pelagian in your theology?

    I sensed two things from all this (1) I was not welcome at the Evangelical table (which I find strange because I have been Evangelical all my life and there are even Stone-Campbell papers given at the national Evangelical Theological Society meetings. And; (2) There are many problems among Evangelicals but one among many is the problem of judging others critically without knowing them. I only get these kind of remarks from people who don’t know us or only know us from a distance.

  • I heard you did well at Ozark. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the props to the RM!

  • Cale

    Well let’s see… Here are some RM pastors CT has promoted before… So maybe they might be okay with RM:

    Jud Wilhite
    Kyle Idleman
    Dave Ferguson
    Jon Weece
    Gene Apple
    Mike Breaux
    Bob Russell

    I find it surprising that they wouldn’t find RM evangelical because they seem to find these guys evangelical

  • T

    I’m glad for all I’ve heard here. But given my experience with some folks (friends even) from the RM, I have some comments and questions.

    – There seems to be not only some rigid doctrine, but some rigidity about odd things. No instruments in worship, etc. I would consider this a classic molehill made into mountain. That tendency in any church makes me nervous about the thinking driving the movement, even though I enjoy my RM friends.

    – I agree with Scot that such folks are evangelicals, even if distinct.

    – While I’m glad for the biblical emphasis, I have a question. RM seems big on saying they’re not anything but Christian, and that they have no creed but the Bible (and even that unity would come if all did the same). Given these emphases do you folks in or from RM see a conflation of the Bible and RM creed (since there’s not supposed to be one)? The pronounced distinctives of RM Theology and practice and emphasis make me think that even if RM schools have classes devoted to various books of the bible, RM theology is woven in as the Bible itself. For you folks at or from RM schools, is that your experience?

  • Caleb


    First of all, I think that you have to draw a distinction between the churches of Christ which are non-instrumental, the independent Christian churches, and the Disciples of Christ which are more liberal in their theology. Much of what you’re describing is seen within the churches of Christ, but not the independent Christian church (and there are some churches of Christ that are instrumental).

    The non-instrumental churches of Christ are also more baptismal regenerationlist in their thinking. There are some within the independent Christian church who probably fit that mold, but they are getting less and less. I also think that there is a new trend within the non-instrumental churches of Christ where the issues of instruments and baptismal regeneration was him is not really being focused on by the younger generation of leaders coming through the ranks.

    Second, I went to Ozark Christian college, and I thoroughly enjoyed my education there. It was not until I went to seminary (fuller seminary and Talbot school theology) that I took systematic theology. I did not feel like restoration movement theology was woven into any of my local exegesis classes. He had to take a class on restoration history, but that was it.

    Being from the independent Christian church side, I would advise everyone to please be careful about throwing us in with the non-instrumental and baptismal regeneration alyssum of the non-instrumental churches of Christ.

  • Caleb

    PS, Siri on my iPhone does not translate some of my words very well, so I am sorry in advance for grammar and for the chuckles you may get from some of the words above.

  • T


    Thanks; that’s helpful. What would you say are the emphases of the independent Christian Church side of RM?

  • Tony Springer

    I have found that the Reformed tradition in evangelicalism see the RM as non-evangelical. That is ironic since the RM developed out of first Presbyterian and then second Baptist circles. Many accused early RM leaders of semi-Pelagianism (Alexander Campbell) and Arianism (Barton Stone). By and large most RM adherents are somewhat closer to Arminianism (but do not suggest it 🙂 ). See Roger Olson’s blog on Arminians accused of semi-Pelagianism. On submarine salvation, most RM adherents are labelled baptimal regenerationists because the RM focuses more on the human response and continued processes to the divine initiative in salvation than you see in other evangelicals.

  • Jim

    I am also from the Restoration background and am probably a little (ha!) older than some of your commenters. I think part of the issue w/ regard to CT is that traditionally Restoration churches have resisted being known as Evangelical or even Protestant. They have traditionally been happy to be known as “Christians” (“Christians only but not the only Christians”.)

    I personally resist being known as Evangelical or Protestant not because I have anything against those bodies or those monikers per se but because I was taught that “Christian” is sufficient for anyone who follows Jesus as Lord. As a unity movement these churches were traditionally not interested in dividing the body with the use of terms that further distinguish groups. (not that we have been super successful as a unity movement either!)

    I am thrilled to hear that all of these schools ground their students so firmly in scripture. I hope and pray that commitment is filtering down to and into churches, which at one time were very biblically literate but which now seem to have suffered the same drift as other churches who were once known for their biblical literacy.

  • Caleb

    Tony- I think you have a great point


    I think the independent Christian church side is your basic non-denominational evangelical type of church. The large majority of us focus on excellence in preaching and leadership. We really don’t talk about baptismal regenerationalism or anything of that matter. Again, some examples of guys who are from the ICC side and are really mainstream doing amazing things would be Jud Wilhite, Kyle Idleman (Not a Fan), Dave Ferguson (multisite), etc… I think the main distinctives would be communion every Sunday (though some ICC churches don’t even do it every Sunday anymore).

    The goal of the Restoration Movement was to adopt the principles of the Acts 2 church and to focus on unity. IMHO, I think many of the ICC churches are trying to do just that…

    My 2 cents

  • Norman

    For an in-depth discussion concerning this subject regarding whether we are Evangelicals see Roger Olson’s article and extensive interface “Are Restorationists (Churches of Christ/Independent Christians) “evangelicals?”

    Even the acapella churches of Christ are changing. We recently added a musical instrument service and our two recent ministerial hires were graduates from Cincinnati Christian University (youth and worship/music). That was a major change from the way I was raised, so times are changing.

    I also attended a RM Christian University and was required to take a Bible Class every semester which meant you ended up taking some very serious bible classes.

  • Matt

    The main issue is that most RM don’t care if they are labeled evangelical or not (Christians only but not the only Christians) and most evangelicals are uncomfortable with RM’s belief that baptism/immersion is a condition of salvation (Acts 2:38).

  • Matt

    Sorry, forgot to mention I am an Ozark grad as well.

  • Don Dennison

    As a follow up to my #5 post, I was not RM background, nor have every ministered with them. But the education prepared me well to pastor in my own denomination and later complete M.A., M.Div, and D.Min programs elsewhere.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    I read Roger Olson’s article and I for one can’t help but wonder what decade is Roger basing his views like RM churches are simply critical of other Evangelical churches or don’t support groups like Billy Graham crusades? This was true fifty years ago but this has not been true from my experience (especially in the last twenty five years). Many mega-churches are independent Christian churches that are very Evangelical and ecumenical. I wonder if some are confusing the more conservative non-instrumental Churches of Christ with the Independent Christian Churches that more represents schools like Ozark Christian College?

    Lastly, I remember twenty years ago when a bunch of churches and Pastors supported the Billy Graham crusade in our area. They asked the local pastors to be involved and work the crusade. I thought it strange that the strongest supporters and backers of Billy Graham’s crusade was represented by the Independent Christian church pastors at that event!

  • Norman


    Within the acapella churches of Christ there are significant differences. There is the progressive to which I belong and there are many varieties of smaller very consevative churches. Urban areas tend toward the progressive.

  • Norman


    By the way if you read some of Roger Olson’s post toward the end of the discussion you will find that he had become more open minded

  • DRT

    Isn’t 15 classes only one short of an MDiv?

  • Caleb


    Not every ICC minister nor does every OCC prof believe that baptism is a condition of salvation. That is becoming more of a non issue…. At least in the ICC circles I run in

  • Peter

    #26 DRT,

    Most MDiv courses are between 75-90 credit hours with most courses being three credits a piece. That is my experience at least while at Emmanuel Christian Seminary.

  • Peter

    That should read Most MDiv programs, not courses. Sorry for the typo.

  • Matt

    I wasn’t really trying to say they did. I think Scot’s question was why the RM movement as a whole, originating from Stone/Campbell, wasn’t considered evangelical. The fact is that as a whole they don’t really care and second one of the hallmarks is baptism being conditional, therefore evangelicals haven’t included them.

  • James Terral

    This is a very interesting post. I graduated from Ozark Christian College. I grew up in Southern Baptist Churches. In my late teen years I started studying what the Bible taught about Communion and Baptism. Before ever becoming a part of the RM, I asked my Pastor to baptize me based upon the fact that my earlier understanding of baptism did not line up with what I believed the New Testament taught about that subject. After much persuasion he agreed to do so, I believe he did so primarily because my wish was to “have a clear conscience toward God.” (I Peter 3:21) I have never viewed baptism as a work of merit but rather as an act of appropriation.(a deliberate act of acquisition). I believe it is the most biblical way to receive Christ and to identify with him both personally and publicly. My further studies of Baptism have not changed that belief. I believe it is the method or means by which the New Testament believers said Yes to Jesus. I wish that more churches would teach this rather than coming up with their own method or means for saying yes to Jesus.

    I am aware that some(few relatively speaking) RM churches/preachers teach baptismal regeneration but not all RM churches and/or ministers should be categorized with that group. As earlier respondents have said some tend to judge people based upon what they think they believe and teach rather than communicating with them in order to discern what they actually believe and teach. We can flippantly say: “I don’t care what they think” if we wish but I believe that is a careless response. A much better response would be: “Come let us reason together”. It is much more difficult to genuinely seek to listen and understand their view and why they hold that view. I believe we fail to come closer together and thereby find more basis for unity because we too often start from our own theological and or doctrinal position and try to view others theology and or doctrinal positions from that perspective. It is easy to say, “I don’t care what they think.” but in my humble opinion this is unproductive and leads us toward false conclusions and away from Biblical truth.

    Some of our cliche’s get us in trouble but Is it possible that “The Bible only will make Christians Only?” This thought leads me back to some of the roots of this discussion in that the simple study of books of the Bible might well be the best path for discovering the truth about God. I believe the best definition of theology is simply “The Study of God’s Word”.

    I might add that I am thankful for the education I received from Ozark Bible College which later became Ozark Christian College. I have to admit that I was surprised that I did not find some classes in their curriculum that I expected to find but one thing I did find was Bible classes and a genuine desire to discover truth.

  • CGC

    HI Everyone,
    Well, technically, I don’t believe any RM people teach baptismal regeneration (that physcial water actually saves people) as they do of limiting the gift or reception of the Holy Spirit at water baptism. Even Protestants have tried to claim that Roman Catholics believe in baptismal regeneration or a works oriented salvation which has never been true and is a gross miunderstanding. So like James, I hope people more communicate and reason together to see where “the other” is really coming from? I will say for those RM folks who tie water baptism to spiritual baptism as an essential speak where the Bible does not speak and worse, one has to relativize and take a very selective approach to the book of Acts fore example for someone to come up with this kind of systematic view from unsystematic biblical texts.

  • Snsaxton

    Thanks for the post. What is CT?