Posts By Dr. Mara Crabtree

15 May 2013 Dr. MaraCrabtree

Techno-detoxing and the Discipline of Retreat

No Comments Building Christian Leaders

Regent University - technologyWith the expansive use of modern technology, the need has arisen to implement forms of techno-detoxing. The term refers to recognizing when one’s focus in life has shifted to the overuse of technology in communicating with others and the process needed in returning to a more balanced experience in appropriate interaction with others. Studies indicate the existence of a growing number of individuals, including many in contexts of professional leadership, who attempt to deal with stress by choosing to self-medicate through the misuse of technology.

Self-medication in this instance can include attempted avoidance of conflict by limiting face-to-face encounters or attempting to assuage emotional and spiritual pain and the struggles often necessary to grow relationally by over-indulging in techno-entertainment and social media. Scientists are sounding an alarm to warn individuals concerning the potential risks connected with improper use of technological devices: Read more

20 Mar 2013 Dr. MaraCrabtree

Women Making History

No Comments Blueprint for Change

Regent University - crestMarch is National Women’s History Month. The theme for 2013 is “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.” In 1980, with congressional support, President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation recognizing a Women’s History Week. In 1987, Congress officially instituted March as National Women’s History Month.[1] President Carter’s first proclamation in support of National Women’s History Week recognized that:

From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America were as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well. [2]

He urged “libraries, schools, and community organizations to focus their observances on the leaders who struggled for equality – Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and Alice Paul.” President Carter maintained that “Understanding the true history of our country will help us to comprehend the need for full equality under the law for all our people.”[3] Read more

27 Feb 2013 Dr. MaraCrabtree

The Scholar’s Vocation

2 Comments Building Christian Leaders

Regent University - studyingAmong the important questions that arose during my years as a graduate student, and later as a faculty member were, How are those who profess faith in God through Jesus Christ to view and to approach academic pursuits? How are Christian scholars to understand the place and meaning of the disciplines of study, teaching, research and writing and other disciplines related to a life of scholarship?  Further reflection reminded me of one of the primary “living” documents of the Church, The Heidelberg Catechism (1563), and to a particular statement in that document:  “ . . . all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.”. Read more

03 Jan 2013 Dr. MaraCrabtree

Seasons: The Church Year and the Academic Year

No Comments Foundation of Excellence

Regent University -Mule Deer in SnowThe academic year, in the context of a university centered in Christ, has commonalities with the seasons of the historical Christian Church year. Both years include times of celebration, times of reflection, of examination of conscience, and of spiritual renewal occurring throughout the ebb and flow of ongoing service required during each season. In Christian tradition, the Church year begins on the Sunday nearest the Feast of the Apostle Andrew, November 30, with the season known as “the little fast of Advent.” These four weeks are consecrated to the practice of prayerful reflection on the ways Jesus has and will come to us: to all of humankind through the Incarnation; into our lives personally through the grace of salvation; and ultimately, by His coming in glory as reigning King. Read more

26 Nov 2012 Dr. MaraCrabtree

A Choice to Drift- or to Remember

No Comments Pillars of Knowledge

Regent University - LibraryThe phrase “institutional drift” refers to the process in which “an institution or program with one mission or curricular purpose gradually and unconsciously drifts away to some other purpose or purposes.”[1] One form of drift concerns changes over time, in particular, to customs or traditions that are part of the institution’s visional and missional “DNA.” The history of Christian higher education in the United States confirms that these changes “tend to be both incremental and gradual. Hence the fact of institutional drift is often obscured by its slow pace and is most frequently brought to notice by members of an older generation.”[2] Studies indicate that faithful, consistent commitment to the inspired vision and mission of an institution’s founder rarely prevails over time.

As years, decades and generations pass, the history of the institution fades from the individual and collective memories of succeeding generations. Eventually, no context is provided, no planned events call the present community to remembrance, to thankfulness and celebration for what God has done in the institution’s founding days and succeeding years. The institution’s founding identity becomes vague; the community drifts, unmoored by the anchor of remembered history. The discipline of remembering, essential in perpetuating each new generation’s commitment to vision and mission, is not practiced, therefore the institution struggles to retain, to renew and to strengthen its purpose and calling.

In the course Spiritual Formation Foundations, I share the history of Regent University with beginning seminarians, to help them understand the meaning and power of Regent’s vision and mission and the privilege of belonging to the community. It is important to their own future success to form a strong bond to Regent’s vision and mission, in order to advance ­those overarching meanings and values forward into their own lives and ministries. As they learn the details of that history, seminarians begin to appreciate the miracle of the founding, nascency and continuing development and progress of Regent University.

One of the resources used in sharing the history of Regent University is an interview with Dr. Pat Robertson, Founder and Chancellor, printed in the October, 1997 edition of The Regent Times, and conducted by Editor Jane K. Eshagpoor. Dr. Robertson traces the history of his vision to develop a university for the purpose of “Christian Leadership to Change the World.”

We have always had a world vision at Regent, that we would bring in students from all over the world to study here, and that we would reach out from the university to each of the nations in the world. But while my wife and I were praying about starting Regent University, the Lord gave the Scripture, ‘That which you have received of me, entrust in faithful men to teach others.’ So we were to be a repository of the gifts and the power of God to move in people’s lives.

God is absolutely trustworthy . . . He has a huge heart and He has a huge vision and His heart is for this world. He is concerned about every aspect of this world. We are not a little island, as Christians, in some kind of a sanctimonious enclave. We are world changers. I want the students who come out of here to have the same burden and vision for this nation and the world as I do. I don’t want them to be separated from the world. I want them to be separated from worldliness, but to be instruments of God to change the world. The greatest satisfaction to me would be if that happens. [3]

Authentic, inspired vision and mission, expressed in words and carried forward by faithful actions, have power, through God, to change lives and to change the world. Institutional drift in Christian higher education is not a given. For those who continue to practice the discipline of remembering, with thankfulness to God and through active engagement in continuing commitment to vision and mission, there will be no drift but drive—a faithful, empowered drive toward God’s desired future for Regent University.

[1] Lionel F. Gardiner: “Designing a College Curriculum” for The National Academy for Academic Leadership.  (accessed Oct. 1, 2012).

[2] William H. Redmond, “Processes of Gradual Institutional Drift” in The Journal of Economic Issues, vol. XXXIX, no. 2. (June 2005): 501.

[3] Jane K. Eshagpoor, ed., “Regent—a Catalyst for Change: A candid interview with Regent Chancellor Pat Robertson” in The Regent Times, October 1997, 1, 14-15.

18 Oct 2012 Dr. MaraCrabtree

Ora et Labora in Academic Life

No Comments Building Christian Leaders, Foundation of Excellence

Regent University- study“Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35 -37 NKJV). The Gospel writers share, in numerous passages, the beauty, reality and power of Jesus’ prayer life. The intimacy of the Son’s relationship with His Father; the humility of Jesus’ obedience to the will of the Father and His commitment to those daily disciplines of both prayer and ministry, are evident throughout the unfolding life of Jesus as revealed in the Gospels. Jesus’ pattern of balanced engagement in both ora et labora; the discipline of prayer and the holy work of ministry, point to a lived theology of life practiced by individuals and communities throughout the history of the Christian faith. Although use of the Latin phrase ora et labora in connection with monastic life is credited to Benedict of Nursia, and evident in the rule of life for certain religious orders, particularly the Benedictines and Cistercians, the concept of ora et labora—prayer and work—takes its most authentic and profound example from Jesus’ daily life.

Rather than opposite concepts, prayer and work together are both dialogical and doxological. They are dialogical because the practice of prayer informs one’s practice of ministry, and the actions of ministry inform one’s life of prayer. Prayer and work are doxological because together they form a life of contemplation and action in which the believer continually gives glory to God in prayer and through ministry. The Gospels witness Jesus’ sublime balance in seeking His Father’s will in prayer and then faithfully expressing that will during the daily events of His life: the ministries of teaching, preaching, healing and deliverance.

“And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on a mountain by Himself to pray. And when evening had come, He was alone there” (Matthew 12: 23 NKJV). Matthew’s brief description of a particular time of prayer emphasizes the rhythm of prayer and work in Jesus’ days on earth: prayer in preparing for the day’s work of ministry and the completion of the day’s ministry calling Jesus back to intimate, solitary fellowship with His Father, in preparation for His engagement in the next day of holy work. Not only did Jesus begin the quiet hours before daylight in prayer, His life of prayer and work is ultimately expressed in Jesus’ intimate conversation with His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane and continued during the dark hours of His Crucifixion, when His prayers on the Cross merged with His ultimate work of ministry. The now finished work of the Cross bears witness to both the perfection and efficacy of Jesus’ contemplative life and active ministry.

In the academic life of a Christian university, the call to ora et labora is essential to authentically live the faith those members of the community have first learned from Jesus.  Daily engagement in prayer prepares one for commitment to the rigorous work of academic study, research, teaching and writing. One’s openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit; to the solitude, silence, and waiting required in the discipline of prayer, guides the planning of one’s day, prepares one for the challenges of intensive academic study, infuses one’s spirit with a love for learning and encourages an attitude of humility in interactions with others. Consistent, daily commitment to contemplation brings balance to the life of academia. One begins to understand that academic pursuits are not meant merely to further one’s preparation for and expression of vocation, but to encourage one’s practice of a lived theology, according to the truth that in all of academic life one’s primary call is to glorify God.

Thomas Hooker, the Cambridge-educated, colonial-era Puritan who founded the colony of Connecticut, is one who clearly understood the vital and necessary connection between prayer and work: “Prayer is my chief work, and it is by means of it that I carry on the rest.” It is in disciplined “chief work” of faithful prayer, guided by the Holy Spirit and practiced individually and corporately as a community of faith and learning, that we “carry on the rest”: the holy work of Regent’s vision, mission and values, to the glory of God.

24 Aug 2012 Dr. MaraCrabtree

The Dangers of Theological Education

No Comments Building Christian Leaders

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851-1921) served as distinguished professor of theology at Princeton Seminary where he taught from 1887 until his death. He addressed Regent Universityseminarians and faculty on October 4, 1911, concerning “The Religious Life of Theological Students”.

Professor Warfield recognized the temptation to dichotomize one’s intellectual life from one’s spiritual life. Disagreeing with those who viewed the life of learning and the life of devotion as mutually antagonistic, the theologian exhorted students to integrate the life of faith with the discipline of learning: “Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books.” He asserted that the appropriate response was to spend “ten hours over your books, on your knees. [1]

Emphatic in Warfield’s address were urgent warnings to future ministry leaders describing the spiritual dangers inherent in a life of theological study. He first cautions seminarians to recognize that spiritual danger “lies precisely in [your] constant contact with divine things.” [2]

Think of what your privilege is when your greatest danger is that the great things of religion may become common to you!  The very atmosphere of your life is these things; you breathe them in at every pore; they surround you, encompass you, press in upon you from every side.  It is all in danger of becoming common to you! The words which tell you of God’s terrible majesty or of his glorious goodness may come to be mere words to you—Hebrew and Greek words, with etymologies, and inflections and connections in sentences. [3]

Secondly, Warfield sternly cautions that the daily intellectual study and assigned tasks of seminarians are spiritual disciplines not to be practiced with a cold sense of duty, but with joyful engagement and thankfulness to God for the privilege to study “holy things.” [4]

Are you, by this constant contact with divine things, growing in holiness, becoming every day more and more [people] of God?  If not, you are hardening!  And I am here today to warn you to take seriously your theological study, not merely as a duty, done for God’s sake and therefore made divine, but as a religious exercise, itself charged with religious blessing to you; as fitted by its very nature to fill all your mind and heart and soul and life with divine thoughts and feelings and aspirations and achievements. You will never prosper in your religious life in the seminary until your work in the seminary becomes itself to you a religious exercise out of which you draw every day enlargement of heart, elevation of spirit, and adoring delight in your Maker and your Savior. [5]

Knowledge without humility results in pride which, if without repentance, dissipates into spiritual vapidity. Seminarians are called to the daily practice of thankfulness to God for gifts of faith, learning and participation in an academic community where worship and scholarship thrive. Ultimately, theological education forms and prepares the seminarian for vocation and mission. How, then, does one avoid the temptations, the dangers of theological education? Warfield instructed his academic community:

. . . make all your theological studies “religious exercises.”  This is the great rule for a rich and wholesome religious life in a theological student.  Put your heart into your studies; do not merely occupy your mind with them, but put your heart into them.  They bring you daily and hourly into the very presence of God; his ways, his dealing with [humankind], the infinite majesty of his Being form their very subject matter.  Put the shoes from off your feet in this holy presence. [6]

Over a century has passed since Professor Warfield’s address challenged Princeton seminarians to a life of spiritual integrity, yet the veracity of his devout warnings and instructions remains a clarion message to 21st century theological students:

Keep always before your mind the greatness of your calling . . . the immensity of the task before you, the infinitude of the resources at your disposal. If we face the tremendous difficulty of the work before us, it will certainly throw us back upon our knees; and if we worthily gauge the power of the gospel committed to us, that will certainly keep us on our knees. [7]

[1] Warfield, Benjamin B.  The Religious Life of Theological Students. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co., 1911), 1.
[2] Ibid., 6.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid., 7.
[6] Ibid., 6.
[7] Ibid., 12.