This post will be of more interest to people associated with Bob Jones University than to others.
Last week was the annual Bible Conference at Bob Jones University. It occurred to me that it was my 50th Bible Conference, and that milestone led to some reminiscing.
There are cherished memories that I will never experience again—
- Standing under the low sidewalk cover in front of Rodeheaver Auditorium for an hour before each service—that was the only way to get a seat—and singing hymns and gospel songs with no leader, just ad hoc. Those were some of the most genuinely spiritual times I’ve had with other believers.
- After the Amphitorium was constructed, Dr. Gustafson leading a packed house of 7,000 voices in singing “Master, the Tempest Is Raging” and “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.” The spirit was palpable.
- Ian Paisley. He was unlike me in almost every way; he was an Ulsterman, a Presbyterian, and big, and he had a love for finding chiasms in biblical lists where I just didn’t see them. His sermons were long, mostly because his massive voice moved so slowly. But boy, could he move his hearers. He would open the invitation, and people would flow down the aisles with no hectoring or manipulation. I suspect that his standard pre-sermon prayer for the power of the Spirit had a lot to do with that.
- Dr. Bob Jr. talking about the toothpaste tube before the offering.
- Specific sermons that I remember decades later. J. B. Williams. Charles Smith. And more.
- All that time for socializing. Students called it “drop/add week” because of all the relationships that began—or ended—because of the extra time spent together. Some realized (fortunately!) that they just weren’t that compatible.
As years go by, things change. That’s a universal principle. But another principle is Providence, by which God’s hand continues to direct in our affairs, for our good and his glory.
- Old preachers die, and new ones come along. This year’s slate of preachers, both in-house and invited, was outstanding. Mike Redick’s closing sermon (starts at 44:10), energized by the Spirit, brought students down the aisles as certainly as any of Paisley’s.
- Old songs welcome newer ones, and the repertoire is expanded and enriched. Dan Forrest’s setting of “Amazing Love,” sung by the school’s combined choirs in the final service (starts at 12:15), I found particularly edifying.
- There are fewer services per day now; 50 years ago there were 6 per day, and now it’s down to 3—which allows time for meditation, lingering over meals, fellowship, and rest. I think this is better stewardship.
- There are 3 days now instead of 5. I miss the full week, but there were good reasons for making the change. (See under “Providence” above.)
As I reflected on the Conference, it struck me that this one was more refreshing—yeah, that’s the word—than any other I remember. Drinking from a firehose is profitable and invigorating, but no one would describe it as “refreshing.” This one left me spiritually stronger, more joyous, more at peace, than before it started. It heightened my appreciation of God’s grace and my sense of his presence—an answer to a specific prayer from a week ago.
May God give us more such times until He comes.