Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

An Evangelical Mind, Is A Terrible Thing To Waste!

Written by: on January 24, 2020

John Fea describes Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind as continuing to serve as a guiding light, an intellectual road map, and a source of inspiration decades later for many of Noll’s readers. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind convinced Fea that the life of the mind was a legitimate calling despite his childhood Catholic upbringing and the conservative pietistic pastors and spiritual mentors of his adolescence. Ultimately, Noll’s siren’s song compelled Fea to become a professor of American history and chair of the History Department at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Within his context, Fea teaches and mentors students in the necessity of Christian thinking about the world,  striving to contribute to overcoming the “scandal.”[1]

Randall Stephens describes Noll’s return to the subject (more than fifteen years after his former influential book published in 1994) with Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind. Noll focuses in on the biblical, Christological, and creedal foundations for intellectual engagement. In his final chapter, Noll sums up some of the intellectual gains made since he published The Scandal. He points to hopeful signs in evangelical higher education; the prominence of philanthropic organizations that aid the work of Christian academics; and the serious academic volumes that roll off the presses of Eerdmans, Baker, and InterVarsity Press. Finally, he concludes with a list of goals he thinks will further the life of the mind in evangelical circles.[2]

Dr. Kyle Chalko, DMin, was a member of the LGP8 cohort, and his dissertation research focused on the role of seminary-level education within Pentecostal movements. With a common AG background, I was most interested in his take on Noll’s book(s). Kyle, in general, viewed Pentecostal movements as traditionally lagging behind the evangelical world in producing theological leaders along with strong foundations of thought. Therefore, Noll’s The Scandal Of The Evangelical Mind provoked much tension for Chalko in that it validated his perceptions about the AG but also highlighted the other side of the pendulum, and that is an overvaluation of academic studies.[3]

My first interaction with Noll was his Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity. This volume was the source for an online non-accredited church history course I was taking as part of the Vineyard Leadership Insitute. Noll has always been very helpful to me as he is extremely accessible while also stretching me beyond information into formation. This fulcrum of tension coalesces for me around his question of, “ the distinction between evangelical thinking and Christian thinking done by evangelicals – that is, between thought guided by the distinctives of evangelicalism itself and thought inspired by other Christian traditions that take root among evangelicals.”[4] That is, am I am willing to overcome the hindrances of my evangelical heritage to learn from and incorporate ways to think and process thinking from others outside of my evangelical family tree?

The cultural context of my evangelical family tree was in the rural small towns of southwest Louisiana. Whether Pentecostal, Southern Baptist, or Church of Christ, the consistent message was,” we (alone) are right (or more right) than others and you do not need more education to understand, you only need more faith to accept/engage with (our) Bible (that is, our perspective)!” Therefore, arguments were just that, arguments, to commandeer proselytes into a certain perspectives or streams of understanding. Even in a major city like Houston, where I gave my life to Jesus and experienced the empowering or baptism of the Holy Spirit in an Assemblies of God church, the clarion call was “these things can only be understood by the Spirit, not man’s wisdom.” While respecting and honoring my family tree, frankly, I was often embarrassed at our lack of learning and development. In pursuing a call to ministry, I read everything I could find to gain understanding and development as an aspiring Christian leader, that is, the development of the “spiritual” man but not necessarily the mind.

One of the attractions of the Vineyard movement was a saner (i.e., naturally supernatural) approach to Holy Spirit engagement along with an admonition to develop the mind and learning. The Mark Noll interaction mentioned above with church history was part of an intensive two year Vineyard Leadership Insitute training curriculum. I accomplished this among a cohort of participants where we read, discussed reviewed cassette lectures (remember this was 2000-2001), completed practicum projects and intensive (or so I thought) exams. What is curious and telling about my experience is I did this while pastoring a neighboring Assemblies of God church. I was so hungry to learn and grow.

This hunger in me grew to the point that I started back to Fuller seminary in 2017 at the age of 61. Noll states that his objective for Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind “is to urge others into action. For “Christian scholarship” to mean anything, it must mean intellectual labor rooted in Christ, with both the rooting and the labor essential (emphasis mine).[5] This urging others to action personifies my stage of ministry, my life, and my calling. My son-in-law who is a great lover of theology, is now attending Fuller seminary to develop what God has planted within him. He has a graduate degree in structural engineering and is a registered civil engineer with the state of Texas. He also is a fantastic husband, father, and friend to his father-in-law. What will he do with a master of theology, only God knows. Noll is excellent because he is a stellar scholar, especially accessible to non-scholars such as I, and not only provides content but compels his readers to action. I have taken his words to heart and incorporate them within my research focus and my coaching practice. God has afforded us the amazing gifts of our minds, let us continue to apply the labor to develop them, rather than wasting these precious gifts.

[1] Fea, John. “What Is the State of the Evangelical Mind on Christian College Campuses?” Christian Scholar’s Review 47, no. 4 (2018): 341-344.

[2] Stephens, Randall J. “Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind.(Book Review).” Church History 82, no. 2 (2013): 507-508.

[3]Chalko, Kyle on February 22, 2019  https://blogs.georgefox.edu/dminlgp/cohort/lgp8/page/10/

[4] Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1994) 212.

[5] Mark Noll, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2011) 147.


About the Author

Harry Fritzenschaft

Harry is the Coordinator of Coaching for Multiply Vineyard (the church planting resource arm for Vineyard USA) and part-time pastor of business administration for the Vineyard Church of Houston. He is a certified coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and is pursuing a DMin in Leadership and Global Perspective with a focus on internal coaching networks. Harry has been married to Gloria for almost forty-two years and has two grown children; Michelle, who is married to Brandon and has two sons (Caleb and Judah), and Mark, who is engaged to Cannus. He loves making new friends (living and dead) from different perspectives, watching college football with Mark, and helping global ministry leaders (especially church planters and pastors) accomplish their goals in fulfilling their call. He especially loves learning about and nurturing internal coaching networks.

10 responses to “An Evangelical Mind, Is A Terrible Thing To Waste!”

  1. Mary Mims says:

    Great post, Harry. I am glad I was not the only one in a church which taught that their way was the only correct way to follow Christ. I thank God that He gave us a desire to learn more about Him and how to remain in Him at the same time. I can see how Noll would be helpful in your pursuit of coaching.

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      You are such a shining example of a pastor/scholar who deeply loves Jesus and the people she pastors. Thanks so much for teaching me so much.

  2. Mario Hood says:

    Great post Harry. I will also look up Dr. Kyle’s research as it will be helpful to me it seems.

    Kudos to you for following your hunger for development. I can see how in the future your coaching will deal with theological issues as much as the practical ones with pastors.

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      I love so much where you come from and are headed to. Your sharp wit and humor, your great theological mind, and your pursuit of the “harder” middle road of excellent Holy Spirit scholarship give me such excitement for the future of the churches you lead and influence. Yes, check out Dr. Kyle’s research, it may be helpful to yours.

  3. Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, Harry. Several of us seem to have a similar background. We joined Foursquare for the very reasons you describe about Vineyard. We were actually on a trajectory to leave the Petecostal/Charismatic stream completely, seeking knowledge/personal growth when we encountered Jack Hayford and Foursquare. Jack was, for us, the most balanced Pentecostal we had ever heard at the time. He leaned into the fullness of the Spirit without, as he said, “checking his brain at the door.” I am grateful that Pentecostal scholarship is no longer an oxymoron.

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      I know I would not have made it as long as I did in the AG without Jack Hayford. I attended one of his pastor conferences and was so deeply affected by his warm and generous spirit. He probably “saved” and kept me in the ministry. I owe him and your movement a great debt. Thanks so much for being in this cohort and teaching me so much.

  4. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Bro, don’t call yourself a non-scholar. You are in a DOCTORAL program! Name it. Claim it. Own it.

    Harry, you are an amazing ACADEMIC!

  5. Thank you Harry for sharing your story. As a young believer in college who was very active in doing missions across our country, I was told never to go to a seminary. At that point in time, we referred seminary as cemetery which, was very unfortunate. One of the things that I really appreciate now that I am on this journey to become a Doctor, is that this will give more leverage to do more ministry work and I am sure there are new places and opportunities that will open up, simply because of my being a doctor of ministry.
    There’s an interesting trend in my country where well educated “secular” professionals are heeding to God’s call in ministry, studying theology. I have taken note that these ministers of the Gospel are leveraging their “secular” education, experience and skills in their ministry setting and doing great exploits for the kingdom. I happen to be a CPA and a finance expert and I thank God for the knowledge and experience in the “secular” vocation which has helped us to grow our ministry organization, develop many leaders to a point where we are now growing into other countries. Our education is helping us to increase our sphere of influence and create more impact of the ministry work.

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      Like you most of my ministry career has been co-vocational. That is, my undergraduate and MBA degrees were not in ministry or theology. I view my “secular” education as one bookend at the beginning of my career, and now my MAT/DMin degrees as the other bookend. I really respect and admire what you are doing in your context. Thanks so much for teaching me and inspiring me so much.

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