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

The Unbearable Weight of a Massive National Treasure

Written by: on September 1, 2023

I have friends that have been known to laugh and mock me for reading “touristy” guide books, such as ones by Rick Steves, Lonely Planet, and, a PNW regional favorite travel guide:  the late Gerry Frank (whom I personally met at my local grocery store!).

The primary reason for their jeering:  The Internet. 

And they have a point. The internet is, well, far more superior in terms of up-to-date content. By the time a book is written, edited, published and released, it is more than likely out of date. But, I am an old soul. I want to hold the book, flip its pages, and underline its yet-to-be-discovered gems. Such was the case with Paul Sullivan’s “The Secret History of Oxford.” One could simply, and unquestionably Google “Oxford” in order to find a wealth of responses (about 53,100,000 results) in a very short amount of time (about 0.60 seconds).

I know. I just Googled it.

But nothing beats an actual book. Having read Sullivan’s Secrets about Oxford, I can also confidently say: nothing beats an actual visit TO Oxford. The book made me want to walk the streets, gaze at its structures, sit in its schools (38 private colleges, 44 colleges in total). It got me very excited to experience it in person. Not YouTube it. Not Google Earth it. Not virtually…but actually and personally. September cannot come soon enough.

From Sullivan, I underlined the following secrets that I want to keep an eye open for, and delve into deeper before, during and after my time in Oxford:

• Research John Wycliffe and William Tyndall, famous Bible translators.

• Read up on John Wesley and Albert Einstein who were alumni of Christ Church College.

• Watch the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy again (it’s a family favorite)…thank you J.R.R. Tolkien.

• Watch the 1962 drama “Lawrence of Arabia” starring Peter O’Toole, because T.E. Lawrence ‘of Arabia’ attended Jesus College, Turl Street.

• Eat a bowl of Corn Flakes in front of Kellogg College.

• Read a page from the King James Bible (1611) – translated into English at Lincoln College. Honestly, it’s been about 35 years since I have read the King James Version.

• C.S. Lewis was an alumni of Magdalen College (along with actor Dudley Moore and writer Oscar Wilde), and graduate of University College (along with President Bill Clinton). I have decided that I will be listening to the audio version of The Chronicles of Narnia on my flights to and from London.

• Visit Pembroke College, specifically the Sir Geoffrey Arthur Building, which was overseen by Sir Roger Bannister, the Master of the College in 1985.  For many years now, I have been telling the story of how he was the first man to run 1 mile under 1 minute. It’s a great illustration!

• Wycliffe Hall is of particular interest, in that, it gave us J.I Packer and N.T. Wright.

• And finally, without question, I will be enjoying a brew at The Eagle and Child on St. Giles, the famous watering hole for The Inklings:  J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.  UPDATE:  I now know this pub is not currently operational. Hopefully, it will be open by the time we arrive. This will happen, by prayer and fasting.


It’s incredible to think that one city and one collective of colleges could contain so much rich history. What an unbearable weight of a massive national treasure! I just went Nicolas Cage on all of you, in case you didn’t catch it.

Nick Cage has a storied reputation of showing up everywhere. He is the consummate leading man, as well as a sneaky cameo actor. Go ahead, Google his movies…it’s a massively extensive list. From 1982, with “Fast Times at Ridgemont Times” to the tear jerker “The Family Man.” From my personal favorite “Con Air,” to the fan favorite “National Treasure,” no one does it like Nick Cage. And like the illustrious Nick Cage, Oxford, with its landmarks, streets, colleges, and deep history, has a way of “showing up everywhere.” It has shaped not only European culture, but American culture as well. Many of our great authors have come out of Oxford (J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, J.I. Packer, and N.T. Wright).

As evidenced by the aforementioned authors, I really do need to start using my initials as my official name. From now on I want to be called J.E. Fehlen, thank you kindly.

The Scriptures and its interpretations have been shaped at the Oxford colleges. From the King James Bible being translated into English, to the deep study done by Bible translators such as John Wycliffe and William Tyndale. We owe a great debt to these individuals for the Scriptures we hold in our hands and hearts today.

Culture, literature and art have been shaped in and around the Oxford streets and colleges. I am an avid reader of Simon Winchesters historical works, who was an alumni of St. Catherine’s College. And, though I am not a fan of Harry Potter (having grown up in Christian legalism!), we cannot forget that Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame comes to us from Worcester College.

As long as we’re talking about movies, let’s circle back to Nick Cage: nothing, absolutely nothing, touches a candle to his masterful work in the movie rendition of the Christian series “Left Behind.”

Just kidding. The movie was a stinker. The book was way better. You can’t win them all, Nick Cage.

About the Author


John Fehlen

John Fehlen is currently the Lead Pastor of West Salem Foursquare Church. Prior to that he served at churches in Washington and California. A graduate of Life Pacific University in San Dimas, CA in Pastoral Ministry, and Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, CA with a Masters in Leadership and Spirituality. He and his wife Denise have four grown children and four grandchildren. John is the author of “Intentional Impressions," a book for fathers and their sons, "Don't Give Up: Encouragement for Weary Souls in Challenging Times," a book for pastoral leaders, and "The Way I See You," a children's book. You can connect with John on Instagram (@johnfehlen) as well as on his blog (johnfehlen.com).

9 responses to “The Unbearable Weight of a Massive National Treasure”

  1. mm Russell Chun says:

    Hi John,
    I am trying something new this semester. I am listening to the books on a newly purchased kindle. On my drive to Denver, I missed my exit twice. I now know to listen during the straight aways, and turn it off when I get close to town.

    As I listened to the chapters role by, I was impressed with the secrets, the oddities and few names of authors that I knew.

    While writing my post, started using ChatGPT to find me the dictators, and the criminals that attended Oxford (see my post). The AI provided this caution: It is important to note that attending a prestigious university does not necessarily indicate or determine a person’s future political path. Many individuals attend universities for a variety of reasons, and their eventual actions in leadership roles can be influenced by complex historical, social, and political factors.

    That is good to know.

    I pray that will be impacted in a GOOD way, by the sights and sounds. I am looking forward to making new “beer peers.” While I am there.


  2. Travis Vaughn says:

    John, I’m guessing Paul Sullivan was also not a fan of Harry Potter, as I noticed the name came up only once in his book — his reference to Ms. Watson in the section on Worcester College. When I took my family to Oxford when our twins were in high school (we spent a week in London), the only frame of reference for the school made by one of our twins was indeed the connections to Mr. Potter. Had he narrated the history of Oxford, I’m guessing our son (not his twin sister) would have dropped Harry’s or J.K. Rowling’s name much more than Mr. Sullivan saw fit to do.

    And how you managed to pull off the Nicholas Cage plot twist to your blog post about Oxford…is exactly why I’m grateful that God seems pleased to have placed you in this cohort. I didn’t laugh out loud, but I did smile as I read your post. Though, I have no idea how you failed to reference Cage classics like Face-Off and Raising Arizona.

    • mm John Fehlen says:

      I’m perhaps one of only a few people on the planet that has not seen nor read any Harry Potter. I love a good story so it’s odd that I haven’t. Perhaps it could be chalked up to my fundamental upbringing in which The Smurfs, and He-Man were off limits, as was, Amy Grant’s Unguarded album because he was wearing a leopard-skin jacket and “looking sexy.”

      Oh well.

      As far as Nick Cage…I stand repentant for not mentioning Face-Off. As far as Raising Arizona…not apology there.

      Looking forward to connecting in Oxford Travis. As you mentioned in your post, it’ll be a great time to engaging deeper about our NPO’s – there is much to dig into!

  3. Adam Harris says:

    I am with you 100%. I like a book I can hold in my hands, flip through, write in, and even dog ear, despite what my middle school librarian said. Also, there is nothing like being in a place and sitting in the same spaces that some of the “greats” sat in. Looking forward to being immersed in its rich history with everyone. Hoping the pub opens up as well! See you there “J. E. Fehlen”!

  4. Cathy Glei says:

    Me too, John. I love holding the book, hearing the first “crack” of the book, underlining and highlighting, and even the texture of the paper. I am looking forward to walking the streets and imagining the historical context. My oldest daughter considered coming along with me, but only to experience the Harry Potter scene (and time with her mom, of course 🙂). Looking forward to seeing everyone!

  5. mm Tim Clark says:

    Can’t wait to experience Oxford with you, buddy. And though Nick Cage probably won’t be there, the weight of history will inspire us!!!

  6. mm Jana Dluehosh says:


    I am an awe of how you tied Nicholas Cage of all people to Oxford! You are full of surprises and twists…including not having read Harry Potter. Funnily enough I have one of those movies going on in the background while working. (I have to have noise to work, weird huh). Anyway, I love the kind of research, persistent research you do on your travels. My husband and I are reading Rick Steves book on Iceland and he and I are spending 4 days there on my way to Oxford. We ran into your illustration where I did my research online and he was going off a book recommendation. It was recommended to go to a geothermal pool in his book, (aka…swimming pool). Now while this is cool due to natural heat source, I want a Lagoon experience and found a nice one (not as touristy as the Blue Lagoon) and he doubted it because it wasn’t listed in his book. Come to realize the Lagoon is newly open and the book is older:). Perhaps it’s a combo of both the cracked book and internet? I look forward to what your research will bring our peer group. You and Tim certainly enhanced our Cape Town experience due to the research you did! I’ll follow you anywhere in Oxford and know I’ll be better for it…


    Your (stalker?) fan!

  7. “National Treasure” Now that’s a good phrase for Oxford. John, as I walk around Oxford, I’ll keep in mind I’m walking on a “National Treasure” Thanks man. Looking forward to seeing ya again!

  8. Kally Elliott says:

    I too am glad we had to read a book on Oxford. While I didn’t use a hard copy and couldn’t flip pages, I definitely learned more about Oxford’s history than I would have if I had simply googled information about Oxford, mainly because I probably would have just stuck to subjects that interest me. Instead, I read about things I didn’t know would interest me!

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