On Tuesday our Barnabas group (Bible study & accountability) began a series of meetings with professors from the seminary to try to gain some insight and wisdom from older, more mature Christian men. Our first meeting was with Dr. Joe Dongell, Professor of Biblical Studies.
Dr. Dongell began by giving us his testimony. He grew up in the poorer industrial part of Philadelphia where his dad pastored a Wesleyan church. He became convicted one day after he heard his dad preach and decided to accept Christ as savior. He told his parents this and they prayed with him and then called friends from the church who had been praying that he would come to Christ. Dr. Dongell said that this was an important moment for him, when he realized that many in the church had been praying for his salvation. Dr. Dongell described his parents as people who knew God, who loved him, who loved others and who were humble. He was required to spend a certain amount of time each morning reading the Bible. He said that he never rebelled against his upbringing and this was because of the love for God and others he saw in his parents.
One question which came up had to do with evangelism. Dr. Dongell used the metaphor of wiring a house to describe his view. He said that rationalistic arguments and the reasonableness of the Christian faith serve as wiring for the house but that the wiring must be hooked to the "power grid" which is the Holy Spirit. This comes by bathing the relationship in prayer and inviting the Spirit of God to be present where evangelism is occuring.
On the question of the discipline of scripture reading, Dr. Dongell said that he likes to read and re-read books as wholes. He said the the margins in his Bible are filled with cross-references he has made. He said that he tries to go with a "last word, first word" principle in his life where the word of God is the last thing in his mind at night and the first thing in the moring.
On prayer Dr. Dongell said that his life has embraced two pathways, one of "instant prayer" and the other he called "mega prayer." The instant prayer is a high frequency of prayers throughout his day. His van doesn't have a radio so he prays while driving. He said he also sometimes prays a kind of "laughing prayer." The "mega prayer" is the prayer of confession, praise, petitions and spiritual petitions which he regularly makes for himself and others. He said that instead of trying to put this prayer into new words each time he prays it, he wrote out a fifteen page prayer with many scriptural references, he read it into and MP3 and put it on a CD. He will lay in his prayer nook, play the CD and agree with what he is praying. He said that he is surprised at times by what he hears on the CD. Dr. Dongell said that when he prays he always prays out-loud, never silently.
We were deeply blessed by Dr. Dongell's visit and we all sensed that Christ's presence is powerful and contagious in his life.