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March 3, 2014 | 13 Comments
“My praises will never run out in giving thanks to God for bringing me to Campbell because we need theologians who will not just sit in offices and think about principles and doctrines,” says Jackson Adamah, a first-year Master of Divinity student from Ghana.“We need theologians who will make a difference in the life of the church in a changing world.”
Jackson Adamah came to Campbell University last fall as a first-year Master of Divinity student “in faith,” he says. The Accra, Ghana, native had never been to Buies Creek, or to North Carolina, or to the United States. He had never even been on an airplane. But in 2012, as he was working on a Master of Business Administration degree in Ghana, he responded to God’s call to become a seminary professor and to “pastor pastors,” says Adamah, who grew up in the Baptist tradition. His pastor Dr. Charles Yeboah, suggested he look at Baptist-affiliated seminaries and divinity schools in the U.S.
Adamah found an online listing of such institutions, which led him to watch a promotional video uploaded on YouTube about the Campbell Divinity School. The video mentioned that the Divinity School’s mission is “to provide a Christ-centered, Bible-based, and ministry-focused theological education.”
That mission statement grabbed his attention, and he immediately called the Divinity School’s admissions director, Kelly Jorgenson, to ask questions about the school. “How she received me on the phone made me feel that whatever was in the video was not a cliché or just marketing,” Adamah says. “It was real.”
He applied to the Campbell Divinity School in May 2013 and learned on Aug. 2, 2013, that it had accepted him. A few weeks later, he took his first steps on an airplane and arrived in Buies Creek as a Master of Divinity student. “I don’t know anyone here,” he says. “But I don’t want to say I was coming into the unknown, because there was God whom I was entrusting myself to. I came in faith.”
Adamah, who plans to return to Ghana after finishing his Master of Divinity degree at Campbell and a Ph.D. in theology or biblical studies, spoke to Campbell.edu about his background, his call, and his vision for the church. The following is an edited transcript.
What led you to a divinity school?
My journey began with a call to ministry that came in November 2012. I was working on my MBA when God said: “It’s now time for you to respond to the call.” I wrestled with it for a while because of the timing of the call. I knew that God had a place for me in full-time ministry, but I wanted to do that at a later point in my life after a career in business. But God asked me this question, “Are you going to give me the crumbs of your life? Don’t I deserve more?” I finally said yes to the call and because of the burden I have always had in me to be a minister in a seminary I decided to pursue God’s calling as a seminary professor and as a pastor of pastors.
Why a seminary professor?
Right now the church is at a crossroads and winds of change are blowing across the church. In some ways, the church has lost its identity as a mouthpiece and as a testimony of God in the world. The church can only be relevant in this world by staying true to Christ. I believe the seminaries have a crucial role to play if things are to change in our generation and if Christianity is to undergo a revival. Every congregation is a reflection of its pastors or its leaders, and seminaries can play a big role in shaping future pastors to stay true to Christ and not bow to the pressure of living and preaching a watered down gospel to win the world to the church. I hope that my future students will leave my classroom inspired, transformed, and go effect change in their local assemblies and congregations.
What have you seen with churches today -- both in Ghana and in the U.S. -- that you think needs to change?
I have seen the prosperity gospel gaining roots in Africa because of the economic challenges we are facing. You hear messages about how the gospel says when a person is poor, Jesus Christ can give you riches. The damage this causes is that it takes the eyes off the centrality of Christ in the gospel message. Jesus is not the means to the end of prosperity. He is precious and must be sought for his intrinsic worth and not what he can necessarily give. Don’t get me wrong; God wants to provide for the needs of his children. However, we need to understand that God is much concerned about our holiness (Christ-likeness) than our happiness. If we find a bridge between our personal need to be Christ-like and our happiness we will be content in whatever situation we find ourselves in. Therefore our understanding of Christ and message has to change. We have a lot to learn from the early church.
The early church had a passion for the risen Jesus and for the searching of who God is and not what He will provide for us. The goal of the early church was not prosperity or even going to heaven. Peter or Paul didn’t preach to people to accept Christ so he can give them wealth. We didn’t even see them preaching that people should embrace Christ so he can take them to heaven when they die. Christ was the goal. They were content and filled joy even in persecution just by the knowledge that they were counted worthy to be his disciples. Christ was their attraction. Therefore whether living in abundance or scarcity they were content that every situation can be used by the Father to produce Christ-like character in them which was their ultimate happiness. God blessed those in the early church, but the material and spiritual blessings they received didn’t take their eyes off God because they had been discipled to see him as their ultimate goal. This mindset made them share their blessings so that none of them were in need and none were poor. Sharing their blessings was a sign of giving gratitude to God and also an expression of their participation in the life of Christ, the source of all blessings. My message to my continent and to the U.S.: Though we are living in hard and trying times, let us remain true to Christ. Let us seek God not for deliverance which He can provide but let us seek Him because He is precious in Himself as a person. In so doing we will not water down the gospel and its claims of lifelong discipleship. The church will rediscover her beauty and glory when she does that.
When did this -- seeking God for God himself -- become true for you?
Somewhere in my third year in college I had what I called a second awakening. I was a Christian, but in my personal studies of the Bible, I discovered that in the teaching of salvation the church, including me, had missed the real purpose of salvation. We are preaching salvation as if it’s all about going to Heaven. But salvation is not to just to have your name written in the Book of Life or to have your Hell insurance policy. It is about getting to know God. During my studies I was faced with this question: If God and Satan were to switch places and God goes to Hell and Satan to Heaven, which place would you like to be? And the answer to that is that I would like to be where God is. So ultimately eternal life is about the very relationship that a man can have with God through Christ Jesus; our going to Heaven is an offshoot of a lifelong walk with God. The beauty of Heaven is that we will spend millions of years getting to know the One whose throne is set at the center. My goal is God Himself -- not peace, not joy, not blessings -- but God Himself.
How do you maintain your own intentional pursuit for God?
I don’t want to take credit for it, but I think passion is born out of intimacy with God and fueled by closeness to Him. Really, it all flows back to Him. I’ll use the Apostle Paul as an example. He said in the Book of Acts that when he was on the road to Damascus, God gave him a vision and from the day on he was obedient to the heavenly vision. God birthed a vision in Paul, and Paul became engulfed by that vision. You couldn’t separate Paul from the vision. I will say that is the work of God, and God does it countless times with people. If we allow it, God will weave His vision into us. It’s like what the prophet Jeremiah said: “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” That’s what the Lord does: He weaves his message into His messengers when they draw near to him.
Why is Campbell Divinity School the right place for you to receive the training that you’ll take back to Ghana?
You have seminaries and divinity schools that are sending out so-called men of God with a pseudo-Christian gospel which includes the prosperity message. But here, at Campbell, you have people who are daring to be different during a time when the church is trying to stay relevant in these hard economic times by watering down the Gospel. Campbell seeks to be relevant in the world but that is not its ultimate goal. I’ve found that Campbell judges its successes and failures by its mission statement which is Christ-centered, Bible-based, and ministry-focused education. Campbell cares so much about this mission statement. It is more than a cliché, and I tell you that this is the only God-ordained path to positive relevance in the world.
What does that mission statement mean to you?
The Bible-based focus is an offshoot of the Christ-centered emphasis. If I were to sum up the whole of the Bible, it is a portrait of Christ. When a person deviates from a lifelong purpose of pursuing the glory of Christ, what happens is that -- because Christ is the core of the Bible message – he or she has to twist the scripture to be about something other than Christ. In effect, a defective vision of who Christ is and his purpose can lead us to have a defective view of scriptures. They are mutually exclusive. Our understanding of Christ and his purpose provides the fuel for us to understand the biblical message. I want to be an empowered seminary professor who will challenge my students to have a correct and greater vision of Christ and his mission here on earth. This will hopefully lead them to faithfully interpret the scriptures and serve as faithful servants of Christ in the church and the world. I have been called to call the church back to the message of discipleship. To have a divinity school out there that emphasizes discipleship has been a big blessing.
What about the ministry-focused component?
I must confess when I entered Campbell I appreciated the Christ-centered and Bible-based parts more so than the ministry-focused. It wasn’t until I came here that I discovered that Campbell really is unique with this focus to be ministry-focused. Most other seminaries and divinity schools play theological football with the Bible and doctrines, and they are more academic-centered. Campbell does rigorous academic exercises, too, but it also asks the more important question: So what? Campbell thinks about the application of the things we are learning and applies it to the real world. They ask: What will this mean to the congregation and to someone who is out there in a mission field? My praises will never run out in giving thanks to God for bringing me to Campbell because we need theologians who will not just sit in offices and think about principles and doctrines. We need theologians who will make a difference in the life of the church in a changing world. Even though the world is changing, God’s truth remains the same.
How have you seen that on display at Campbell?
My arrival at Campbell coincided with the Labor Day weekend. The shops weren’t open, and I couldn’t get in touch with my family because I didn’t have a SIM card for my phone. When the bookstore opened after the holidays, I went there thinking it would have a SIM card I could buy. They said they didn’t sell them. When I walked out of the bookstore, a person ran behind me and introduced himself. He said, “I’m Hussein, and I’m from Saudi Arabia. I’m willing to drive you to a place so you can get what you need.” We went to a store in Fuquay-Varina, and he helped me get what I needed. On the way back, I got to know he was a Muslim. That spoke volumes to me about this place. This place is a family. We are made up of different religious background, but our common denominator is that we are at Campbell and we reach out and look out for each other.
Also, for the Campbell Divinity School, I will say that all courses are designed around the mission statement of being Christ-Centered, bible-based and ministry- focused. Students step into classes and leave making this their personal mission statement in life and ministry. Our professors do their very best to model this mission statement before our eyes.
Interview conducted by and edited by Cherry Crayton, Digital Content Coordinator
Photos by Bennett Scarborough