As I near the end of my time at Covenant Seminary I’ve been revisiting in detail some of the assignments and classes as part of my final Capstone project. My January 2012 class was the highlight of my seminary education. Ever since reading Objects of His Affection (and his succeeding books), I had wanted to take a class with Scotty Smith. That was on my seminary “bucket list”. We had visited Christ Community Church in Franklin to hear him preach on the way back from a family vacation in 2003, and I had met Scotty when he was in town to speak at an Acts 29 Conference and speak at our church the following day in the fall of 2011 (where he projected and discussed David Arms’ painting God’s Story). But I had not had the opportunity to take on of his classes at Covenant Seminary.
So I was excited to take his Disciplines of Grace course on campus in January 2012. It was a life changing week as we read Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian, The Gospel-Centered Life by Bob Thune and Will Walker, wrote our “Genealogy of Grace” and heard Scotty powerfully tell his story.
I had been exposed to the Creation – Fall – Redemption – Consummation framework in courses prior to this one, but Scotty’s use of David Arm’s painting God’s Story really brought it to life for me. The painting was commissioned by Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee when Scotty was their lead pastor.
He also effectively used Rembrandt’s painting of “The Return of the Prodigal Son” in his lectures.
In his class notes, Scotty added a note stating “Where do you see yourself in this picture?” I had recently read excellent books on this parable by John MacArthur and Tim Keller and knew that I had more in common with the elder brother than I would have liked, so that question resonated with me. Today, I have both pictures hanging on the walls in my office at State Farm.
I returned to campus in January 2013 for another wonderful week (which I referred to as a “taste of heaven” when I wrote about it in Coram Deo in the February 2013 issue), with Scotty for his Worship in Today’s Church course.
Highlights of the class included Scotty leading us through Revelation 4-5 and 21-22, and walking us through his story. I particularly enjoyed the afternoons when he would respond to questions that the class submitted. His responses turned into open dialogue and it was a great learning experience. The perspectives on worship from such a diverse group of students were exciting. Scotty impressed on us the concept of the story, and talked about finding our place in God’s story. We read Tim Keller’s superb book Counterfeit Gods and wrote a refection paper on it.
One of the things I enjoy about Scotty is his sense of humor. When we would take a break, he would say “Take 12 minutes for each of the 12 Apostles”, or “Take 10 minutes for each of the 10 Commandments”. The class would eagerly anticipate what he would come up with for the next break. If he asked a question and all he got was silence, he would say “That’s right” (and then give the answer he was looking for). He referred to Dr. Douglas as the seminary’s “Archbishop of Myers-Briggs” and the “hot” church in town as “the church of the latest buzz.”
I recently had the opportunity to reflect on these two classes with Scotty via a wonderful phone call. He is doing a lot of travelling (consulting, teaching and preaching at conferences), these days since he has retired from Christ Community Church. The manuscript for his book on finding our place in God’s Story is due to his publisher in mid-May. We also talked about the impact of the daily prayers he sends out (you can sign up to receive these via email at http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/scottysmith/). Our conversation ended appropriately with Scotty praying.