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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Conversation with Dr. David Hartman

John Bradshaw - Conversation with Dr. David Hartman


John Bradshaw - Conversation with Dr. David Hartman
TOPICS: Conversations

He is the son of a pastor who himself became a pastor and then a teacher and then a university professor. He's also an author. He's Dr. David Hartman. I'm John Bradshaw. And this is our conversation.


John Bradshaw: Dr. David Hartman, thanks for being here. Welcome to "Conversations".

Dr. David Hartman: Thank you, it's a real privilege.

John Bradshaw: We've got a lot of ground to cover. In particular, I wanna speak with you about a certain book that you've written that I think touches the very heart, the DNA of the Christian experience. But before we get there, let's go back. You are today a university professor. You've been a pastor. You've been a pastor's pastor. Where did all this begin? Take me back to the beginning.

Dr. David Hartman: Whew. Well, I grew up in a pastor's home. My dad was a pastor for 40 years, John. So I've known hardly anything else other than a pastor's life.

John Bradshaw: Were you as a kid, surest thing, you were gonna be a pastor like your dad? Was that taken for granted?

Dr. David Hartman: Sometimes the little ladies and men in the church would say, "You're gonna be a pastor just like your dad".

John Bradshaw: Right.

Dr. David Hartman: And I'm muttering under my breath, "Oh no, I'm not". Because a couple reasons, the life of a pastor can be very challenging. You're on 24/7. There's a lot of emotional and conflicting challenges you're dealing with, long hours. My dad was driven in ministry. My brother and I didn't see a lot of him. Camping trips, we had Dad all to ourself. That's why we grew up loving the outdoors and camping. But it gradually dawned on me. In high school, I went to Bass Academy, you know, a boarding academy in southern Mississippi. And they would take us students out on Sabbath morning to Brookhaven, McComb, some of these tiny little churches that didn't see their pastor but once a month. And we would do the Sabbath school. We'd do the special music and the preaching. And coming back to campus after one of those trips, I had this warm, glowy feeling in my heart. And I remember writing a letter home, we didn't have cell phones in the day, writing a letter home to Mom, "Hey, I think I may feel this calling to ministry".

John Bradshaw: Interesting.

Dr. David Hartman: So, and it kind of grew from there.

John Bradshaw: Do you think your parents were especially keen on the idea? Maybe they were praying for this. Or maybe they were just asking that you'd do whatever God leads. Where was their leaning?

Dr. David Hartman: Well, I believe, knowing my parents like I do, I think their inner desire was to see their son be a pastor one day but certainly to follow the path that God took me on. But they were delighted to see this culminate into full-time ministry.

John Bradshaw: Fantastic. This may be the unknowable, but if you didn't pursue pastoral ministry, what might you have done? Was there something else bubbling away in the background, that you were gonna be an architect or something?

Dr. David Hartman: I had thought I might be a teacher at academy.

John Bradshaw: Oh, okay.

Dr. David Hartman: Because probably the most influential people outside of my parents were my own academy teachers, My math teacher, Roy Dunn, my science teacher, and so forth, they just had an indelible impact on my life. And especially Paul Priest, he was my science teacher. We had a backpacking club. We would sit out around the campfire and talk about life, talk about end-time events. And I really wanted to have that same impact on other young people. So I thought I might be a math or science teacher. But God had other plans.

Yes, he did; yes, he did. And through those plans, he's influenced many people. So you're a university professor today. How many years were you in the pulpit as a pastor?

Well, 24 years counting my... I was 17 years in regular pastoral ministry. Then I had actually another nine years as ministerial director and evangelism coordinator of the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference. And then four years ago, summer of 2018, I got this offer to come to Southern, and it's been a great ride.

Fantastic. Let's talk about pastoral ministry. That's a subject close to the hearts of both of us. What do you enjoy? I'm not gonna say, what did you enjoy most, but tell me some of those things you really enjoyed about pastoring, leading congregations.

I think my personality, I am naturally an introvert, but I love people too. And pastoral ministry provides you the opportunity to have the quiet of the study. I love to get deep into God's word, into study, prepare sermons, and stand in the pulpit, declare God's word and see it impact people's lives, see the lights come on, see life change take place through the preaching of the word. I love the one-on-one interaction. I was known as a visiting pastor. Loved to, like Jesus meeting Nicodemus at night, getting into homes and getting acquainted with people and seeing where their hurts, needs, and challenges are. And I especially liked evangelism. That was the number one passion.

So what was it about evangelism that fired you up?

I love to see the word of God change people in the communities. I had a challenge of getting acquainted with my own neighbors and seeing them get acquainted with Jesus Christ, to offer a series of Bible studies in a systematic way, starting with the Bible and proceeding to salvation, then eventually, some of the testing truths like Sabbath and state of the dead and so forth. And seeing them go all the way to the baptistry, that is the high point, the highlight of a pastor's life.

Where do you think we are with evangelism today? Is this a golden era? Are we lagging behind? Is it taken for granted this is what people do and believe in? How do you, if you take the temperature of evangelism in the church today, what are you seeing?

I think in the '70s and '80s, we did a lot of evangelistic reaping meeting. We ran the harvest combine through the fields, through our communities 24/7, 365. But today, I think the pendulum's swung the other way. John, there's not too many conferences that have full-time conference evangelists anymore. There's not a lot of churches that believe in public reaping meetings anymore. I see more and more church members turning more to just friendship evangelism, just practical service-oriented evangelism. And I believe all of it is essential. If we just do friendship evangelism and service-oriented evangelism, people never hear the testing truths that help galvanize them, fortify them for the deceptions of the end time, preparing for Christ's coming. If we just do the reaping meetings, we're not reaching people that are way out here away from Christ that would never walk into a reaping series. So we have to start where people are, mingle with them, love them, hug our community. But eventually, there's a proclamational distinctive message that has to be given.

Mm. Mmm. Hey, let's go back to pastoral ministry. 'Cause what I know, I think what you know too, the statistics are telling us that fewer young people are looking for a life in ministry, a career in full-time ministry. Now, you know, I don't wanna sound too subversive, but that may not be entirely bad, entirely bad. But I don't think anybody can say it's entirely good either. So what's going on? What's the shift? How are the sands shifting under our feet that today young people are considering a career in ministry, full-time pastor, less than once they did? What's going on there?

Well, I remember a few years ago, I was invited to come to a career day at the academy, down at Bass Academy. They had different booths set up. They had one where they were talking about law, one for medical practice: you know, a doctor, nurse, so forth. And then I sat at the ministerial table. Not too many people came over to visit me.

That's interesting.

But I think one of the reasons is... you don't make a ton of money as a pastor.

Right, right.

The rewards are outta this world. But it's not a career to go into that's lucrative. But I think we used to appeal, I remember as a young person, week-of-prayer speakers and so forth would come and appeal for us to be teachers and pastors and so forth in full-time gospel work for God. And we don't have that as much anymore. I think also we're living in a very secularistic age where people are not as interested in going into those specialized spiritual areas.

Mm. Let me ask you this question. So if we took the base... the baseline ministerial pay and increased it 10%, 20%, 30%, a lot of our friends would be just delighted, but that's not my point. Do you think that would solve the problem? Would it address the issue? Would it create other problems? I'm getting somewhere here and I'm not all about we should never pay ministers another dollar. I don't mean that. But is that gonna address the issue?

I don't think that will open the floodgates for people to come in. I think, bottom line, young people have to feel called to ministry.

Right.

And for whatever reason, there just has not been this flow. In our theology department there at Southern, we have a fairly steady flow of students that come, roughly maybe 20 new incoming theology students every fall. But I'm excited about the quality and the character of the ones that are there.

Yeah, that's important.

They're absolutely committed.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. What do we do to address this? How do we encourage young people? Even maybe just having a conversation like this right now is encouraging somebody. How are we gonna address this? And if we don't, what's that gonna look like five, 15, 25 years from now?

Well, here's the crisis. I've understood, and I don't remember the exact statistics, but somewhere in the next five, seven, 10 years, 50%, 60%, 70% of the current pastoral workforce is going to be retired.

Gonna be retiring.

And there needs to be this replacement of young people filling in the ranks. And, you know, how do we address it? I believe young people that catch a vision... I've been reading in Joel 2:28-29, "In the last days, our sons and daughters will prophesy". And young people, if they fall in love with Jesus and have a sense of the times in which we live, I believe God will instill that urgency: Hey, I need to be one of these sons and daughters who prophesy and share this end-time message.

Let's talk about this. You're a parent. I've got a couple of kids as well. We know what it's like to be burdened for our children. We know there's no greater burden, I don't think, than for your children to know the Lord. So you mentioned young people, the young people gotta understand some kind of a calling. Man, it's a challenging world in which to be a young person. Look, when we were kids, there were distractions here and there, but not like today.

We didn't have all the media back there, the secular media.

I remember when I'd talk with my friends, "Wouldn't it be just the greatest thing if you could watch a movie anytime you wanted"? "Wouldn't it be great if you could watch sport on TV any time you wanted"? Oh man, we couldn't imagine that world. Back when I was a kid, we had two television channels, you know. But now, you've got that and more. You can watch what you want when you want. And most of what's available you shouldn't watch. So mom and dad are watching us right now, and they are saying, "We are burdened for our children. "They don't seem to be as spiritually inclined as we wish they were". How do we encourage that family? How do parents go about discipling their children? Very, very big question. I don't mean for us to rush through it either. Where do we start with bringing our kids to the foot of the cross?

Yes, yes. I believe it starts with family worship. And I know when Judy and I were raising Matthew and Beth, one of the highlights of our day was to take out "My Bible Friends" and talk about Jabel the shepherd, you know, leading his sheep out into the wilderness, and the wolf jumping out of the shadows. And I used to drop the book and chase my kids around the house, you know. It has to start there. And then we have to model a love for Jesus, because it's more caught than taught.

Mm.

And, I think, to constantly share our personal faith with our kids. And I know there were some evenings where tucking my children in bed, I would have to say, "Matthew, Dad lost his patience today. "And I'm sorry I... "I lost my cool with you, man. Would you please forgive Daddy"? So the rough and real struggles of life, we have to be real with our kids, share our faith. And I think one of the biggest things too is to be a prayer warrior.

Yeah.

As a father, one of my greatest roles and responsibilities, John, was to pray daily for my kids. And there were times where I had some concerns, and it drove Judy and I to our knees. But we saw God work some real miracles. And so certainly there's parents out here that are saying, "Well, we've done those things". You can't guarantee.

No, there's no guarantee, is there?

But I believe it is more caught than taught. And we have to live it in our homes. They have to see it in our lives. One of the things that Matthew and Beth discussed with me later in life: "Dad, we appreciated coming in early into your room and seeing you in the Word". I like to journal. I have my notebook open. I write what God says to me. "And we appreciated seeing you on your knees praying for us". And so they've gotta see that modeled for them to see what it looks like. Because there's so many other influences, we have to give the best influence we can, that positive influence.

I think there's any number of parents who've poured themselves into their kids, done their very best, prayed for their children, prayed with their children, and their children maybe now aren't walking with the Lord. There's any number of those parents. We keep in mind that the Bible tells us again at the end that we are in a war. So now, what about that number of parents who are not pouring themselves into their kids? You're just begging the devil to ruin your children, aren't you? We've gotta stand in the gap for our kids. We've gotta have certain standards in our home. We've gotta be filling our kids' minds with the things of heaven, I mean, to the best of our capability, praying for God's help and blessing. Because if we are not defending our children, raising our children, discipling our children. there's someone who is.

That's right; that gap will be filled by somebody else. The kids, I mean, by the time your kids are in middle school, they're no longer looking to parents for their spiritual guidance. They're looking, they're tracking after their friends. So we have to start early. But let's say we haven't been doing that consistently. It's never too late to start. Start where you're at right now.

Yeah, yeah. I once read, because it's very easy to hear a conversation like this and be discouraged. "Well, his kids are probably saints, but my kids are rascals, and I'm a failure of a parent". Okay, I once read in a church publication, I don't know who wrote it, but, boy, I've never forgotten these words, and I've shared them with many parents. "If your children had turned out to be spiritual successes, "you would not take the credit. "So if they have not turned out to be spiritually successes, don't take the blame".

There you go.

And I think that's very fair. And I'm talking really to conscientious parents who've really brought their children to the Lord. Man, parenthood's a tough go. There aren't that many manuals. Someone would say, "Oh, the Bible is a manual". Yeah, I know it is; but you also know what I mean. It's not... parenting isn't paint by numbers.

Well, and we learn parenting from our parents.

Yes.

And if our parents were deficient parents, then we don't know how to parent. And then each generation gets a little further removed, so, yeah.

Yeah. All right, well, that's a complicated thing. But offer a word of encouragement, Pastor Hartman, to the parents right now who despair. They might have blown it. They might not have blown it. How would you address those parents in relation to their kids and their kids' eternal future?

Mmm, mmm. I would say that there is a heavenly Father that loves your kids so much more than even you do. And even when we blow it, even though when we come short, Jesus, it says in Hebrews 7:25, "ever lives to make intercession for you". And so maybe I haven't been the praying dad or the praying mom that I should have been with those kids growing up. But there's one that cares infinitely for them and is standing in the gap. So we can take courage in that. God has a million ways. I pray for the young people of today: Lord, bring influences, bring friends into their life. Maybe I blew it as a parent. And they're now in their 20s; they're off at university. They're now young, married with little children. Bring those influences into their life that will lead them to the next step.

And God can do that.

God can do that.

Yeah, yeah.

God can do that.

He does not stop working on behalf of our kids, 'cause He wants to see them saved way more than we do.

Absolutely.

Fantastic.

And I believe that; you've gotta believe that. You've gotta have that hope. If we raise them in the ways of the Lord, the scripture says, when they're old, they will not turn away, or they'll come back. So later on in life, we believe they will come back.

Amen. Amen. He's Dr. David Hartman, and he has written an outstanding book that you need, that you need to know about, and that we all ought to take note of. I'll be back in just a moment with more of our conversation, brought to you by It Is Written.

Welcome back to "Conversations," brought to you by It Is Written. My guest is Dr. David Hartman, a pastor, a pastor of pastors, a university professor, and an author. And this book, "Winning Ways to Witness," is a special work. And I don't know that I could overstate its importance. "Winning Ways to Witness," where'd the book come from? Why and what prompted you to go in this direction?

John, I've always had a passion for evangelism. I mentioned that a moment ago. Being a student of the Word, reading how God is "not willing that any perish, "but that all come to repentance," 2 Peter, chapter 3, verse 9, I have felt this urgency to get out and share Jesus with my neighbors. However, I am naturally an introvert, and I've fallen short. I remember in early ministry when I was pastoring in Pensacola, Florida, we had a yard sale, and people came from next door, across town, you know, to rummage through our stuff. And it dawned on me that these neighbors that were coming from next door, I didn't even know their name. And so God gently rebuked me: David, you're running across town to save people across town, to give Bible studies and preach and so forth. You need to do a better job getting to know your neighbors. So we started a neighborhood Bible study group. Monday night, 7 p.m., we had the candles lit. We had refreshments. Will anybody show up? And five couples came...

Fantastic.

...from the neighborhood. And so it has been a learning experience for me. I understand that only about 5% of the people naturally have the spiritual gift of evangelism. But that doesn't mean all of us can't witness.

Right, right, right.

And so I wrote this book to show that, hey, you can witness too. There are seven unique witnessing styles, starting with prayer, going on down all the way to proclamation. Everybody can tap into sharing Jesus in some way.

And somebody's saying, "Yeah, everybody but me". I wanna read to you a little bit from here. Looks like page 74 of the book. Because I just wonder if people can relate to this experience. I wanna ask you what you did about it. "After graduation, I served for a year "as a ministerial intern in Birmingham, Alabama. "I was determined to set the world on fire "and have record baptisms. "Therefore I hit the ground running, "conducting a number of Bible studies, "engaging in youth ministry, "and directing the Pathfinder Club. "However, halfway through that year, "I realized that something was wrong. I was spinning my wheels, but had no results". Now, that experience is not unique. What did you do to turn that around? And speak to the heart of that person. You know what I really believe? I believe that most everybody sitting in the pews wants to witness. I really do. Your neighbor is lost. Do you wanna see that person saved or lost? Well, saved, of course. Would you prefer to be the bearer of good tidings or the bearer of no tidings? Well, good tidings, of course. Most people, if you reach down deep enough, have that desire.

Yes, they just don't know how to, or they're afraid or whatever.

So what about that person? What about this guy spinning his wheels?

Okay, I'll tell you what turned it around for me. I was halfway into my year of internship, giving Bible studies, had 15-plus Bible studies going, and nothing was happening. One day, third week in a row, a lady didn't show up for her studies. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. Went to the church parking lot, rolled the window down, this was summer, and started to cry, "Lord, what am I doing wrong? "I'm putting in the effort; I'm putting in the work. Nothing's happening". I opened my Bible. It fell open to 1 Timothy, chapter 2, verse 1.

Yeah.

And as I read there, "First of all," Paul says to a young upstart pastor Timothy, "First of all," pray "for all men" that they may "be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth". And it was like a lightning bolt. David, you've been doing the studies. You've been giving out GLOW tracts. You even gave an evangelistic meeting. But you haven't really been praying. And so I took out just a plain notebook page, and I began to write out the people that I was working with, and I began to pray for them. And that is what turned the whole trajectory around. So I think it starts with prayer. And if we would take the names that God has laid on our heart, like my neighbor Jerry next door, like my neighbor Roger down the street, and start praying for them, God is gonna nudge us when we come home and they're out getting their mail, rather than going right into the house, go out and say hi to Jerry. "Jerry, how's your day going"? Everything else will fall in place when we begin with prayer.

Can you imagine... Look, churches strategize, and some of them plan, and some of them assign funding, and some of them, I don't know, spend a ton of money. Imagine if everyone... no. Man, I don't wanna seem unrealistic. Imagine if half the church, come on now, imagine if the church prayed. Doesn't cost anything. Evidently, it's about the most effective thing in the world. The Bible talks about moving mountains. Jesus has promised, "Whatever you ask, I'll give it to you," if we pray. How do you see congregations turning around, communities being transformed just through prayer? What do you see?

That's the key. Because as we pray... I found, as I pray for my neighbors next door, God starts to change me first and gives me... I am hardwired with a self-centered focus. But as I'm praying for someone, I'm constantly attuned to, hey, how can I serve their needs or whatever? And so I think our churches would become revitalized. I believe our communities would begin to sense, hey, these Adventist believers really love us. And they would come to our outreach events. They would come to our prophecy seminars. But it all starts with a change of attitude on our part that comes about by prayer.

You know, you mentioned the seven styles. And there's a little part of me that wants to just read them right off. But I don't want to, because I want you to get the book and read the entire book. You can learn a little bit about the book right now. I'm not gonna read the whole thing to you. But a chapter heading, not a chapter heading, but a page heading here: "Research Confirms Need for Service". How important is service? And what is service? What does that look like in a church setting within a local community?

Yes, yes. Barna Research has discovered about 20, 30 years ago, the most effective way to reach the community was proclamational evangelism. Then it shifted to friendship evangelism. Everything: all the resources, books were about friendship evangelism. He said, "According to our research today, "the thing that will catch the attention of the community the best is service-oriented evangelism". So if you meet people where they're at, whether it's, you know, conducting a dinner with a doctor, or a diabetes reversal, or just showing up with some groceries at Thanksgiving time for the families that don't have the food, it is going to create a pathway to the heart. I believe there are certain keys to the heart that will grab the attention of people: Hey, these are caring folks. I wanna know more about their faith. I wanna know more about their religion. But it starts with service.

Mm. You do mention in here... And by the way, I know you are wanting to know where to get the book, and you've already Googled "Winning Ways to Witness" by David Hartman. I've gotta come back to this, the little lineup of the contents right here. This is a key. This is something everyone, it's a little bit like prayer. Everybody can pray. Style number four, telling your story. What's important about telling your story? And by the way, what is a person's story? What do you mean by telling your story?

Telling what Jesus has done in your life. People can contest when you talk about the Sabbath, or what happens when you die, or the Second Coming. They have difference of views and opinions. But when you tell your story, they can't argue with that. It's your story. And it will touch people, because they will say, "Hey, if Jesus could help that person overcome alcoholism "or pornography or help them through their life struggles, then maybe there's hope for me too". And so we encourage people to tell their story. There's three kinds of stories.

Okay.

There's the conversion testimony where you talk about how Jesus brought you out of darkness into His marvelous light. There is the daily testimony where you're reading in your morning devotions, and God encourages you through a promise. And later you meet someone, and man, they're going through the same struggle as you. And you share that promise, that hope with them. Then there's a silent witness or testimony where you don't have to say a word. They notice something different about you.

You know, I can just imagine someone listening to you and saying, "Yeah, but man, I was never a drunk. "I never went to prison. I've had a pretty humdrum life. "You know, I stayed outta trouble. I was never an addict. I was only ever married once, not eight times". And what do you say to that person who's lived a pretty boring life?

That's me.

It feels like they don't have anything... you?

That's me.

You're the least boring person I know.

I'm one of those boring persons. I never had the wild side.

And you know I use that word "boring" just to make an impact? I mean, people sometimes feel that unless they were once, you know, a hired gun or something or other, and there've been plenty of those come to faith in Christ, that they don't have an exciting enough story to tell. So let's talk about that. That was you; you didn't have the exciting story. You didn't have the tales of the wild life. So?

There's many people that had maybe a dramatic conversion experience, like Saul on the road to Damascus.

Sure.

And people with those kind of stories can relate with people in the gutter, drug addicts, so forth. But there's so many of the rest of us, John, that never had that dramatic change. Maybe we grew up in a Christian home or an Adventist home, and it was just kind of a growing day-by-day walk with Jesus where I'm coming to understand Him in a clear way along the way. We can share what we know of Christ, just share what we know of Christ. For me, I grew up in an Adventist pastor's home, and I didn't have this dramatic story. But when I came to college, I had hit kind of rock bottom in the sense that... I couldn't pull myself through these particular struggles I was having. So I cried out to Jesus in my desperation. And He came and revealed Himself to me in a new way. And I can share that kind of story. Share what you have.

That's right. I remember hearing of a young man who said he was raised in a Christian home. He never went off the rails. And he said, "But I still had to find Jesus for myself". And he did, and he was able to share that experience. You know, not everybody needs to hear from an ax murderer or a cattle rustler. You know, sometimes a person just needs encouragement from someone who doesn't have the crazy story...

Exactly.

...but has an experience with Jesus nevertheless.

Exactly.

Yeah. God made us all different. We're not all the same, weren't pressed out of the same mold. We have different experiences, different strengths. And we don't all relate to everybody, but everybody can relate to somebody.

Back when I lived in Portland, Tennessee, I had a neighbor who moved in shortly after we did. And we just began dialoguing. She got acquainted with my wife. They were both interested in health and recipes, that kind of stuff. They walked together. But over time, she began to say things like, "I see something different about you. "There's a peace, there's a radiance. I want that. Tell me what Adventists believe". And she eventually became a Seventh-day Adventist. But it wasn't this dramatic testimony about some, you know, turning from drug addiction to Christ. It was just living a Christ-like lifestyle.

Can anyone witness? Anyone?

Anybody.

Yeah?

Anybody can witness. When it says in Acts, chapter 1, verse 8, "You shall be my witnesses," He's not talking to the clergy of the church. He's talking about every believer. "You will be filled with the Spirit "and you will be my witnesses first in Jerusalem, "then Judea, then Samaria, then to the uttermost parts of the earth". So it starts right in my home, just being an example in my home, then in my neighborhood, at my workplace. And I believe if God's people were just witnessing in practical ways, letting Jesus shine through them, then this world will be turned upside down.

You might have answered my question already, but I'll ask it anyhow. There are some people who are filled with dread at the idea that they are to be a witness. "Not me, I don't have the gifts. I'm not outspoken enough, outgoing enough". What do you say to that person? Because look, one thing is the person who's not sharing Christ is missing out. You know, you're missing out on a really rich experience. So what do you say to that person who says, "Look, I know I should, but, ah, I'm not wired that way". Where does that person begin?

I have this little prayer that I pray every morning. And I would recommend this little prayer. Lord, flush me of self. Fill me with You. Empower me to share You with at least one person today.

Mmm.

And it's not a Bible study every day, John, but just in small practical ways. If we pray that prayer, if we put ourselves in God's hands as a vessel, He is going to flow through us, use us as an instrument. He will do the work.

That's right.

We just have to be a willing vessel.

I am reminded that Jesus said, "I will make you fishers of men". So this is something that God does. He promised: I will do this. And so then it's not something we need to originate or work up. But if we take God at His word, it seems to me, and say, "Okay, I'm available here; I am willing here".

That's the key.

I'm willing.

That's the key.

Jesus didn't say the problem is there's no one to witness to. He said the problem is that we don't have enough laborers to go into the harvest. So imagine if we just prayed and if we said to God, "I'm available to You"...

Yes.

...how do you think God might work in a person's life?

One of my favorite quotations from the pen of Ellen White, her book "Desire of Ages," page 250: "There is no limit," no limit, "to the usefulness of one "who, by putting self aside, makes room for the working "of the Holy Spirit through his or her heart, and lives a life wholly consecrated to God".

No limit, huh?

No limit. So I can be an introvert, and God can do big things. I can be an extrovert; God will do big things. It's not me. I just have to be available. He will work through me.

Yeah, yeah. Imagine a church where everybody made themselves available. Imagine a community where the members of the church made themselves available to God and prioritized evangelism, witness, outreach, service. It seems to me that church would have to grow, and that community would have to be impacted profoundly.

Amen.

Yeah.

Amen, I believe it. And I've seen it happen. I've seen it happen.

Amen, the Lord is good. I wanna talk to you in just a little moment about an interesting health, I dunno why it's called a health challenge, an experience you had concerning your health. I think many people are gonna be able to relate to that. I'm just gonna remind you of this. Dr. David Hartman's book is "Winning Ways to Witness: Seven Witnessing Styles That Attract People to Christ". I would love for you to get it. Easy way to do it, contact us here at It Is Written. We have it available in our store. I'm gonna be back with more in a moment. He is David Hartman. I'm John Bradshaw. Our conversation continues right ahead.

Welcome back to "Conversations," brought to you by It Is Written. My guest is Dr. David Hartman, who is a professor of theology at Southern Adventist University. In recent times, David, you had a fascinating... health journey. Tell me about your cochlear implant. Let's talk about that.

Real quick, when I was a kid, I had a series of ear infections. My eardrums ruptured, had an operation at age 11 where they inserted two new eardrums. And something went awry.

Oh.

Something got fouled up, and I had total nerve loss. When the bandages came off, I was totally deaf.

Totally deaf?

Totally deaf, couldn't hear anything. So they had anointing prayer for me at church two, three weeks later. That afternoon, I came home. "Mom, I think I hear the phone ring on the other side of the door".

Oh wow.

She broke down in tears.

Oh yeah.

It was a partial restoration of my hearing. This has been my thorn in the flesh, 2 Corinthians 12:9...

Yeah.

...for most of my life. Because of deteriorating hearing even since, this got down to about 17% left, I had a cochlear implant surgery November 20, a year ago. And there's different success rates with that.

Sure.

There can be anywhere from 35% to maybe an 80% gain. Mine was roughly 40%, 45% gain. I was praying for the upper end.

Oh yeah.

Naturally. But the remarkable thing is I hear birds like I've never heard.

Nice.

I hear the turn signal on a car and water running in a sink. Amazing. Human voices are still kind of robotic, kind of mechanical. I am no longer hearing analog here; it's all digital hearing. And my brain cells have to get used to digital hearing.

Ooh! I have so many questions to ask you. What's the difference between analog and digital hearing?

I'm not the techy guy, but...

Well, experience.

...the sound waves come into the processor. It's converted into digital. There's a long wire that's wrapped 420 degrees into my cochlea, the little snail looking thing. There's 16 electrodes that fire and stimulate the nerve endings. And your brain just has to relearn to hear. It sounded like beeps and tweaks when I first came outta surgery.

So interesting.

For about four to six weeks, that I thought, man, I've made a mistake. But gradually, it comes. You do these hearing exercises, it comes more and more. So here I am, a professor now, trying to understand my students in the classroom. I read lips, and this is mask-mandatory, you know, in the classroom. And it's been a struggle.

Oh yeah.

But God's grace is sufficient.

So what was that like growing up with hearing impairment? Just practically, how do you deal with that?

It was kind of a way of life. I mean, I never, I don't remember having perfect hearing. But it was when I was in high school, I refused to wear my hearing aids.

Oh, you did?

It was certainly not cool. And so I struggled, I suffered a little bit from that. But when I got to college, I met Judy. And she said, "Look, buddy, you're not hearing me. Would you please get hearing aids"? And love does wonderful things.

Yeah, look at that.

So I got new hearing aids. But... it has kept me sensitive to people with other kinds of deficiencies. I've had students that are largely blind and so forth. And I am readily eager to adapt my quizzes and whatever I give to them, because I understand. And my students have been remarkably accepting. They're wonderful. I'm transparent about my life. And that's what they appreciate, is transparency.

So you go in hoping for the upper end with the cochlear implant, the 80% hearing restoration. You wound out about 44%. That had to be at the same time exhilarating and I'm guessing a little crushing. Was it both emotions? Did you ever try and figure out where you...

It was. Because I can hear these glorious sounds. I love birds. I haven't... To hear a leaf rustling across a parking lot, that scratching sound, it may drive some people nutty. Some people may not even notice it. For me, that's glorious. I've not heard it before. But at the same time, I have had a measure of disappointment. And in my biblical journaling in the morning where I write my thoughts, my heart to God, I hear God speak through Scripture. I write to Him in return. I have done a lot of processing. God, I don't understand. I'm disappointed. I need your grace. You know, life is not always perfect here.

Right.

But one thing this has done for me is I long for a better world...

Yes.

...where I'm gonna get perfect hearing one day. Walking through the corridors, I'm gonna hear. I tell people, "I'm gonna hear better than you. "God's gonna make up for lost time".

Yeah, yeah. But it's gotta be fabulous to have that increase, that improvement you're hearing. It must be fantastic. I wanna ask you about this, and I have a little anecdote to relate to you. You functioned as a pastor for years and years and years with a profound amount of hearing loss. How do you do that?

I learned to read lips. I don't know. Somehow, people with deficiencies learn to adapt. When I was working at summer camp, you know, during my high school years, during blind camp, these blind campers, man, they adapt in ways that's amazing. So... I just believe God gives you an ability to adapt. And people understand. I tell them up front, you know, I have a hearing deficiency. I tell my students at the beginning of my class, "I am profoundly, you know, have a profound hearing loss. "So please, if you have a comment or question, "raise your hand. "Then I'll kind of gravitate over towards you, and just speak in this good preaching voice". And we make it work.

I just saw a guy online who's blind and yet rides a bicycle.

Mmm.

Long story short, he's taught himself to echolocate, which just sounds odd, but it works for him. And so, people can be tremendously resilient and find ways. I had a neighbor when I lived in North Carolina. He was the visitation pastor for one of the local Lutheran churches. Guy was deaf. Not 100%, but seriously, this brother was deaf. And yet he was the visitation pastor. And my neighbor JC said to him one day 'cause they were big friends, he said, "Well, how in the world do you do that as the visitation pastor"? And he said, "Well, I just give people credit for having said whatever it was they were supposed to say". He just assumed the best, managed to get by. They loved him; he loved people.

Yeah.

Just worked out somehow.

Yeah.

He just assumed people said what they were supposed to say. Wish that were the case. Hey, you've referenced your students several times. So you made this transition from the pulpit to the classroom. What was that transition like?

Wow, at first, I wondered, can I do this? You know, at the time I was, I guess I can say my age: 58, you know. Can I adapt my primary congregation being university age now?

Yeah.

And all you have to do is love people, be transparent. Those students have been so accepting of me. I think they see me as like their granddad, you know. But it's worked very well. They have become my kids. I call them my kids. And let me tell you, I believe my first and foremost role is not to teach them the principles of, you know, the various courses I teach, but is to pray for them. When I was at Southern trying to find my way, very lost and confused, I had an English teacher. Not in the theology department, she was in the English department. She would come in 20 minutes early and pray for us.

Oh wow.

By name. And I found Jesus Christ and His righteousness that year.

Wow.

And so now, since I've been back on campus for three and a half years now, I feel like this is an opportunity to pass it forward. And so I take that role very seriously. I print out a sheet of the thumbnail pictures of my students. They, at the beginning of every class, at the beginning of the semester, they fill out a personal spiritual history: kind of what their hobbies and interests are and what was their spiritual walk like when they were growing up, what's it been like since they're at Southern. And I make little notations on my thumbnail sheet, and I pray over them daily. And I tell them in class, and I share my faith stories. I share little glimpses of things I get outta my devotionals in the morning. And it's more caught than taught. So it's been a rewarding experience. It has been the grandest thing I've ever done in life.

John Bradshaw: Fantastic.

I've been that pastor. I've been that ministerial director. I've been that evangelism coordinator for the conference. But I feel like with this backlog of 24, 27 years, I lose track, that I'm able to pour it into my students now. And that is so rewarding.

Hey, let's talk about young people.

Yeah.

Easy to be cynical about young people. I mean, I don't know that it's necessary, but it's easy. The fact is young people today aren't the same as they were 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago. It's a different world, and they're a different animal. Now, I expect that you're gonna have to give me a sanitized answer 'cause you don't wanna be the Grinch who stole everybody's joy, but I expect you to be honest with me as well. How do you see young people today? Should we look at our younger generations with great hope as a society, as a church? Should we be scared stiff? You interact with real kids every day. So what do you see? What's today's young person like?

I see today's Millennials, Generation Z as being very open, very honest. And they appreciate that openness and honesty from the older generation. We can be two, three generations even apart, but if we're real and open and honest with them, they value that. I see them, most of them being highly spiritual, but not necessarily finding that within the four walls of the church. They're looking for spirituality in many different directions. Not necessarily on our college campus but out there in general, they're looking into Hinduism, Buddhism, New Age. They are looking for something to fill the void, the vacuum in their life, but it may not be from the Bible. It may not be from an Adventist Christian pastor. So I believe they're hungry, they're thirsty, they're looking, they're searching, and of course, we know the only thing that can fill that vacuum is Jesus Christ.

Right.

And so we have to find a way to... I think the best thing we can do is share our own faith. We may not be able to push our brand of religion on them, but share our own faith, our own testimony, how Jesus has helped me with my struggle, with the depression maybe that I've had going through COVID or whatever. And they'll inquire more about that. Now, the students that are coming on campus, I have general ed students that come to my Christian Beliefs class, Christian Spirituality class. All students have to take at least one religion every year. Hallelujah! So I get to interact with them. The theology students, I see a caliber of young people that maybe we haven't seen in previous generations. They are committed.

That's interesting.

They feel called. I'm an advisor to about 12, 15 students. And as I sit down, "Tell me about your calling. "On a scale of 1 to 10, how certain are you that God's called you"? "A 10, a 10, Dr. Hartman". And I took a group of 14 students to Greensboro this past summer to do a field school of evangelism.

Sure.

To see them up front behind that pulpit, maybe they've not preached a full series before, to see them with passion sharing these doctrinal messages, end-time messages, I'm thinking...we're in good hands. They may not have it figured out yet. They're gonna be rough around the edges. But they've got the right heart, the right spirit. I think we can take courage.

That's good news to hear you say, "I think we're in good hands".

They're fearless. Older generations keep saying, "We've tried that; it can't be done". This younger generation don't know it can't be done, and they go out and do it.

Fantastic.

So I think we need to give them slack, give them latitude. We need to have young people serving on our church boards...

Sure.

...serving on our ministry teams. Because the older generation has the wisdom, but the younger generation has the... they're fearless, and they're bold.

Yeah.

So let's be a team together.

Yeah, amen. Let me, in the last couple of minutes that we have, ask you to tell me about the gospel. What does the gospel mean to you? You can define that any way you want. And how can a person experience the joy or the power of the gospel?

Mmm. I believe the gospel is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. When we were wretched rebels, God came and gave His life for us. The gospel is the good news that Jesus has a better tomorrow and that He has hope for me. He has heaven waiting for me. I used to be under the understanding that if I got good enough, if I did enough meritorious works, then maybe God would let me in. But the gospel is, Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, "and that not of yourselves; "it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast". Does that mean we sit back and do nothing? The next verse, verse 10, says, "For you are God's workmanship, created," designed, "for good works". So God takes us just the way we are. He gives us salvation. Then He uses me to reach out and help bring others into this beautiful light.

Yeah, fantastic. It is true, I think, that many many people don't feel they are worthy. The longer I hang around ministry, the more I see that the questions that are really shaking people are the basic questions. Even people of experience in the church, the things that hang 'em up aren't the Greek meaning of this word, as important as that may be. The things that hang 'em up is faith, acceptance, assurance, forgiveness. And it's our privilege, I think, as gospel ministers and those with a little influence over others to be able to encourage people to know this great God who loves you freely just the way you are and will transform you for heaven.

I pray every day in the classroom before I go in: Lord, would You please help me? Use me to help someone find You today to strengthen their faith. That's my prayer.

Dr. David Hartman, this has been fun, man. Thank you very much for taking your time. Wish you continued success. If you were to write another book anytime soon, what do you think it'd be about?

I would love to write a book on Ephesians, a devotional book. Of all the books I've journaled on, that's been my favorite. And then I think I would write a book on spiritual disciplines, how to draw closer to Christ through biblical disciplines.

Well, I hope both books happen. Thanks very much for being here. It has been a real blessing. And I'm gonna remind you that Dr. Hartman's book, "Winning Ways to Witness," that's available anytime from us here at It Is Written. He is Dr. David Hartman. I am John Bradshaw. This has been our conversation. Thanks for being part of it.
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