Yesterday we inducted Dr. Donald Altman into the Hall of the Prophets at our seminary. The Hall exists to honor faithful ministers of the church and to build our scholarship endowment; the recipient must be worthy and family and friends must contribute a minimum of $25,000.00 to the endowment. Dr. Aultman has a distinguished career in the COG, having served in many different capacities. He is retiring this summer at the age of eighty. He is currently Chancellor of Education. I have become acquainted with him personally within the past fifteen years. About forty-two years ago he had a proleptic influence on my life.
One of God’s great gifts to me has been the Church of God Church Training Course series. This series began in the 1950’s as the “Worker Training Course.” I believe the original plan was to create a curriculum of study for Sunday school workers. The early books were practical helps for lay leaders –how to organize a Sunday school, how to keep records, etc. The program was so successful it was expanded to offer courses that provided a survey of the Bible, courses on doctrine, courses on teaching methods, and courses on other ministries of the church. Unfortunately, the original vision of a set curriculum for training lay leaders was lost in the success of the program and it became a series of loosely related texts. Many, if not most, of the current books in the series are not even written by Chursh of God authors.
When I was young my mother was a pre-school Sunday school teacher at the Springfield Church of God. The training courses were required of all teachers and officers. Harold Newman was Sunday School Superintendant and he taught the courses as annual or semi-annual five week series on Sunday evenings before worship. Back then children were not as closely supervised as they are today. I wasn’t all together pleased with Mom’s childcare plan, “Shirley, keep your brother with you and Jimmy, you keep an eye on both of them.”
Jimmy vanished into the great mist of adolescent pursuits, boys talking about girls I suspect, leaving me with Shirley and her girl friends. It wasn’t long before I asked to go with Mom and sit in her class. She reluctantly agreed after gaining my promises to be good, be quiet, not squirm and accept the restriction that I had to stay with her through the entire two-hour session, no trips in and out. Thus, I began attending church training courses before I entered the first grade. Once I could read, Mom let me help her study for the exams which had to be passed before a certificate of completion could be issued from the denominational state offices.
The courses on the Bible enthralled me, being published when I was developmentally ready for sequences and narratives. This awakened in me a desire for Bible knowledge. The courses on basic doctrine precipitously began coming out when I was developmentally prepared for abstract thought and this fueled a hunger to understand truth. Through these courses I gained a basic knowledge of Bible content and doctrine. Around the age of twelve or thirteen I decided I wanted to get credit for taking the classes. At first I was turned down, but around age fourteen my pastor, Bud Braddock, petitioned the state administrative offices for permission for me to take the exam and get a certificate of completion.
The course for which I received my first worker training certificate was “Contemporary Christian Education” by Donald Aultman. I still have the book. It introduced me to the concept of “Christian Education” as something more than Sunday school. Little did I know then that God would later speak to me as a freshman at Samford University, “Transfer to Lee College and major in Christian education.” Donald Aultman had planted a seed; Ken Andrews would later water that seed (another story); God protected and nourished it until the appropriate time four years later (1972).
I am thankful for the CTC series. It laid the foundation for a life-long pursuit of Biblical knowledge, theological understanding, and ministerial excellence. I said pursuit, not attainment.
May 28, 2010