Dr. Jerry Johnston Interviews Dr. David Hardage

Dr. David Hardage is the executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Hardage earned a Doctor of Ministry from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and his bachelor’s degree from Baylor University. He has served as a pastor and interim pastor, and served in leadership roles in faith-based and educational organizations. Visit TexasBaptists.org.

 

Dr. David Hardage enjoys a broad view of Baptist churches in Texas. The Baptist General Convention of Texas executive director visited Houston Baptist University to talk with Dr. Jerry Johnston, VP of Innovation and Strategic Marketing for HBU. About 5,300 Texas churches are represented by the BGCT.

Texas Baptists, as they are known, are integral at colleges and universities like HBU. Baptist Student Ministry programs evangelize young people, and provide growth and discipleship opportunities to help grow believers.

“From the time the convention began, one of the primary reasons for it was education,” Hardage said. “Our people continue to believe in education and in providing a Christian foundation and a biblically based education for students from Texas and beyond. One of the newest areas of emphasis – and HBU is key in this – is the area of apologetics. We really want to teach and help our younger generation know how to contend for the faith.”

The Texas mission field is truly vast, with a state population nearing 30 million. With shifting times, churches and ministry leaders must reach people in new ways.

Hardage said, “The culture is more challenging than it’s ever been. Society is changing. I’m in a different church every Sunday. As an example, not all, but many of them have the same mindset. It is, ‘We need to reach the young families.’ My response to that is, ‘Yes, you do. I hope you reach every single one of them. And then when you do that, let’s talk about the other 75 percent of the households of Texas.’”

Hardage sites statistics from a recent BGCT report which estimates approximately 25 percent of Texas households are unmarried people, 25 percent are empty-nesters, 25 percent are young families, and 25 percent are households of various compositions.

Churches and ministries, in many ways, no longer must travel in order to reach people of all cultures. Thousands of people have moved to Texas, bringing their cultures, religions and languages with them. Such factors make having a network like the Texas Baptists even more helpful.

In addition to assisting churches in reaching their local communities, the Texas Baptists supports evangelism, discipleship, missions, legislative advocacy, and offers counseling resources. In all the organization does, its purpose is summarized in its official missional stance: “Lives, families, communities and nations are transformed as ordinary Christians take extraordinary steps of faith in obedience to God.”

Hardage is humbled by his role as leader of the Texas Baptists. “I always say I had no expectations or aspirations to be in this role,” he said. “What it really boiled down to is that I had been in the church and the association and worked in the institution – I think the Lord led me to this place.”

Dr. Jerry Johnston Interviews Dr. William Martin

Dr. William Martin is the Harry and Hazel Chavanne Professor Emeritus of Religion and Public Policy in the Rice University Department of Sociology. He serves as the Chavanne Senior Fellow for Religion and Public Policy at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice.

Dr. Martin’s research and writing have focused on issues ranging from religion to criminology and drug policies. He is the author of many important works including the recent, “A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story.”

Dr. William Martin visited Houston Baptist University and talked with Dr. Jerry Johnston, HBU VP of Innovation and Strategic Marketing. Martin is known for his 50-year tenure at Rice University. In addition to his academic work, he is an accomplished writer, penning pieces for magazines like Harper’s Magazine, The Atlantic and Esquire.

At age 16, Martin determined he would like to be a college professor. That led him down the path of working in higher education. It was an article he wrote about evangelist Billy Graham, however, that marked an important milestone in his life. He was later asked by Graham to write an in-depth biography of the legend’s life and work.

“Billy Graham said, ‘You know me better than anyone except Ruth. I don’t know that a biographer could get a better compliment than that,” Martin says. Martin went on the write, “A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story.” The title is a play Jesus’ words in Mark 6:4: “Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’”

In writing the biography, Martin spent many hours interviewing the Grahams and those closest to them. “Billy Graham said, ‘I want you to be absolutely fair about this.’ I wanted him and members of his team to read it for factual accuracy,” Martin remembers. After the original publication in 1991, Martin released an updated version in 2018.

Martin describes Graham as someone who had the ability to connect with many people. Graham was involved in multiple areas – from education to politics. In fact, he spoke at HBU (then Houston Baptist College) in 1963. Graham was connected with religious leaders and political leaders alike. “Billy was fascinated by presidents,” Martin says.

Martin concludes that Billy Graham was very successful in doing what he needed to do. “Certainly, he was a person of integrity. Some said you could split him all the way down and he was the same,” Martin says. “A couple who worked for them said the Grahams were the same inside the house as they were outside. The humility was genuine.”

Dr. Jerry Johnston Interviews Gil Ilutowich

Gil Ilutowich is co-CEO and chairman of the board for Compedia, an Israel-based technology company. Compedia specializes in immersive learning, bringing high-tech engagement techniques that enable learners to interact with and absorb material. The company’s creations include academic and religious curricula, professional and military training technologies, and more.

Visit Compedia.net.

Israeli businessman and technology expert Gil Ilutowich spoke with Dr. Jerry Johnston, VP of Innovation and Strategic Marketing for Houston Baptist University. “My mother was raised a Christian so she always put the love for Jewish people and for Jesus in my heart. She said we have to love both the Jewish people and the Christians,” Ilutowich says.

Ilutowich went from humble beginnings to establishing Compedia with partners more than three decades ago. The augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies the company uses apply to many different areas. Projects range from interactive children’s books to corporate training and manufacturing streamlining.

Recently, they’ve trained members of the Israel Defense Forces in combat. Ilutowich describes, “One of the problems Israel is facing is Hamas. We developed virtual reality tunnels where the IDF soldiers can train. The inventions that are happening in Israel are remarkable. So many other inventions that are changing the world come from Israel.”

Johnston asserts that AR and VR are changing culture. Ilutowich agrees.

“You can buy something for $1 and put your phone on it or you can use other, much more high-quality devices,” he says. “The idea here is that you are in another reality. VR is going into many fields now – education, manufacturing, training, hospitals.”

In education, the company has developed school curricula for several subjects including biblical education. Bible courses are compulsory for students in Israel. Similarly, the company created 3-D materials for the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC.

Ilutowich and Compedia are passionate about teaching the Bible and the Torah. “How can we live in a world where we are raising generation after generation who don’t know the basis of Western culture?” Ilutowich asks. “I see it as a crime.”

In keeping with their mission, the Compedia team keeps technologies wholesome. “The inventions that are happening in Israel are remarkable,” Ilutowich says. “We have a rule in Compedia. Something that I don’t want to bring to my family, I don’t want to bring to other families. We are only focusing on education and doing good.”

Dr. Jerry Johnston Interviews Dr. Craig Evans

Dr. Craig Evans is the John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins at HBU. He is a sought-after biblical scholar and New Testament expert. His books and teaching have encouraged many and led skeptics to faith in Jesus Christ.

Visit CraigAEvans.com.

 

Dr. Craig Evans has published hundreds of scholarly studies and more than 70 books. The Houston Baptist University John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins spoke with Dr. Jerry Johnston, VP of Innovation and Strategic Marketing for HBU, about the years of research, writing, teaching and contributing to the body of knowledge about the Bible.

Always a person of curiosity, a revival of interest in the historical Jesus set Evans on his career path.  “In the 1980s there was the ‘Third Quest’ as people called it. People were weighing in and I realized we’re now talking in a way I better understand,” Evans says. “People were talking about archelogy, the culture of the time, what the Jewish people were like, how Jesus fit into that, and how he was similar and different. The Dead Sea scrolls became relevant, and there I was positioned. It took off. Pretty soon there was media. I never thought that would happen – archeologists and biblical scholars became TV personalities. Since then, I’ve been in more than 100 documentaries and news programs.”

Evans remembers, for example, standing before the blinding lights of 130 world reporters during a press conference regarding the “Gospel of Judas” manuscript restoration project. He recalls, in another instance, how an estimated one-quarter of North American adults watched the Dateline NBC two-hour special on “The Last Days of Jesus.”

“I never would have dreamed there would be all of the publicity,” Evans says. “The producers always underestimate the interest.”

In all of his studies, writings and projects, Evans thinks of how he can relate information that will be edifying. He teaches with HBU and its seminary, the Houston Theological Seminary. He speaks regularly at Second Baptist Church of Houston, and is a guest teacher in other settings as well.

When he considers the legacy of his life’s work, Evans thinks of how he has succeeded in encouraging Christians to understand the historical context and evidence of their faith. “Every single archeological discovery that’s of any relevance supports what the Gospels have to say. Fiction writers – fakers – just don’t get that lucky,” he said. “I hope I’m remembered as a Christian who tried to be faithful to Jesus and the Gospels – to His message.”

Dr. Jerry Johnston Interviews Dr. Jerry Walls

Dr. Jerry Walls is a scholar-in-residence and professor of Philosophy in the School of Humanities of HBU. His primary teaching focus is philosophy of religion, ethics and Christian apologetics. His many publications include a trilogy on the afterlife: “Hell: The Logic of Damnation,” “Heaven: The Logic of Eternal Joy” and “Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation.”

Visit JerryLWalls.com.

 

 

Dr. Jerry Walls discussed what he calls “the most interesting issues about the stuff that matters most” at Houston Baptist University with Dr. Jerry Johnston, HBU VP of Innovation and Strategic Marketing. Walls is a scholar-in-residence and professor of Philosophy in the School of Humanities of HBU. His books reflect the depth of his study and his adroit handling of complex theological matters.

“A lot of contemporary philosophy has become very technical and narrow, with lots of detailed arguments about very small issues. A lot of times big issues get lost in the debate – what’s the meaning of life, does God exist, what is the nature of evil, faith, reason? This is the kind of stuff that was on the plate of all the major Western philosophers,” Walls says. “All these people dealt with arguments for God’s existence. Philosophy of religion focuses on the big questions that have animated philosophy from its very inception. We are made in the image of God. Genuine love, trust, worship, and obedience has to be freely given.”

Walls and Johnston talk about matters outlined in his plainly titled book, “Why I Am Not a Calvinist,” co-authored with Joseph R. Dongell.

Johnston notes, “I came to Christ because a girl stuck out her hand and said, ‘Sit with me’ in a meeting. But I heard the Gospel. One of the byproducts of Calvinism is that it kills evangelistic fervor. Why is it becoming popular?”

Walls reminds listeners of the “TULIP” espoused by Calvinism: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.

“It’s really the three in the middle that are at the heart of Calvinism,” Walls says. “Calvinists have done a brilliant job of selling the idea that they’re the ones who take the Bible seriously – who believe in a sovereign God. They have done a great job. I believe in biblical authority, too. The question is about the character of God – does God truly love all people?”

God’s love is for everyone, and His gift of free will to humanity is the result of His love, Walls says. “It’s precisely because God is love that hell makes sense,” he says.

Dr. Jerry Johnston Interviews Joe Hale

Joe Hale started his first international school in 1983 while serving as a missionary in Korea. Since then, the Network of International Christian Schools has become 17 schools across 15 countries serving thousands, and is growing.

Visit NICS.org.

 

Education took the forefront during a conversation between Joe Hale, founder of the Network of International Christian Schools, and Houston Baptist University’s Dr. Jerry Johnston, VP of Innovation and Strategic Marketing.

While Jesus’ words in the Great Commission includes an exhortation to “teach,” Hale, who served as a missionary, didn’t associate that with schools. More than three decades ago, he and his wife, Ann, were serving in Korea when they needed classes for missionary children. Soon, responsibilities surrounding providing an education to a growing group of children took up their time.

“I was praying, ‘When can I get back to the main thing?’ He kind of let us know that the main thing had changed,” Hale says. “We were seeing more people come to Christ through that school setting than the rest of our ministry.”

From there, the Network of International Christian Schools was formed. “The Lord has allowed us over a lifetime to be involved in some things we didn’t plan on. You know how God does that sometimes,” Hale remarks.

Thousands of students are served in 17 schools across 15 countries – and growing. The home countries of the students include about 120 nations. Many of the students and their families hear the Gospel for the first time through school and school-related events.

“I’m absolutely convinced that the new missionary visa is a teaching credential,” Hale says. “Your teaching credential will get you into more places than anything. There are basically no closed doors. By placing Christian teachers into these schools, the influence is really amazing. Our hope is to reach everyone we can reach with the Gospel.”

When young people, many of whom are future leaders, become Christians, the ramifications in their lives and in their home countries are exponential. “We’re going to influence the nations by influencing the children. They can impact their countries. That makes me excited to get up every day,” Hale says. “We have to be consumed with seeing His glory taken to all nations.”

 

 

Dr. Jerry Johnston Interviews Lynne Jordal Martin

 

 

Lynne Jordal Martin, senior opinion editor of Fox News, draws from her decades of experience in television, including more than 17 years at Fox. She shares her reflections on the importance of thinking with a balanced perspective and enjoying life.

 

Jerry Johnston, VP of Innovation and Strategic Marketing for Houston Baptist University, visited with Lynne Jordal Martin, senior opinion editor of Fox News. The two discussed the 24-hour news cycle and the convergence of news and social media.

In the years since she was on the staff of CBS News, Martin has witnessed a rapid expansion of media providers beyond the “big three” that dominated the American news realm for many years.

“Now there’s an unlimited menu — a giant smorgasbord of media,” she says. “And if 60 percent of Americans are getting some of their news from social media, those (channels) are media companies too.”

As overseer of the opinion section for the station with one of the largest audiences on cable TV, Martin seeks to find and promote pieces that come from an informed, thoughtful perspective, and that offer a counterbalance to dominant voices among the noisemakers in media.

“I think that people see a story that maybe is not from a very reputable source, and they believe every word,” she says. “My goal is that people think a little bit before they react and make judgments based upon one source and one story.”

Not only have media organizations and conduits increased, the way in which news is disseminated has grown in complexity as well. Outlets like Fox increasingly rely upon software algorithms, search engine optimization tactics and analytics to determine direction for decisions ranging from article headlines to story placement.

“It’s a bit of a dance. You want to be creative for a real human, but you also have to please the machine,” Martin explains. “The future of our whole business is digital.”

Martin shares her reflections on the importance of thinking with a balanced perspective.

“My feeling is that, in this very competitive, overheated media market we are in, discernment is necessary,” she said. “News is much like food. We can’t swallow it whole. We need to savor it, chew it, and taste it. When you read a story, you need to understand context and understand the story.”

As she has matured in her career, Martin says she has learned to work less, not more, cherishing moments with her family and volunteering. She serves as a mentor with Education for Ministry, a theological study program which deepens participants’ understanding of the Christian faith.

“I feel so blessed that I can lead this life,” she says.

Dr. Jerry Johnston Interviews Dinesh D’Souza

 

Dinesh D’Souza is an author and filmmaker. He is known for making apologetics points and writing patriotic manifestos and political tell-alls. D’Souza’s well-known books include, “The Big Lie,” “What’s So Great About America” and “What’s So Great About Christianity.” His film documentaries include “2016: Obama’s America,” “America: Imagine the World Without Her,” as well as “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party.”

Visit DineshDSouza.com.

 

Preeminent conservative voice, Dinesh D’Souza, spoke with Houston Baptist University’s Dr. Jerry Johnston, VP of Innovation and Strategic Marketing for HBU, about the state of politics and civility in America today.

D’Souza recalls his time as a Reaganite in the 1980s. “In the 80s and early 90s, American politics was kind of a gentleman’s fight. We agreed on goals like prosperity and strong communities, but disagreed on means. All of that really broke down,” D’Souza says.

Since then, D’Souza has experienced and witnessed retribution and monitoring comparable to those of communist societies for openly criticizing figures including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

“The government began to deploy the instruments of the state against their critics. This represented a breakdown in civility that created a declaration of war between the two sides. That’s how we got Trump,” he says. “The left is operating like gangsters, so we kind of need a mob boss on our side. I see Trump as the necessary response to this kind of craziness that’s going on.”

Alignment with the views of the left has become the stock of much journalistic messaging. “The media is only too willing to subordinate themselves to the climate,” D’Souza says. “They’re not really journalists. These are partisans masquerading as journalists. Twitter is the only unfiltered way to reach the American people uninterrupted by the interpretive lens put on.”

The vitriol directed at the presidential administration doesn’t necessarily need a basis, such as allegations of detrimental involvement with Russia, D’Souza concludes.

“I think it’s a very serious coup attempt underway,” D’Souza says. “I think the left’s view is, ‘We have to get him on something.’ It doesn’t matter if it’s plausible or not. Make it stick.”

The pull for control of American minds and American resources is palpable.

“There’s a death struggle between the wealth-creators, or the entrepreneurs, and progressivism,” D’Souza says. “That’s what the fight’s about; everything else is disguised. To my mind, we’re not living in a normal time.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Jerry Johnston Interviews Dr. Jeff Green

 

Dr. Jeff Green is dean of the HBU Graduate School, and serves in multiple leadership capacities at the university. His areas of expertise include ethics, philosophy, metaphysics, logic, and the symbiotic nature of faith and reason.

Visit HBU.edu/Grad.

 

Dr. Jerry Johnston, VP of Innovation and Strategic Marketing for Houston Baptist University, talked with Dr. Jeff Green, dean of the HBU Graduate School, about the university and Christian higher education as a whole.

While many Christian institutions have chosen to focus on undergraduate programs, HBU offers dozens of graduate programs residentially and online. Some of HBU’s exceptional qualities include world-class professors, campus life, and programs that are conducive to small-group learning. Paired with HBU’s academic excellence is its strong stand for Christian values.

“Students get the best of both worlds,” Green says.

More education helps students attain their life goals, Green asserts. “I think the need for more education to be successful in the workplace is a factor. People are looking for an extra level of specification, or even a certification,” he says. In addition to traditional programs, the HBU Graduate School offers certificates and licensures in areas including counseling, education and apologetics. Students may complete graduate-level certificates as part of a graduate degree program or as a stand-alone pursuit.

Reaching potentials is a way in which people can invest in the talents God gives them. “The most important thing is the actual knowledge you get from the classes,” Green says. “You can offer more value to employers, your family, church and community.”

Honoring the gifts that God has given each of us, cultivating talents and building knowledge are the aim of a graduate education, Green says. Some degree programs like the Master of Arts in Apologetics have a clear tie-in to evangelism, but other advanced degrees can be just as missional. They provide opportunities for influence and reach in any field. “I think there is Christian truth in business, nursing and many areas,” Green says. “In every area of inquiry, we can honor God, and engage vocationally from a Christian perspective.”

Dr. Jerry Johnston Interviews Mary Jo Sharp

Known for her expertise in public speaking and writing, Assistant Professor of Apologetics Mary Jo Sharp emphasizes relational connections in apologetic engagement. She has written the influential Bible study,  “Why Do You Believe That?” and is a contributor to several collected works of apologetics including, “A New Kind of Apologist,” and “In Defense of the Bible.” She also regularly writes curriculum with LifeWay Christian Resources.

Visit HBU.edu/MAA and ConfidentChristianity.com.

 

Mary Jo Sharp, HBU assistant professor of Apologetics and author, joined Dr. Jerry Johnston, VP of Innovation and Strategic Marketing for Houston Baptist University, to discuss the vital role of apologetics in the modern Church.

After becoming a Christian during her college years, Sharp says she began to doubt the Christian faith because of the behavior of some who identified as Christ-followers. Her cynicism ultimately led her to seek truth even more, and Sharp earned a degree in apologetics from Biola University. Her study was the impetus for her blog, “Confident Christianity.”

“We live in a time in which people reject biblical authority. They don’t reject it for good reasons – it’s not that they’ve taken time to carefully investigate for themselves. It’s kind of where we are as a culture,” she explained.

While many of the anti-Christian soundbites are not thoughtful arguments, they can leave the faithful at a loss for how to respond.

“Apologetics is not something that has been in our churches,” Sharp says. “We need to teach it in the Church so the first time people are encountering it, it’s in a safe place.”

Through her blog, Sharp seeks to help people know what they believe, and then learn to listen to others, question them, and formulate responses.

Earning a degree in apologetics takes learners further into both the need for the Christian faith and the reasons for its relevance and truth.

“Right now, we need to provide solid, strong answers to some of these soundbites we’re hearing that are just false,” Sharp says. “They’re not coming out of deep investigation into the truth. I can’t just sit in the pew and not look at the world; I have to give a defense.”

Sharp and Johnston each emphasize the foundational nature of teaching Christian principles within the home. Ultimately, apologetics is for every Christian.

Watch or listen to the complete podcast on HBU.edu.