Ph.D. optional: Why a Christian university with doctoral programs chose a preacher president
When trustees of Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., first identified…
Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., has named veteran preacher David Shannon as its next president.
Shannon, minister since 1999 for the Mt. Juliet Church of Christ, a growing congregation 20 miles east of Nashville, Tenn., was selected at a Friday meeting of the Christian university’s board of trustees.
“My relationship with Freed-Hardeman began when former president E. Claude Gardner walked into a sawmill near Centerville and recruited me. It changed my life,” Shannon said in a Freed-Hardeman news release.
“I’m thankful for and humbled by this opportunity to serve our alma mater and our alumni, who impact the world in tremendous ways,” he added. “Families and prospective students continue to find that Freed-Hardeman’s dedicated and highly qualified board, faculty and staff have created a place they can belong, be loved and become. It’s a place where they can develop their gifts for His glory.”
In a statement, John Law, chairman of the board of trustees, described Shannon as “an expert communicator, collaborator, team builder, motivator and encourager.”
“David is an articulate, passionate speaker, who has demonstrated his ability to engage all ages,” Law said. “We look forward to seeing the ways God will use his talents to lead and impact lives for generations.”
At the Mt. Juliet Church of Christ in 2012, elder David Burka leads a prayer on behalf of the young people gathered up front. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)
The Christian Chronicle featured the Mt. Juliet church — which the Freed-Hardeman release said has grown from about 500 in attendance when Shannon arrived to more than 1,100 — in a 2012 Churches That Work story.
That story focused on the congregation’s transition from a “serve us” attitude toward its community to one of “service.” Even in that piece, Shannon’s love and appreciation for Freed-Hardeman were evident:
Like a dozen students majoring or minoring in ministry at Freed-Hardeman, (Alan) Cantrell grew up in the Mt. Juliet church and receives help from the congregation with his tuition.
“As little as two, maybe three years ago, I was just planning on doing computer science and going to Tennessee Tech,” said Cantrell, 18. “And I guess I started to mature spiritually because there were so many good examples around me. I saw them making a difference in the world … and I started to be kind of excited about that.”
In high school, he and other Mt. Juliet youth group members traveled to smaller churches and led worship: singing, Scripture reading and preaching.
“It’s hard to say, ‘Oh, I want to be a preacher,’ if you’ve never had any experience preaching,” Cantrell said. “But being given multiple opportunities to do that makes you find out whether you’re good at it or not.”
The concerted spiritual training that led to Cantrell’s decision to preach can be traced to an experience by Mt. Juliet church leaders a decade ago.
The congregation, which averages Sunday morning attendance of nearly 1,000, has met at the same address since Christians who rode horses to worship cleared a thicket to build a church in 1891.
In 2001, a committee planning the church’s 110th anniversary celebration decided to invite all the full-time ministers raised at Mt. Juliet to return home to teach Bible classes and preach.
The only problem: Not a single name came to mind.
“Our eldership had real, serious, sobering and disappointing talks after that,” said Shannon, the church’s preacher since 1999. “They asked, ‘How could we be around for 110 years and not have anyone in full-time mission work or ministry that we knew of?’”
Those talks resulted in intentional efforts by the Mt. Juliet church to encourage young people to develop their God-given talent — be it in full-time ministry or part-time service as Bible class teachers, song leaders and other key roles in the Kingdom.
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