The Enduring Value of a Christian Education


by David R. Kenney

David R. Kenney & Dr. Bobby R. Bush, Professor of Management, May 4, 1991

David R. Kenney & Dr. Bobby R. Bush, Professor of Management, May 4, 1991

David R. Kenney and Dr. E. Claude Gardner, President Emeritus of Freed-Hardeman University, February 2011

David R. Kenney and Dr. E. Claude Gardner, President Emeritus of Freed-Hardeman University, February 2011

All of my life I wanted to be a preacher like my father.  Then, due to circumstances that were beyond his control, I allowed the negative impacts of others on my father and family to persuade me to abandon that noble ambition.  This set me on a wave of confusion as to what I would do with my future.  Due to negative circumstances of my own, I came to realize that I needed to regroup my thoughts as I moved from the sound instruction of my parents to a faith that was at bloom within me as an emerging adult.  My parents persistently encouraged me to go to Freed-Hardeman College and convinced me with the question–“If you do not have anything better to suggest, then why not try this?”   The greatest influence in getting me to come to Freed-Hardeman College, outside of original interest due to Artie Collins and my father, was the President of the college, Dr. E. Claude Gardner.  My father talked with Dr. Gardner while at the Bible Lectureship and explained that I wanted to come to Freed-Hardeman College, but I did not think I would have the funds.  President Gardner told my father, “You tell David he needs to come to Freed-Hardeman College.  We will find the way for him to afford it.”  I enrolled in the Fall of 1987.

When I began college, I still did not know what my major would be, a vexing question to me.  I knew I did not want to major in either Bible (due to the negative experiences my father encountered) or Management (due to the negative experiences I encountered).  This changed when I signed up for a business required course as a Finance Major (or Management Information Systems Major) called Business Management.  The course was taught by Dr. Bobby Bush.  Through his instruction, personal anecdote, case study, sense of humor, Christian influence and Mississippi hospitality, I graduated in 1991 with a degree in Business Management.

As part of requisite study, I took a bible course each semester.  This brought to my attention a level of Bible knowledge I had underestimated.  When I completed the Master of Business Administration degree from the Graduate School of Management from Kent State University, I began a career in Business; however, I did continue my interest in researching, writing, teaching and preaching.  When I had the opportunity to preach full-time, I called Bobby Bush and asked if he thought it would hurt my career in business or to teach management in the future.  He encouraged me to preach full-time stating that it would not hurt me in any noble pursuit and would help if I ever decided to come back to Freed-Hardeman University to teach.  I entered the ministry full-time in July 2010.

I do not know what lies ahead, but in doing some research I came across this list of reasons to pursue a Christian education at Freed-Hardeman College (now University).  Looking these points over, I can gladly report I agree with each point!  Here is the list as it appeared in the 1984 Bible Lectureship Book:


  • Emphasizing the importance of the Bible in daily living.
  • Where Bible study is for every full-time student.
  • Emphasizing the value of the soul.
  • Preparing young men to preach the gospel.
  • True to the Book-the Bible.
  • Emphasizing the building of Christian character.
  • Stressing academic excellence.
  • Offering nearly forty areas of study.
  • Emphasizing the importance of a broad education in all majors.
  • With the highest regional accreditation.
  • With national accreditation in education and social work.
  • Offering excellent faculty credentials and experience.
  • Preparing students for career opportunities.
  • Encouraging friendliness.
  • Where many find their companion for life.
  • Stressing the importance of the Christian home.
  • Stressing the value of good habits and personal health.
  • Emphasizing that the body is the temple of God.
  • With a good name.
  • With a great heritage.
  • With predecessors having existed since 1869.
  • Which is non-public, Christian and financially sound.
  • Interested in the academic. spiritual, social and physical growth of your children.
  • Stressing the importance of the free enterprise system.
  • Where cost is below the national average for private schools.
  • That has been growing for many years.
  • “Teaching how to live and how to make a living.”
  • Stressing the importance of responsible citizenship.
  • Emphasizing the value of understanding and appreciating the natural world, the good and the beautiful.
  • Stressing the importance or continuous learning.


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An Incredible Tale of Influence

One man can have lasting effect on multitudes, even after death. Nicholas Brodie Hardeman was a premier preacher, debater and educator in the first half of the twentieth century. In Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, he preached the gospel to multiplied thousands, the sermons from which can still be read. He debated truth’s cause, to great effect, with prominent digressives and denominational preachers. He trained preachers in a college named for him. My grandfather, Roy C. Deaver, studied at Freed-Hardeman College in the 1940’s and, after graduating, stayed an extra year to study Hardeman. A half-century later, I would graduate from Freed-Hardeman University. What becomes monumental with time can begin with a modest tale of Christian influence, and Earl West relates just such a remarkable story (Search for the Ancient Order, vol. 4, pp. 155-156).

In 1890 an Alabama preacher named J. A. Minton goes to Milledgeville, Tennessee. His preaching career is young at the time (West describes him as “one of those relatively obscure preachers who just floated around burdened with the desire to preach the gospel, save souls, and establish congregations”). Minton begins preaching in an empty store. He meets the town’s wealthy physician, who subscribes to no religion, and is certainly not a Christian. With Minton’s effort, the doctor learns the gospel. Minton baptizes him into Christ, along with several of his family. The doctor’s name is J. B. Hardeman, who has a sixteen-year old son, Nicholas Brodie, who, thanks to Minton’s converting his family, will, himself, obey the gospel that fall when he enrolls at West Tennessee Christian College (being baptized by a professor, R. P. Meeks). N. B. Hardeman grows into a great Bible student, holding rapt attention with a gentleman’s presence, a scholar’s demeanor, and a polished orator’s style in presenting heaven’s simple message that had saved his father, Dr. Hardeman, back in Milledgeville.

But all contact between Hardeman and Minton is lost. Minton, whose work had brought the Hardemans to Christ, moves west, where he acquires land and meets financial success. He buys a hotel in Sayre, Oklahoma, the town where he preaches. Sadly, as division within the Lord’s body wreaks havoc, Minton sides with the Christian Church (which embraced unauthorized practice, such as instrumental music in worship).

In June 1948 Hardeman travels to Sayre to preach a meeting. He stays in the hotel owned by Minton and the two get reacquainted. It has been fifty-eight years since Minton visited a small Tennessee town and taught the gospel to Hardeman’s father. The now-aged preachers reminisce on times long past. In 1890 Hardeman was sixteen and not even a Christian. Minton was already preaching. In 1948 Hardeman is a college president training future preachers, and has a storied career in the kingdom. His influence has eclipsed Minton, who has cast his lot with the digressives Hardeman so strongly opposes. Then again, would any of Hardeman’s success have happened had Minton, as a young roving preacher, not stopped in Milledgeville and begun teaching in an empty store over half a century earlier?

Minton listens to Hardeman’s preaching in Sayre and concludes, “I have heard many of our best preachers from time to time, but I am compelled to say I have never heard a preacher superior in ability to N. B. Hardeman.” After his short stay in Sayre in Minton’s hotel, Hardeman leaves. However, within months he receives a letter from Minton with good news the latter has “left the Christian Church and now belonged to the church of Christ.” J. A. Minton had helped save N. B. Hardeman’s soul. And Hardeman had now returned the favor.

#christian-church, #earl-irvin-west, #freed-hardeman-college, #j-a-minton, #n-b-hardeman, #search-for-the-ancient-order