Next week, from Sept. 26-29, Harding will be hosting the 98th annual Bible Lectureship program. Entitled “Invincible! Courageous Faith in Troubled Times,” this year will be the first time Harding has hosted visitors on campus for the event since 2019, as last year’s event was presented only through livestream due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. This year’s program focuses on a study of the book of Daniel, which was meant to be the theme of last year’s lectureship before it was modified and shortened.
Dr. Jesse Robertson, assistant dean for church connections and member of the Lectureship Leadership team, indicated that much of this year’s program was originally planned for last year. While some new speakers have been added on and some speakers have dropped out, the majority of the presentations this year were intended to be given last fall. One of the new elements that has been added includes an interactive panel on “the post-pandemic church.”
In addition, there will be a few new features that will be a part of this Lectureship that were added to accommodate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas Lectureship has included livestreaming in past programs, this year that service has been expanded so that all presentations held in the Benson Auditorium will be livestreamed. Additionally, there will be a section in the Benson for guests who wish to wear masks and practice social distancing.
Andrew Braxter, leadership co-director along with Dr. Devin Swindle, said the Lectureship program includes more than just lectures. There will be recognitions and Christian service awards presented, as well as displays and vendors that will be open in the McInteer Center for Bible and World Missions rotunda and lobbies of the Benson Auditorium and student center from Sunday at 5 p.m. until Wednesday at 4 p.m.
Associate professor of Bible Jason Darden will be one of this year’s keynote speakers, presenting his sermon “The Handwriting is on the Wall: God is Not Mocked (Daniel 5)” on Tuesday night. While Darden has spoken at the Pepperdine University Lectureship for the past 12 years and taught a class at Harding’s 2019 Lectureship, this will be Darden’s first keynote address.
“It’s special because it’s my alma mater,” Darden said. “I’m just thankful that I get to represent Harding in this way.”
Darden expressed how this year’s Lectureship is both exciting, as it is a return to “business as usual,” but also difficult, as the pandemic conditions will likely draw a smaller crowd.
Robertson expressed similar expectations, saying that the leadership team is expecting less guests to be on campus this year as compared to pre-pandemic years. Before the pandemic, Lectureship brought in around 1,000-2,000 visitors, according to Robertson. But exact numbers can be difficult to ascertain, as not all visitors register for the event.
Nonetheless, Darden is interested to use Lectureship as an opportunity to learn about how the church at large is doing amid the pandemic.
“I think it’s a good temperature gauge for how we’re doing,” Darden said.
Both Robertson and Darden highlighted the unique opportunity that Lectureship poses for students to connect with Christians of different ages. As many of the Lectureship events are mainly attended by non-student visitors, Robertson wants to encourage students to get involved regardless.
“It is pretty astonishing to have three-and-a-half days of this kind of intersection — of nonprofits and churches and missionaries and ministers and scholars and volunteers — all on our campus,” Robertson said. “It’s all right here on our doorstep, and I hope students will take advantage of that.”
For more information on Lectureship, visit their website at harding.edu/lectureship.