Jason BarnhartBy Rev. Jason Barnhart

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:19-23, NIV


We recently celebrated Resurrection Sunday. That day where we remember when history pivoted in a new direction. Christ is not dead – resurrection has happened. As the late Yale University historian, Jaroslov Pelikan, wrote: “If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen – nothing else matters.”

Luke Keefer would have agreed with Pelikan but may have adapted the quote just a tad. “If Christ is risen, the church has a job to do. If Christ is not risen, the church can go about its usual business.” Such was Luke’s prophetic call to the church. As an historian who surveyed the entire history of the church, he never gave up hope for its witness.

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Dr. John Byron

Today  we bring you a sermon preached by Dr. John Byron at our Seminary chapel service on Wednesday April 13, 2015.

Dr. Byron has a desire to serve both the church and the academy, and, for him, Ashland Theological Seminary has been a wonderful joining of those two institutions. ATS is a place where freedom of thought and expression are grounded in commitment to God, and Dr. Byron’s teaching reflects that same emphasis. This stems from his own Ph.D. studies, when he began to realize that easy answers don’t exist, and the Bible, like life, is more complex than most of us will admit.

Though he is now a sought-after teacher and enjoys using that gift at churches and seminars outside of his seminary position, Dr. Byron didn’t always aspire to become a teacher. In fact, if you had told him as a high schooler that he would become a professor, he would have run as fast as possible in the opposite direction. He considers it a blessing that God doesn’t let us see our future too early in the game!

Dr. Byron is an experienced traveler, counting Europe and the Middle East among his favorite destinations. By their 10th wedding anniversary, he and his wife, Lori, had already lived in three states and three countries. Adding to his travels, Dr. Byron participates in Ashland Theological Seminary’s Tel-Gezer project, through which groups from ATS tour Israel and excavate ancient sites.

Dr. Byron is also a home-brewer, and friends in Ashland consider it a privilege if they’ve had the chance to taste his beer! Beyond brewing, he enjoys an eclectic mix of books and music. And if given the choice, he will eat Italian food most days of the week.

John Byron, PhD is Professor of New Testament at Ashland Theological Seminary. He will be teaching BSG 5501 AS Engaging Texts and Contexts this fall.

William Payne Portrait

Dr. William Payne

The Holy Spirit equips the Body of Christ to carry out God’s mission in the world by means of spiritual gifts. Incredulous? Try to name an aspect of God’s mission that is not associated with one or more of the spiritual gifts that are listed or demonstrated throughout the New Testament.

Furthermore, Jesus did not engage his mission until after he was anointed with the Holy Spirit at the time of his water baptism. One may ask, what is the connection between Jesus’ baptism and his commencement with ministry? Simply stated, the Holy Spirit equipped Jesus to do ministry because Jesus emptied himself when he became a human being; that is, he laid aside his divine right (Phil 2:6-8). Yes, I am arguing that Jesus exercised spiritual gifts. In fact, I argue that Christ had access to all the spiritual gifts because he is the mission of God in microcosm. Certainly, the character of his ministry supports this thesis.

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Rev. Reid Firestone

Today, we bring you a sermon preached by Rev. Reid Firestone. The message was recorded on Wednesday April 8, 2015 during a special Alumni Seminary Chapel. Originally from Spencer, Reid and his wife Terri now reside in Ashland.  They have two adult children, three-point-eight grandchildren and one Labrador retriever.

Reid is a graduate of Ashland Theological Seminary, and serves on the Seminary Foundation Board of Trustees.  Reid has been in pastoral ministry since 1990, after sixteen years in the retail and financial industries.  He has served churches in Medina, Brook Park, North Canton, West Salem and Homerville, Ohio.  Reid is ordained in both the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches and the Church of the Brethren.  Terri and Reid are “college sweethearts” and both graduates of Ashland University. He is also a licensed funeral director in the State of Ohio.

Terri and Reid enjoy travel, especially to their little “Sturgeon Bay Getaway” in Wisconsin.  Reid enjoys golfing, reading, is an avid Ohio State and Ashland University fan, and he still roots for the Cleveland Browns and Indians (a test in patience!).  He also has a heart for pastors, and enjoys to have fellowship while ministering to them.

Rev. Reid Firestone 90′ is currently serving as Sr. Pastor at Grace Brethren Church in Homerville, Ohio. 


Roberto Christian Ponce

By Roberto Ponce

NOT TOO LONG ago I was driving to the office in the morning when a brand new white BMW 7 Series passed me. It was a beautiful car. And if I may say so, it was the ultimate driving machine! This vehicle made a huge statement about success and accomplishment: two things that we value highly in our western society, particularly in America.

A few minutes later, I saw another white BMW drive past me, except that this was a 1990 model…same car, but it was more than 20 years older. The vehicle was in fairly good condition, but it was showing a little bit of rust and a faded coat of paint. I immediately reflected upon the temporal nature of materials things and the brevity of life.

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Jerrolynn Johnson, PhD, DMin

By Dr. Jerrolynn Johnson

I HAVE ONE OF the best jobs in the world. As Assistant Director of Center Education of the Detroit Center, I have the privilege of walk with others on a daily basis, as they work to fulfill part of their calling from God while they are trained At Ashland Theological Seminary-Detroit. I’ve learned that recognizing and embracing our called full-faced, without flinching denying it or minimizing it- are some of the bravest and scariest things we can do. In 1995, when I entered the ATS-Detroit Counseling Program as student, I defined calling as the thing I would do for God. Many of our students also defined calling similarly. Over time, I have discovered that walking in our call  has far more to do with embracing our called identity in God, rather than doing a specific thing for God.

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Roberto Christian Ponce

Today, we bring you a message by Roberto Ponce. The message was recorded on Wednesday March 25, 2015 during our Seminary Chapel.

As Vice President of Marketing and Recruitment, Roberto brings 15 years of marketing experience to Ashland Theological Seminary. He has created and managed national and international integrated marketing campaigns in the pharmaceutical, banking, insurance, automotive, construction, retail, and higher education industries. Roberto led his own multicultural marketing firm until he was called to ministry.

Prior to joining the ATS’ team, Roberto was responsible for all branding, promotions and recruitment efforts for an Assemblies of God international university.  He also worked planning government, public and media relations in Washington, D.C.

His passion in ministry is simultaneous interpreting during church services for Hispanic outreach.

Roberto lives in Columbus with his wife Debra and their three daughters Yolani, Isabel and Sofia.

Text: Galatians 3:28,  Colossians 3: 11, Acts: 2

Roberto Ponce is Vice President of Marketing and Recruitment at Ashland Theological Seminary. He can be reached at jponce@ashland.edu