The author of several books, including Following Jesus: Prophet, Priest, King and Kings and Presidents: Politics and the Kingdom of God, Dr. Tim Gaines is an associate professor in Trevecca’s Millard Reed School of Theology and Christian Ministry. Ordained as an elder in the Church of the Nazarene, Gaines has served in various pastoral capacities in Kansas City, Chicago and California, and presently serves on the pastoral staff at Trevecca Community Church. As a research fellow at the Stead Center for Ethics and Values, he conducted research in the areas of energy, economics, and bioethics. He has published articles in several academic journals and contributed chapters to several books on various topics related to theology, ethics and technology.
Recently, we asked him a few questions about his work at Trevecca, his deep love for his work and how he’s working to create community while his students are studying remotely. Here’s what he had to say.
- What excites you about your job?
I love the times when it feels like my students and I are sitting at the edge of the new things God is doing in the world. Part of studying theology is coming to the wondrous knowledge that while the activity of God is consistently loving and redemptive, it’s also springing up in all kinds of new and unexpected ways. Part of theology’s work is to train ourselves to see those things God is doing. In the lives of students and in the world we’re living in, I can see the activity of God in all kinds of exciting ways, and my hope is that we can have eyes to see these redemptive realities, even if they are unusual or unexpected.
- How are you working to create community among your students as we've moved to remote instruction for the time being?
One of the things I’ve continued to do is pray for each one of my students. A favorite prayer practice of mine is using my class rosters to pray for each student. I think that helps me to stay concerned about what each student is experiencing, and I think God gives me an increased capacity to hear from them. I’m also trying to communicate with them as often as I can and open lines of communication. With the move to remote learning, I’ve wanted to make sure to use video so they can see my face and hear my voice, but I’ve also adjusted a lot of assignments to allow students to express themselves in relationship to course content. I think it’s important for us to lean harder into hearing and being heard, seeing and being seen, especially as we are apart from one another.
- What fuels your passion for teaching students?
I love the way that studying theology can open our imaginations to new possibilities, and that’s a passion of mine when I work with students. When I see a student begin to imagine a new possibility for ministry or for using their education in a distinctly “Kingdom of God” way, it makes me want to get up the next day and go to work again. Particularly in our liberal arts courses, I’m teaching students from a variety of majors, and I absolutely love to help them see how studying theology can help them use their major in accounting, education, business, nursing or any other field for God’s redemptive purposes.
- On warm spring days, you're often one of the professors we see leading class outside. Why?
Well, if I’m honest, I just think studying theology is better when it’s done in the midst of creation. As helpful as classrooms are, there’s no substitute for being together in some real places and feeling the warmth of the sun or the cool of a breeze. I wish we could get out more often to study and ask questions and do the work of theology in lots of different places, but sometimes, just getting outside on campus is pretty joyful.
- Is there anything that you like to do that might surprise your students?
I love to play piano and guitar when time allows. I’m also a sucker for a long run on Nashville’s greenways. “Star Trek” has been a consistent source of viewing fun, and these days I’m starting to reconnect with my high school self who loved to work on cars. I bought an older car last year, and I’m having a lot of fun working on that in the evenings. My “fun” reading is mostly theology and education books I haven’t been able to get to yet, but I am working with my son on a kid detective book. I’m typing it on an old typewriter, and he’s drawing the pictures. I also love flying and aviation, so when I’m able I’ll get out to Eagleville, Tennessee, to fly a glider, go up with any pilot friends, play Microsoft Flight Simulator or watch YouTube videos about flying.