Settling for Part not the Whole

Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot (Haran’s son), and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they set out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years and died in Haran.” (Genesis 11:31–32, HCSB)

Abraham, whose life and family comprise the bulk of the Old Testament book of Genesis, is an intriguing personality on many levels. His unquestioning obedience to God (Genesis 12:1-3); his failures (see Genesis 12:10-following; Genesis 16; Genesis 20:1-following); his aggressive protection of family (Genesis 14); and his unwavering willingness to obey God no matter the cost (Genesis 22) are remarkable.

One of the most interesting aspects ins Abraham’s life, however, is often overlooked – Genesis 11:31, “Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot (Haran’s son), and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they set out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there.” (Genesis 11:31, HCSB, emphasis added).

“They settled there.” Abraham’s father had left his family behind, with the exception of Sarai, Abram, and Lot in order to go to the land of Canaan. But he settled in Haran. Why? The Bible never reveals why Terah settled there. We do know from Genesis 12:1 and following that Abram did leave his father and his extended family in order to finish what his father had started.

One of my ancestors, Samuel McAdow, was an instrumental figure in the founding of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.[1] Part of the reason this group of churches broke with the traditional Presbyterian church in the United States had to do with the education of and training of ministers. In the early 1800’s as Americans were moving west at a significant rate, churches were being planted. Those men (and women in the Cumberland Presbyterian movement) acknowledging God’s call on their lives to serve as pastors often travelled back East for ministerial training. Having received their training in the larger cities of the Eastern seaboard, many of these men accepted the call to churches in those cities, leaving churches in the western regions without trained clergy.

Many of the churches being started in the early years of the 19th century was born of the revival of 1800. Needing ministers immediately one of the issues that the Cumberland Presbytery had to confront was how to accommodate these new churches. If men were required to attend seminary before pastoring many of these newly planted churches would die. So this group of men chose to break with the Presbyterian Church of the US and create their own denomination and innovate ways to provide education for pastors without requiring travel back east.

To make a long story a little shorter I found myself on the board of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky from 1993 – 2003. One of the things I am proudest of in that seminary and our other Southern Baptist seminaries is their willingness to provide educational training for pastors and other ministers while they are serving churches across the United States and even the world via the internet and the modular courses these institutions offer.

While I can’t be certain the Mr. McAdow had dreams of expanding to the west coast, I can look back and say that because of men like him and many others, I have been able to serve as a pastor while studying to receive both my Master of Divinity and my Doctor of Ministry degrees.

Maybe Terah saw something in Abram that only God saw, knowing that Abram was equipped in ways he himself was not. Maybe Samuel McAdow saw a future that included the spread of the gospel into the far reaches of the Northwestern United States and maybe not. I celebrate the fact that he at least began a journey that has enabled the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.



[1], accessed on 2/7/17.


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