The Bible Belt Man

Fscvb_int_mastheadLast Thursday I headed north. At least to North Arkansas. Fort Smith to be exact. I had no idea that FS had exploded in growth like it has. In my book, any town that has a Books-a-Million is a town worthy of metropolis status. That was my first stop, as a matter of fact.

However, my purpose in going was to hang out with a good friend and former campus ministry buddy, Jackie Flake. There are few folks in one’s life that you can totally unpack all your theological baggage, ideas, and vision with, but for me, he is one of those unique friends. He’s also brilliant. Dadgummit. He not only absorbs quickly what I’m babbling about, but is able to integrate, reflect, and respond with a biblical worldview that encourages, challenges, and refines.

I spent Thursday evening with his wonderful family (hey girls!), and then he and I spent Friday and Saturday morning together at a wonderful new retreat center – Oaks Manor. Sign1tt
I highly recommend it for a getaway, group retreat, or organizational meeting. Friday night, I got to interact with some dynamic collegiate followers of Christ at a coffee house called Aromas. I loved their strategy of seeking to dialogue with peers in an informal setting by using relevant, contemporary issues. Friday night, they discussed the federal marriage amendment. Their conversational style was distinctly gracious, open, and honest. I was reminded of a title of a book I had to read in seminary and now remember very little about its content – Faith Seeking Understanding. I was humbled by their desire to glorify the God of Creation by bringing a biblical worldview to contemporary issues, while at the same time seeking to build genuine dialogue with others who haven’t yet made the decision to become a follower of Christ.

The funny thing about the whole weekend was the fact that many of these Fort Smithians(!?) had read my little blog and were now calling me the "Bible Belt Man." I’m sure that’s in reference to one entry in particular, but it’s a moniker that I began to think about on the way home. BBM! (Imagine theme music to that!) Apart from there being a BM in the name, I like it. It’s a great platform from which to creatively critique and challenge the church of the Beltway to re-engage with the teachings of Christ and to also re-engage with their own culture. If there’s one word that I believe characterizes most churches in the American South, it’s retreat. More on this later.

In the meantime, I’ve suckered, uh, I mean, enlisted, Jackie to be a contributor over at
Ignorant Protestant. I’m also in the process of inviting a few others to help make that site a great resource for Christ followers in the 21st century to connect with the ancient faith of our Jewish Messiah. Stop by and check out how it’s shaping up and leave a comment or two.

And Jackie… the comment link is right below this. I know your blog-challenged, but try it, you’ll like it.

On this day...


  1. Brittany Martin says:
    I’m hurt…you were in our neck of the woods and didn’t even call?? I guess I’ll let you off the hook this time since I’m not sure you even have our phone number. But next time you’re up here, let us know!
  2. Jeff says:
    Elton… I’ve emailed Jackie and asked him to get in touch with you. Be looking for an email from him.
  3. Elton says:
    I left Fort Smith fifteen years ago when I went off to college with the attitude of George Bailey saying, “I’m going to shake the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and go out and see the world.” Now I’d give anything to move back there (now that they have a Starbucks). I’m excited to hear that there are some positive things going on there, because FS tends to be overly traditional and religious. I’m going to try to look some of these folks up next time we’re on furlough.
  4. Jeff says:
    Mark… thanks for the commenting. I’ve enjoyed your blogging immensely and probably refrain from commmenting there simply because I don’t want to dominate the interaction.

    And no offense (AT ALL!) taken from the minivan remarks. I’ve been feeling rather pretty driving it.

  5. Mark W. says:
    Sounds like you had a great time. I particulary related to your comments about Mr. Flake (an unfortunate last name) not because I’ve ever met him, but because you said, “He’s also brilliant. Dadgummit. He not only absorbs quickly what I’m babbling about, but is able to integrate, reflect, and respond…” I love that feeling I get when I’m in awe of someone’s intellect and feel like bouncing off of them all the ideas I’ve had in the last five years. How fun that always is! And Books-A-Million…I’m jealous!

    Also, thanks a bunch for the DJ mag (address is forthcoming) – I’ll see what kind of thing I can come up with to “pay it forward.”

    BTW…apologies for the cheap shot about Hilary Swank and the minivan. It was in good spirits. Our next car will probably one of those too. Nothing wrong with it…nothing, nothing, nothing.

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