By Dean VanDruffTable of Contents & Links:
- About us - Overview of Church Background
- The Dallas Bible Study Group
- Highlights of our Faith
- Early Influences
- Favorite Teachers and Writers
OverviewLaura and I do not put much stock in denominational affiliation or encourage it in others. Nonetheless, our doctrine is largely derived from Bible and Baptist sources, with possible exceptions being that we believe in the gifts of the Spirit, and are not persuaded by pretribulation eschatology.
We also find fellowship and agreement with charismatic and AOG churches, with the possible exceptions that we do not think that tongues is the only first gift God graces believers with, and also that we are convinced by Scripture and experience that all supernatural manifestations can and should be tested. The Holy Spirit's activities will never resist or flinch from this testing (many Charismatics and Pentecostals would agree) as it is the Holy Spirit, through the Scriptures, who commands us to do this. Resistance to this testing, we believe, is a clear indication that the activity or practice is not of God.
Laura and I travel a lot. In this we have a chance to attend many different fellowships of various denominations: Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Salvation Army, Quaker, and various House Churches (Acts 20:20). We feel most people could benefit, as we have, by not seeing themselves as "Baptist" or "Pentecostal" or whatever. In this sense, we are nondenominational. But neither should we make the claim of being solely "of Christ" (1Cor 1:12d) as a type of nondenominational boasting. We have been planted, watered, cultivated, and nourished by certain groups, and wish to reflect our legacy and debt of gratitude to them.
About the Dallas Group
Our home in Dallas became sort of a ministry center circa 1990. (Part of the "bait", perhaps, was the unusual interior decoration and art studio atmosphere of our house.) People were coming and going at all hours, temporarily in residence, counseling, teaching, praising God, "hanging out", and in general enjoying the Lord.
The Friday Night group was first started in an attempt to manage the chaos our house had become. Rare was the day that we did not have Christians over to pray, study and discuss Scripture, and praise--usually late into the night. We decided to focus some of this activity on a particular night and picked erev Shabbot, or Friday night.
Attendees included people from various churches, seminaries, and ministries in town: Fellowship Bible of Park Cities (my church from 1988-1991), Church on the Rock (where Don Wallace led praise and worship), Baruch Ha Shem (Laura and I from 1991-1993), Emmanuel Fellowship, and various Baptist and Bible Churches in the area. Among others, students from Dallas Theological Seminary, Southwestern, Wycliffe, and Christ for the Nations attended. Intermingled with these were attendees fresh from sinful lifestyles, cults, and other false "ministries" that surrounded our area.
This was an eclectic group, both theologically and socially, but by the grace of God we had rich fellowship in the Spirit. Due to this diversity and depth, we could not get away with "preaching to the choir"--to say the least.
Altogether, some 40-50 people attended. As each study was topical, and as Fridays are difficult to consistently attend, and as we encouraged people not to come if they did not feel strongly lead to, we usually had 10-15 people. This was an on-going miracle of congregation, and it was always a blessing to see whom God would assemble on a particular Friday night. Those who could not make it were always able to get a copy of the study later.
In general, when a need would arise among us for some Biblical correction that would apply to certain people, we would pray earnestly for these particular people to attend. Miraculously, they would come to the study after not attending for several weeks or even months. This was more the rule than the exception.
As well, before announcing our topic we would often ask if anyone had a verse they would like to share or a prompting of "what the Spirit was saying to the churches", and more often than not the comments were DIRECTLY in context. Often what was mentioned was a missing piece of the study, which we would then incorporate into the written version sent to the mailing list.
Most of the studies now posted on the Acts 17:11 website came from the time period of 1990-1992. These we are most confident of by the Lord's confirmation and by the fruit of the Spirit produced in many lives, especially our own. The presence of God was palpable among us.
2 Cor 5:12 (NIV) We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.I taught maybe half of the time. Others teachers used their own style, with only a few utilizing the format you see used here, some of which are included on the website. Coming from such varied churches, traditions, and maturity levels made for an enriching experience of fellowship and growth for all of us. Many of the participants and teachers started their own home groups, which we enjoyed attending as well.
This attempt to funnel activity into Friday night to manage the chaos did not work, and almost every night in our house remained a time of spiritual activity: preparation for Friday's study, praise practice, planning to help someone in need, launching into street ministries, intercessory prayer, and spontaneous teaching or discussion. When a person with a Bible was seen walking through the neighborhood for lack of a local parking place, our neighbors would quip: "You must be looking for Dean's place".
From those "grace wave" days we moved to Austin, then San Jose, which we now regard as our "wilderness experience." So then, we moved back to Dallas in Nov 2020 where we are presently attending Grace Church in Frisco.
Highlights of our Faith
Both Laura and I were born again in the late 70's. We met in 1991, when she came with some friends to our house for a Friday night Bible study. We were married in December, 1992.
Laura is a gifted teacher and is very well read ("take that out", she is saying)--on average about a book a week--and has contributed to nearly all of these studies. As an example, Laura did the basic research for the "death to self" study, and I typed in the particular verses. She proofs and refines all of the studies ("Don't say that! I'll get blamed for all the typos in the 'Net versions.") and has taught the material herself in Prison Ministry and with youth.
For those who wonder where we get the time for all this, we have two simple answers: 1) you ALWAYS have time for what is most important to you, and 2) we have no TV.
In 1990, 13 years after committing my life to Christ, I received a powerful conveyance of the Holy Spirit. I would call it a baptism, but if this irritates you we can call it a "filling". In any case it was real. It came from a deep conviction that I knew God "out there", that He was "with me", that I was "saved", but that I did not really have His life coursing through my body. Submission to God in this event was one of the most terrifying and difficult experiences of my life, but has resulted in a crop of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit "suddenly" in my life.
2 Cor 3:1,5 (NIV) Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you?... Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.Laura and I are also keen on being "tentmakers" and not taking in money for any aspect of our ministry as long as it is possible to do so. God has richly blessed us in this discipline up to this point.
Early Influences & Favorite Teachers
I was influenced by Josh McDowell in High School before becoming a Christian. God used his writings to encourage me to take Christianity seriously.
Just after embracing the faith, I spent several years in Phoenix, AZ in Engineering School where I attended North Phoenix Baptist Church. There, I "fell in with" several seminary students from Grand Canyon College, and we had a great time in our "Sunday school classes". I was always questioning things, not content with answers that merely substituted religious terminology. "I am an engineering student," I would say, "So what am I supposed to think, and what am I to do next--in plain English?" Luckily, these zealous brothers saw me as a project and contended with me until I was harangued into orthodoxy. I praise God for their influence and hope they learned something as well by having to counter all my objections.
The style of teaching you see here started when I was assigned the topic of "Repentance" as feature speaker at a youth camp in Kansas City back in 1990. Thinking this was going to go over like a "lead balloon", the Lord showed me the GIFT of repentance, and it has been the basis of my teaching ever since. We just serve up a massive dose of Scripture and STARE AT IT, and let God do His stuff.
C.S. Lewis is still one of my favorite writers. I believe I have read everything he has written. A good overview of his work is The Great Divorce.
Ray Stedman's teaching has significantly shaped my spiritual journey, as well as Laura's. Ray was the founder of Peninsula Bible Church, my former church in Palo Alto (1987). A good place to start with Ray is Authentic Christianity, which is part teaching, part theology, and part worship of the majesty of God's ways. Laura also recommends Abraham, Man of Faith.
An unconventional favorite book is Edwin Abbott's Flatland. Abbot was passionate about addressing a concern that we share: differentiating mere superstition from the the supernatural. Flatland was written with this in view: to make a parabolic case for the "higher order" of things and how it would relate to us. While often portrayed as a treatise on mathematics, the math was only the idiom. Abbot was trying, by way of parable, to show the rationality of belief in the supernatural. It is also hilarious social satire.
Laura has participated in the teaching of Kay Arthur, and has been through the leadership courses at the Precept Ministry Institute of Training in Chattanooga, TN.
As you could probably guess by how often we quote him, we love how A.W. Tozer articulates the wisdom of God. Oswald Chambers has had a similar effect in encouraging to be bold about what we have learned by standing "in the council of the Lord". We are also resonant with John Piper's emphasis and ministry, and recommend the book "Desiring God". More recently, we have enjoyed the prophetic insight, practical application, and sense-of-humor of Joel Richardson.
Summary and Conclusion
Laura and I are committed to be "open books", and we will answer any reasonable question asked of us--beyond what is written here. We offer the above, not with the motive to boast in men, but to help others triangulate where we are coming from.
1 Cor 11:17-18 (NIV) That which I am speaking, I am not speaking as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also.
While not wanting to play to the carnal orientation so prevalent in our modern "fleshly" assessments of one another, we have tried to paint an accurate picture of our history and legacy for the purpose of satisfying people's genuine curiosity.
But the real test is not in such exercises, but in the witness of the Holy Spirit in confirmation of the Word that we have carefully, prayerfully, and lovingly prepared. To this end we strive with all that is within us, and hope you sense our intensity of Spirit and joy of service to the body of our blessed Lord. To do less would not be worthy of what He has done for us.
John 21:17 (NIV) ... Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."
We all have 10,000 teachers in Christ and should enjoy the bounty of it, not be "of this one" or "of that one" (1Cor 1:12,3:4). All these and more (and with them--troubles!) are ours in Messiah.Jer 9:24 (NIV) But let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I AM the LORD...
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