Stanley Burgess, Ph.D., is professor
of religious studies at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield,
Mo. His father, John Burgess, an Assemblies of God missionary, pastor
and educator, went to be with the Lord on March 18, 2001, at the age
of 98. He spoke recently with Miriam Testasecca about the heritage his
Evangel: What keys for Christian
living did your father impart to you and your children?
father, John Burgess (r), an Assemblies of God missionary, pastor
and educator, went to be with the Lord on March 18, 2001, at the
age of 98.
Burgess: Our family feels
blessed because my parents moved to Springfield when our children were
young, and my father and mother gave them the same foundation for their
faith that I received.
My wife was working on her doctorate
and I was teaching full time at SMS, so my parents were with our children
every day. They were taught the value of the Scriptures through reading
a chapter from the Old Testament in the morning and a chapter from the
New Testament in the afternoon. They memorized entire chapters. Through
times of prayer and worship that accompanied reading the Scriptures,
my father taught them the value of prayer. The children knew he prayed
for them daily.
My fathers personal prayer
life was an example to the entire family. He would rise at 5 a.m. daily
for a time of communion with the Lord. Through his faithful Christian
living, he left them with a spiritual heritage they are now passing
down to their children.
Evangel: How do you cultivate
a spiritual heritage?
Burgess: You do it purposefully.
You make it an objective every morning to cultivate that through a relationship
with God. Dad believed that people need to live what they teach
you cant give away something you dont have.
Evangel: What advice would you
give fathers and grandfathers that you gained from observing your fathers
Burgess: My father had several
philosophies that greatly benefited our family. He believed he was responsible
for the multigenerational transmission of scriptural principles. He
felt the need to do a good job of passing on foundational faith to me
as his son, but he also felt a greater responsibility to transmit that
faith to his grandchildren. It takes years of godly living to build
a spiritual foundation something substantial to pass down to
your grandchildren. The grandchildren benefit even more than children
from those years of faithful living. My dad also realized the value
of spending time with his grandchildren.
Dad taught me principles of living
and how to think. He followed the apostle Pauls advice that everything
should be done decently and in order. Dad lived a life with no regrets.
He was intensely loyal to his family and also to the Assemblies
Its because of my father that
Im a historian of the Christian tradition. Dad recognized that
everything would be forgotten if its not recorded. He said we
would have no record of the life of Christ if it had not been written.
I call it the ministry of remembrance.
Evangel: If you had to describe
your father in one word, what would it be?
Burgess: Constancy. Constancy
in his faith, his personal life, his commitment to God and his witness.
Even in his late 90s he was witnessing in the nursing home and singing
praises in his bedroom. He would purposefully find ways to help people
just to get a chance to witness to them about Jesus Christ.
Evangel: Give an example of something
you have done as a parent and grandparent to pass on this spiritual
Burgess: Several years ago
we took four of our five children to India. We wanted to build altars
of remembrance by showing them where both sets of grandparents had ministered.
As we took them to the cities where my wifes parents had labored
and Punalur Bethel Bible College that my father established in 1927
(the oldest foreign Assemblies of God Bible school), we talked about
their consistent lives and the sacrifices they made. It made an indelible
impression on the children.
Just like the people in Joshuas
day, we need to find ways to maintain the remembrance of our spiritual