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New D.Min director plans to build upon program’s history

Logan Butts  | 

Carlus Gupton

In January of 2021, Dr. Carlus Gupton (’82) returned to Lipscomb to take on the role of director of the Doctor of Ministry program in the Hazelip School of Theology

He always knew he would be teaching, and moving to Lipscomb allows him to be back where his professional journey began. 

“From early on, I thought I would be teaching. That trajectory seemed clear. What's special about being at Lipscomb is that it brings me back to where my formation as a minister began and allows me to honor the influence of those who poured into my life during that time.” 

Gupton began his long journey in ministry at Lipscomb where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Education, before going on to receive a Master of Divinity at Harding School of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry at Abilene Christian University. He would go on to teach at Johnson University in Knoxville, Tennessee as a professor of Church Leadership and New Testament, and at Harding as a professor of Church Leadership, and eventually as the Co-Director of the Doctor of Ministry program. 

During the last 40-plus years, Gupton has also served a number of Churches of Christ, first as a lead minister, and then as interim minister, consultant, and professional coach. Helping church leaders, whether independently or in partnership with Hope Network Ministries, is as central to his call as the academic appointment.

Through all this experience, one thing has stuck with Gupton - healthy ministry blends strong academic training and best practices. 

“It seems to me that one must know how to take classical training in scripture, theology, and best practices and bridge that meaningfully to address the needs of the people. And it takes a long time to learn that.” 

Many of the professors that influenced Gupton during his time as a student at Lipscomb were also practicing ministers, which is something he feels is important when teaching the next generation of church leaders. 

“If I were to list some of the teachers at that time who were most influential in my development, they would be the ones who were not only professors but also local ministers - Batsell Barrett Baxter, Marlin Connelly, Clyde Miller, and others. And when they taught ministry courses, that was clearly evident. Nothing they spoke about relative to ministry was strictly clinical. It was deeply rooted in best practices, but it had been lived out in the real world of experience.” 

Gupton hopes to build upon this tradition with the DMIN program at Lipscomb. 

“I came recognizing some inherent strengths in the program - theological grounding, spiritual formation, and biblical justice.” 

The current program adds to these strengths several courses that address the complex challenges of contemporary ministry. These include: 

  • Dynamics of Local Mission 
  • Leader as Self in Relationship 
  • Introduction to Spiritual Companionship
  • Peace for Missional Progress 
  • Theology of Mission
  • Missional Imagination and Congregational Change
  • Currencies of Influence
  • Theological Framework for Contemporary Ministry
  • Justice, Mission, and the Kingdom of God - An impactful travel-based justice pilgrimage that circulates among many of the sites that were central to the Civil Rights Movement

Alongside those courses, students will have standard research courses that eventually lead to a final project. 

These courses have been designed with the goal of preparing students for a constantly changing world. 

“I believe we're living in some really challenging times. And it's exciting to be a part of shaping a doctoral program that I believe will equip exemplary Christian leaders with deep formation and advanced competencies for thriving, biblically framed ministries in their contexts.”