Billy Idol and Spiritual Awakening?
Brock was born in 1970, in Norman, Oklahoma, a college-town where
football is religion and tornadoes are common. While Oklahoma is the
“buckle of the Bible belt,” his unconventional parents modeled a
spiritual life that celebrated freedom and fun, reached out to those on
the fringes, encouraged engagement with culture, embraced denominational
and religious diversity, and emphasized the love and generosity of God.
Growing up in a family like this gave him room to experiment, learn, and
discover things on his own. During his younger
years he grew to love soccer which eventually led him to take-up
placekicking during his first year of college, where he kicked at Texas Christian University (1988-89). Before taking off for college, however, Brock had a
spiritual awakening – at a Billy Idol concert! In short, at the show Brock says he was “ambushed by God,” and from
that night on he began seeking God like a hungry man in search of food.
During college Brock was able to interact with people from a wide
variety of life-backgrounds. Life with 130 football players at TCU was very interesting. This exposure to different kinds of people (from all over the country and from such various backgrounds) deepened Brock’s appreciation
for diversity, student-athletes, and for athletic chaplaincy, which he did at TCU. It also opened his eyes to the fact that all areas of life, whether one is on the playing field, in the dorm, or at their workplace, open up possibilities for serving others, for becoming conduits of God's compassion and love.
It was also in college that Brock began a lifelong journey into the
world of mystics, prophets, and saints. After having an encounter with God at age nineteen which left him profoundly changed,
Brock decided to stop placekicking at TCU, get his BA in religious studies at a local Wesleyan school (Southern Nazarene University), and devote himself to
studying the Bible, koine Greek, church history, spirituality, philosophy, and the lives of spiritual and mystical writers. His studies had such an impact on him
during these formative years that his mother refers to them as his “monk
years,” when he spent several hours a day in prayer and contemplation, and practiced many of the ascetic exercises he read about in
the lives of these mystics. The pull of solitude and prayer was so strong during these years that Brock considered a life of celibacy or joining a lay monastic community. Furthermore, in his undergraduate studies, Brock began reading the early church fathers. In a history course taught by Stephen Gunter (now at Duke), Brock read Tom Oden's Systematic Theology, his three-volume series that illustrates the ongoing fertility and richness of patristic theology. This ignited Brock's interest in neo-patristic and ressourcement theology, something that marks his scholarship, teaching, and mentoring to this day.
Ministry and World Travel
After completing his BA studies at SNU, he moved from Oklahoma to Chicago, where
he earned the M.Div. with an emphasis in theology and biblical studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (now Trinity International University). During his time in Chicago
he devoted himself to studying, mentoring, leading small groups, and
teaching. He also connected with a local pastor who took him under wing,
mentored him, and brought him along on trips all over the world. Seeing
the world (places like England, Turkey, Ireland, Tajikistan, Latvia,
Canada, and all over the United States) was life-changing. It was on these trips
that Brock’s heart was stirred for Christian-Muslim relations, the
plight of the world’s poor, and the multitudes of urban orphans, many of
whom live alone on the streets. Further, in Chicago Brock and his
mentor established an intensive two-year internship for leaders from
around the globe in which emerging leaders were trained and equipped in
practical leadership skills for service in the marketplace, church, and
society. Additionally, while leading this internship, Brock and some of
the interns launched a ministry to those dying of AIDS in a Chicago
hospice. Over the course of several years, this outreach deeply impacted
his life and his outlook on AIDS-related issues. He also served weekly as a chaplain in mental health facilities around Chicago and Evanston. During these seasons of study and ministry, Brock was further convinced that contemplation and action, learning and service, work together hand in hand.
After completing his M.Div., serving on a church staff for several
years, and directing the internship for emerging leaders, Brock met the
woman (Amanda) who became his wife a year later. He moved back to
Oklahoma City, where his wife was completing her final year of studies,
and served in the church his parents planted (Bridgeway Church of OKC),
where he played an active role in the leadership of the church and led
the college ministry. These years of serving in the church, both in Chicago and Oklahoma, further fueled Brock's passion for teaching, mentoring leaders, equipping lay people, and sharing the love of God with others.
Subterranean S.F. and Ph.D.
In the late 1990s, Brock felt a growing desire to spend
the majority of his time with people outside the church. So, being the
shoe-lover that he is (and having the pipe dream of owning a shoe
boutique), he and his wife, along with his brother and sister-in-law,
moved to San Francisco’s Mission District, where they started
Subterranean Shoe Room on the well-known Valencia Street corridor. It
was the perfect place to launch a business, interact with interesting
people, serve the local community, and learn the ins and outs of entrepreneurship. In 2004 Brock
sold the business and decided to go back to school and get his Ph.D. in
order to teach and mentor university students. He and his wife and
daughter moved to Chicago, where Brock completed his Ph.D. in
Constructive Theology at Loyola University, supervised by Mark McIntosh. At Loyola Brock served as a
teaching and research fellow, mentored students, trained young leaders,
and began publishing research on spirituality, theology and culture, leadership, and
Wesleyan: Passion for Teaching, Scholarship, and Mentoring
Brock, Amanda, and their two children currently live in Macon, GA, where he is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Wesleyan College, the first college in the world chartered to give degrees to women. As the Program Director of Religious Studies and Director of the Pre-Seminary Program, Brock is committed to equipping students in the study of the nature of religion and in theological studies. This means instructing students in classic and contemporary theories in the study of religion, including such figures as Tylor, Freud, Marx, Durkheim, Otto, James, Weber, and Geertz. It also means directing them in the critical study of the scriptures, church history, systematic theology, and the theologies of world religions. In his classes, Brock creates a student-centered, creative learning environment, where students read and discuss primary classical texts and contemporary scholarship by leading thinkers. He also helps students conduct research, learn to present well-informed arguments (cf. The Craft of Research, by W. Booth), and integrate religious studies with other disciplines in the liberal arts. He is also a fan of taking students to do fieldwork, to see and experience firsthand various sacred places, churches, and rituals. Many of his students are from other disciplines, including history, political science, biology, fine arts, and women's studies, while others major or minor in religious studies and go on to study at graduate schools such as Duke, Yale, Emory, Wake Forest, and Harvard. His passion is teaching and mentoring students, something he considers a calling.
(Note: Contrary to the account given in M. Frost's 2003 book, The Shaping of Things to Come,
Brock has never been a "Southern Baptist church planter" [nor
affiliated with the Baptist denomination] who had intentions of planting
"a purpose driven church." It is true, however, that Brock started a
shoe store in San Francisco's Mission District which he sold in 2004, and that he is committed to missional discipleship in the postmodern world.
The author has apologized to Brock for publishing a story that contains a
number of inaccurate details.)