After Efird had taught Greek and Hebrew for a year, Dean Robert E. Cushman offered him a three-year contract. Duke, said Cushman, needed more instructors like Efird. During the next year he taught 10 classes—eight of which were different courses; the following year his load dropped to nine classes, seven of which were different courses. “I had a load-and-a-half and a half-salary,” says Efird. “I enjoyed it. I like teaching.”
Although he preferred teaching to publishing, Efird has published 13 books and countless articles. His best known books, New Testament Writings and Old Testament Writings, are still in print and widely used for college-level Bible courses. They reflect his intense desire for making the Bible accessible to the community of saints. They are not massive, obscure tomes, but solid, sensible tools that scholars and pastors find helpful in interpreting the Bible.
Course of Study
Since 1966, Efird has taught in the United Methodist Church’s summer Course of Study (COS) for local pastors. The only summer he has missed was 1995, when a heart attack and quadruple by-pass surgery kept him out of the classroom. Wes Brown, associate dean for external relations, coordinated Course of Study at that time and found a way to help Efird preserve his streak. He arranged for Efird, who was convalescing, to give one lecture to the fifth-year students that summer in the Alumni Memorial Common Room.
“I’ve always admired these folks because they serve churches that might go unserved otherwise,” says Efird of the COS students. “And they serve a lot of people.” In the four-week summer sessions, Efird has about 20 class hours to teach material covered in 38 class hours in regular divinity school courses.
He admits to having to sacrifice some depth in the shorter format. Instead of the 20-30 page final paper required of regular divinity students, COS students take a final exam—an exam much like the midterm that expels new students from the Garden of the divinity school.
Lay Academy of Religion
Over the past 20 years, Efird’s gifts as a teacher have gained even wider appreciation. In 1984, Dean Dennis Campbell and Joe Mann, who was director of continuing education, approached him about developing a program to give laity a more thorough knowledge of the Bible. The ground was laid for what is now the Duke Divinity School Lay Academy of Religion.
It was also the beginning of what, for all intents and purposes, became a second career for Efird.
In churches across North Carolina, Efird has established himself as a challenging, though entertaining, instructor.
“Efird is widely known and appreciated for his commitment to the church, to lay people, and to the task of theological education,” says Campbell, who is currently headmaster of Woodberry Forest School in Virginia. “His vision and commitment to lay men and women is remarkable. He has the gift of sharing complex ideas in such a way that helps people understand the issues intellectually and also to grow spiritually.”
Groups of loyal adult learners from a variety of denominations have followed Efird over the years. That popularity has led to a series of videos, complete with study guides, featuring Efird’s entire Bible series. (For more information, go to http://www.mickeyefird.com.)
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