By Rev. Dr. Vahan H. Tootikian
Armenian Heritage Committee, 2020
Reviewed by Zaven Khanjian, Executive Director/CEO, Armenian Missionary Association of America
Soul-Searching Thoughts/Nérashkharhis Brismaken is the 44th volume authored by Rev. Dr. Vahan H. Tootikian since the first one saw the light in 1980. An average of one book a year.
What strikes me about this volume is the disciplined mind of the author. Whether in the process of determination to write, the choice of topics or the act of composing, Rev. Tootikian reveals a sound empathy and principled judgement of what he needs to say and what applies to enlighten, teach, educate and train the reader.
A breakdown of this volume’s content reveals the many professional roles that the author—a renowned minister, lecturer, administrator, scholar, prolific writer and community leader—has taken on in the book. I will highlight but a few of the roles leaving others for the reader to recognize and enjoy.
The Preacher. Rev. Dr. Tootikian has served God in the Christian ministry for 62 years. Shepherding flocks around the globe, his passion and primary calling is to disseminate the Word of God. He describes his journey in life as: “There is no vocation or calling more rewarding and satisfying and yet more demanding and challenging than Christian ministry.” It is revealing that embedded in this bilingual book—29 articles in English and 17 in Armenian—from the first article in English, “How to Observe the New Year,” to the last one in Armenian, eulogizing the prominent poet Jacque Hagopian, he cries out the compelling message of a Christ-centered or Christ-driven life. As he runs his soul-searching race, his messages come in the form of sermons, “God of the Second Chance,” Bible studies, “Chains of Freedom” or lectures on human morality, “The Yes in No.”
The Teacher. Along with the good shepherd, Rev. Dr. Tootikian’s race in life has been one of a valuable, treasured and rich experience in church administration, scholarly teaching, community leadership, church history and other fields. This volume brings the heart, mind and soul of the teacher to the reader in a simple textbook style, answering hard questions such as defining success; “You Don’t Have to Win,” defeating pessimism with hope, “What To Say to Pessimists,” promoting social justice, “If the Prophets Were Here Today,” and bolstering lay ministry in the church, “Ministry in the Armenian Evangelical Church.” These are just a few of the boldly and courageously expressed positions from a man whose heart floods with the reflective love of God.
Armenian Christian Identity. Without mincing words, Rev. Dr. Tootikian acknowledges that ethnic identity is a gift that human beings are born in, genealogically inherit and bear its stamp. He clearly asserts that the Armenian Christian identity is a gift from the Creator and has been an inspiration in his life and in the soul-searching thoughts he shares in this book. He cautions though, that an inherited Christian identity cannot substitute for a cognitive acceptance of Christ as a personal savior. Identifying with Christianity requires a conscious acknowledgment, devotion, loyalty and a commitment, often misconstrued by many.
Loyal to his ethnic identity, Rev. Dr. Tootikian is a veteran leader in the global Armenian Evangelical Church, the Armenian Missionary Association of America and the Armenian Evangelical World Council, representing these organizations in interdenominational, ecclesiastical and pan Armenian platforms. The institutions he has diligently served, founded and led in a lifetime of service are the subject of his attention, care and focus. Whether religious or national, Rev. Tootikian is alert to introduce current historical milestones stirring and inviting attention, sharing soul-searching thoughts and celebrating the occasions. For example, The Centennial of the Treaty of Sevres, the 175th anniversary of the Armenian Evangelical Church and the Armenian Evangelical World Council are all under the periscope in this volume.
The Evangelist. Sixty-two years ago, a young man, Vahan Tootikian, heeding to a call from God, dedicated himself to the Lord and entered into discipleship. He has been a steward of the Great Commission. In a wide and multi-faceted field of services rendered to his people and humanity as a teacher, preacher, pastor, author, lecturer, community leader, mentor and more, Rev. Dr. Tootikian has cognitively emulated Christ on earth in his sermons, writings, messages, advice, reflections and real life action. That Christ’s glowing life and the hundreds of disciple-turned lives he has touched around the globe are living testimony of the Evangelist mirrored in this book. The ‘soul-searching thoughts’ emanating from his introspective prism are fresh invitations to new disciples to join the Body of Christ. “Are we making Disciples?”
Markets do not sell greatness, nor do institutionally bestowed degrees establish it. Integrity, humility, good work, hard work and sacrifice are the ingredients that make a man great. Harvesting yet the crop in another season, Rev. Dr. Vahan H. Tootikian justifiably earns the title.