Story Magazine - Second Quarter, 2005
Notes from the Mission Field
by Richard Bliese, Luther Seminary President
"What are you searching for?" (John 1:38). These are the first words of Jesus in the fourth gospel, and they point to a central theme. Throughout the gospel people are searching for something; for the way to God, for healing, for meaning in a world of persecution and suffering, for abundant life, for light within their darkness, and for a place to belong. Jesus points to himself as the apex of all seeking with the words: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (14: 6).
At Luther Seminary, we spent the whole year searching for something, too.We have been searching for leaders with a heart for mission. This "searching" started with a focused call for future congregational leaders. The results can best be described as astounding. Last year's incoming class of 207 students was the seminary's largest in a decade. Our searching continued with the public phase of the Called and Sent campaign, as we sought out leaders who were willing to support the seminary with their time, prayers and financial support. The results have been amazing! Toward our goal of $96.7 million over a fiveyear period, we have received over $95 million in just over four years.
Finally, we began the search last year for leaders who might join as teachers and mentors. Four responded to the call.
Andrew Root (Assistant Professor of Youth and Family) His special gifts lie in the area of grounding youth and family work upon a rich theological foundation.
Lois Faraq (Assistant Professor of Early Church History) Her experience in Egypt and with the writings of the early church have equipped her to teach our students how to confess Christ in a North American culture that is becoming increasingly foreign to Christian values and beliefs.
Carol Miles (Associate Professor of Preaching) Her gifts lie in assisting others to preach boldly from deep within the texts of Scripture, especially the Old Testament.
Paul Hill (Children, Youth and Family Ministry Vocational Mentor Coordinator) The key to Paul's strengths is his ability to challenge young people with the good news of Jesus from the platform of the Lutheran confessional heritage.
All the searches mentioned above, although diverse in nature, had one single focus: seeking out leadership with a heart for mission.
What is the answer to the various searches in John's gospel? In 1:35-51 we have the essential dynamic of the call to discipleship: "coming and seeing" (v. 39). In response to the disciples' question to find out where Jesus is staying, Jesus responds, "come and see."
The invitation of Jesus to "come and see" means: "The fulfillment of your dreams, aspirations and seeking is finally found in the place where I am." This is not to say that all the disciples had great expectations. Nathanael for one was skeptical. "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Nevertheless, Philip repeats Jesus' invitation to "come and see!" (1:46). So Nathanael follows the invitation and does indeed see greater things, even an open heaven with angels of God ascending and descending (1:51). Here--in the person of Jesus--is the place where seeking is transformed into missional commitment. Leaders with a heart for mission pass along to the world Jesus' simple invitation, "come and see!" What a great message for a seminary.