As we begin a new year, my 2020 vision for our students is threefold:
1. Students will know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. Through our curriculum, students gain a great deal of information about the Bible, theology, and practical ministry skills. We are proud of the academic accomplishments of our students. But we also believe that knowing God is more than cognition. The apostle Paul prayed that his disciples would know a love that surpasses knowledge, that his disciples would be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:19)
I pray that in 2020 our students will seek intimate relationships with the Spirit. Henri Nouwen wrote, “For the future of Christian leadership it is of vital importance to reclaim the mystical aspect of theology so that every word spoken, every advice given, and every strategy developed can come from a heart that knows God intimately.” I pray that our students will be people with an ardent desire to sit in the presence of God and listen to his voice.
2. Students will receive grace. All of our students hold ministry positions in their churches and ministry organizations. These leaders are great at dispensing grace. They give others a break, but they are often too critical of their own shortcomings. When they get an “A,” they are disappointed they didn’t get an “A+”. They give, and give, and give, but they have a hard time receiving grace. I pray that God will provide every student with grace to receive grace from mentors, colleagues, and professors.
3. Students will persevere. Graduate school is demanding enough, but when you add the exhaustion of ministry, seminary can seem overwhelming at times. Our students will face church and family crises. They will experience health issues. Some students will experience financial challenges that will affect their continuation in school.
Difficult circumstances are the soil for growth. As James wrote, “Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.” (James 1:204 TLB) I pray that our students will know the power of Christ’s resurrection and find strength and perseverance in his sufferings.
Would you join me in praying that this 2020 vision will be realized? One of my key verses for this year is, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Eph. 6:18)
So be it.