Reflections at Fuller Seminary’s Commencement
June 10, 2012
Below is the text of my three-minute speech to the Fuller graduating Class of 2012 and their families and friends, on Saturday, June 9, 2012, at Lake Avenue Congregational Church. I was chosen to be one of four student speakers, and the task was “to give a snapshot of what you are doing now in ministry, and how Fuller helped prepare you.”
Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses and professors, I have a fire in my belly for teaching. My thirty-five years of learning at Fuller has taught me that the world and the church need more and better teaching ministers. This need for reliable and timely instruction in the faith dates back to the Garden of Eden. Adam missed an incredible teachable moment when the snake asked his wife Eve, “Did God really say you can’t eat off that tree?” Since then the people of God, and their neighbors in the world, have needed godly instructors who are passionate about getting the Story right and willing to seize those teachable moments for informative conversation.
So this is what I do: I bring the Word of God to life—to real life. I love being there at the moment a person or a group is making a decision. Whether in the intimate pastoral setting of spiritual direction or at the occasional convention of a church governing body, I feel called to inspire, strengthen, and equip ordinary Christians for biblically faithful decision-making in their context. For thirty years my context for bringing the Word to life was the parish, nineteen of those years as pastor; but in the last five years I have exercised my spiritual gifts in the context of mainline denominational decision-making, and regularly consult in matters of Presbyterian law and polity. How glad I am that I learned Church History here at Fuller; I learned how to think theologically here; I learned sound doctrine and wise praxis here! I learned how to lead a small group here! I learned how to preach and teach here! And I have had the deep privilege, in turn, of teaching M.Div. students how to preach and teach.
Having prepared me so well, God has orchestrated the circumstances of my life so that I would be equipped and available for a fairly unusual teaching role at the national level. As executive director of The Presbyterian Coalition, I help people navigate through the dilemmas and controversies troubling my particular denomination at the moment. I find the work challenging and invigorating; and decades of Fuller studies, papers written, and conversations recalled fuel my efforts on a daily basis.
While my inner-geek enjoys full engagement with theological issues through teaching, consulting, and blogging, Fuller has also taught me that my strength comes only from the Lord, and my soul needs as much tending as my ministry productivity. So I remain anchored, blessed, and accountable in a local parish where I preach occasionally, make pastoral visits, and yes of course, teach the Bible. My passion and my prayer is that each one of us, graduates and friends of Fuller, would embrace the call to teach faith as a way of life and demonstrate the transforming power of Christ’s gospel to this generation!