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Winter 2002 Rapport: Thoughts From the Prez

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A Reality Check

The world has been significantly altered due to the events of September 11. The World Trade Center epitomized so many of the elements our society has come to treasure. Reliance on technology, free market economies, honest hard work to make a good living, and international/global interconnectedness all met the reality of evil head-on. As if we needed to be reminded one more time, bad things do happen to innocent people. The results are painful, long-term, and alter forever the way of life we have come to assume was immune from the evil and chaos we see from a distance on CNN. We may have often even thanked God that the evil and chaos viewed was something distant from U.S. shores. On September 11 we watched our televisions in shock and realized the tragedy we observed is now our own story.

We are a nation groping for some type of anchor. Our prosperity has softened us into believing that material acquisition is the goal of choice in life. We find it hard to accept that there are people in this world who don’t live by a consumerist-based value system. We are even more puzzled at intruders who actually give their lives as a sacrifice to an alleged “holy” cause.

The reality that has shaken our nation following the unspeakable tragedy is really just a 21st century version of the age-old saga of the destructive force of evil and misguided lives. Just several days before the terrorist attacks, I spoke in the opening chapel service here at the Seminary. I had in my heart a growing sense that AGTS was poised to enter a period of time where we needed to most fully realize our mission. I even used the word destiny in my sermon. I felt then and feel even more passionately now: Our destiny as a seminary is preparing leadership for a church that understands first and foremost that we are a people whose future lies in the redemptive mission of our Lord that is ongoing by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The poignant reflection by the apostle Paul (Philippians 3:10-14) reminds us of the seriousness of following Jesus. Paul clearly states in verses 10 and 11 that our destiny does not lie in a selective consumer-based relationship with Christ that serves only our self-devised agendas. Paul says our relationship with Christ must be all-consuming and, therefore, central to every activity of our lives. We can expect the mighty power of the resurrection to be our resource for ministry, yet we can expect vehement opposition from the forces that seek to usurp Christ’s Kingdom rulership. Paul is quite clear in verse 12 that our present can be confidently lived in the light of the future that has been secured for us by the work of Christ.

Verses 13 and 14 are the clincher for me, as I understand my own destiny and the future of AGTS. The past does not control our destiny nor is it our primary reference point. What is past may leave scars, but it does not determine our future. Our future is determined by the fact that our Lord’s resurrection has made the future the magnetic north of all eternity. Life with Christ points toward our destiny; it releases us from the grips of the past that Paul says must be forgotten because of its sheer lack of power in comparison with the victory secured by our Lord.

Ira Stanphill’s old gospel song states it simply: “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand; but I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.”

The reality check we received as a nation on September 11 has created and will continue to create many challenges for which we are ill prepared as a nation. I do believe that for AGTS this can be our finest hour. In the middle of the shaken foundations that so many people have experienced, AGTS commits itself to forming leaders who negotiate uncertainty with deep reliance on the Spirit and divine resource. Therein lies the destiny (the opportunity to do eternal business) that energizes this president and makes me believe that AGTS stands on the threshold of the future for which God has prepared us.

Updated: Thursday, August 7, 2003 3:34 PM

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