Mission: A Calling for Life
Below is the second in a four-part Web series exploring Asbury University’s Cornerstone values. To read the first article on Scripture, click here.
In 1905, a sleepy young man encountered the Lord late one evening in an Asbury dorm room. The experience was so powerful that the student held himself ready to “go anywhere and do anything” — and as time went on, he did. The young man was E. Stanley Jones, and his missionary career spanned decades of fruitful ministry in India in which he developed a lasting relationship with Mahatma Gandhi and influenced the nation through his contextualization of Jesus’ life and sacrifice.
Jones is just the sort of person who comes to mind when many present-day Christians think of the term “mission” — after all, he was a mission-ary. Though he is perhaps more recognized than most, he is just one of many Asburians who have been sent out to preach and teach the good news of Jesus throughout the world from a school that values Christian evangelism as a cherished tradition and vibrant present calling.
It might be worth considering, however, that “mission trips” are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the broader meaning of mission. The mission that you see — evangelism in Peru, or church building in urban United States cities — is often dwarfed by the Kingdom work that moves quietly below the surface, supporting the more visible ministries above. The Mission of the Cornerstone values is at once simple and profound; it is the vocation, the calling, that can unite each facet of Christian life under the one umbrella of furthering the Kingdom of God on Earth.
Dr. Lynn Shmidt is an associate professor in the Christian Studies and Philosophy Department at Asbury and a bona fide missionary — he and his wife spent 18 years living and working with church leaders in Botswana and South Africa. He is keenly aware that effective ministry, whether in the mission field across the ocean or the mission field across the back-yard fence, is based on relationships.
“Everyone is called to mission,” Shmidt said. “It’s about seeing what God is doing and finding out how we can fit into that. When Matthew records the Great Commission, the word that our English translations translate as ‘go’ is not imperative. The verb is really more like ‘as you are going.’
“As an institution, we’re training people for a much more holistic ministry, with strategies of mission including teachers, business people and others. I’m hoping that it might even be seen as one of the distinctives of Asbury, that we allow students to understand their calling outside of traditional missionary activity.”
Asbury’s Center for Career and Calling is indeed equipped to help students discern their mission with an array of tools ranging from skills assessments to spiritual gifts inventories and — most importantly — well-trained, listening ears
“Our purpose on campus is to help students find employment reflective of God’s unique call on their lives,” said Kate Vodicka, assistant director of the Center for Career and Calling. “We’re big on taking the time to understand where our students are spiritually, and we spend a lot of time praying with students. ‘Calling’ doesn’t always look like a burning bush, but it can be more subtle and visible in themes that recur in students’ lives.”
This year, the Center for Career and Calling was even a component of New Student Orientation, further emphasizing the goal of the University to have students move beyond choosing a major to exploring the larger purposes guiding their education. As the students grow spiritually, “mission” becomes a matter of asking and answering questions such as “Who have I become in my time here?”, “Where do I want to serve?” and “What are the steps to get me where I want to be?”
Asbury’s official mission is to equip men and women, through a commitment to academic excellence and spiritual vitality, for a lifetime of learning, leadership and service to the professions, society, the family and the Church, thereby preparing them to engage their cultures and advance the cause of Christ around the world. Simply put, Asbury’s mission must be to equip students to live their mission: the merger of their passions and skills with the purposes of God in the world.
“Jesus said, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ [Matt 4:4], and in the end every word that proceeds from the mouth of God is the same word, and the word is Christ himself,” said Frederick Buechner, American writer and theologian. “That is the vocation, the calling of all of us, the calling to be Christs in whatever way we are able to be. To be Christs with whatever gladness we have and in whatever place, among whatever brothers we are called to. That is the vocation, the destiny to which we were all of us called even before the foundations of the world.”
For a more in-depth exploration of Mission at Asbury, click here to read “The Face of Mission” in the Ambassador alumni magazine (Fall 2012), and click here to learn more about mission as a Cornerstone.