In the college programs at Bethlehem, we aim to graduate men and women who are ready to witness for Christ with wisdom and wonder for the rest of their lives. Fulfilling that aim requires not only intellectual but also spiritual formation during a student’s time here. Therefore, we seek to shape students’ desires by developing certain habits of mind and heart. You could say we’re cultivating their loves. Bethlehem students, we believe, will graduate with a readiness to witness for Christ because what they love has been shaped here.
One love we seek to cultivate is a love for the local church. You may ask, how does cultivating a love for the church contribute to our graduates’ readiness to witness for Christ? I’ve reflected on that question while teaching a senior capstone course titled Global Discipleship. One major question we seek to answer is this: “What is the mission of the church?” Scripture gives us a clear answer in Jesus’ commission in Matthew 28:18-20:
Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The central command in that passage is the central mission of God’s church: make disciples. The local church commissions Christians to go, both by evangelizing locally and crossing cultures globally. The local church declares new disciples to be Christians by baptizing them. And it is the local church that cultivates maturity in those disciples by teaching them to obey everything Jesus commands. While many other Christian institutions, including Bethlehem College & Seminary, support that mission, God commissions the church to carry it out, and it is the church Christ has promised to build (Matt 16:18).
And if the mission of the church to make disciples animates the local church, then cultivating a love for that church means students come to love and seek to fulfill its mission. In other words, love for the local church means students come to love the mission of the church. And such a desire to join God’s mission to make disciples of all peoples is essential for a student’s readiness to witness for Christ.
Our aim at readiness means that from the moment students arrive at Orientation to the day they graduate at Commencement, students hear from their professors and their peers about the value of the local church. In their classes, students not only learn from but also come to love their brothers and sisters from across the ages who represent the beautiful variety of God’s people. They meet sisters like Perpetua who display a humble courage to witness for Christ even to the point of martyrdom. They encounter brothers like Patrick who demonstrate the power the gospel grants to forgive former kidnappers and slave masters and even to return to share Christ with them. By the example of the professors and staff, they discover that weekly chapel is no substitute for weekend worship with the people of God. And membership in our college house system is never an alternative to membership in the local church. Cultivating this love for the local church during college prepares students for a life as faithful churchmen and churchwomen after college.
Zach Howard, MDiv
Director of College Programs &
Assistant Professor of Theology and Humanities
- Pray that as our graduates go out from here and God plants them in new places and at new churches, they would serve those churches in fulfilling the great commission faithfully.
- Pray that our staff and faculty will model faithfulness in love, teaching, and disciple-making in the local church.
- Pray that not only our students’ minds but also their affections would be shaped by their time at Bethlehem, preparing them to witness with wisdom and wonder for the rest of their lives.
- Pray for the provision of the 104 remaining scholarships that will allow us to graduate students who are ready to launch into life and ministry without the financial burden of student debt.
- Pray that God would guide the steps of the students and their families who will join us for Spring Preview Day.