By Justin Rossow
The first thing I did when I got to St. Luke two-and-a-half years ago was leave; between my first sermon right before Christmas and my actual installation on January 20 (happy birthday to me!), I spent two weeks at Concordia Seminary–St. Louis teaching a Ph.D. course called Engaging Metaphor for Church and World. This April, I get to go back and do it again! And I can’t wait! Here’s why.
1. St. Luke has an eye on Kingdom, not just congregation
At St. Luke, we want our congregation to be healthy and grow; and at the same time, we want to be available to be used by God to impact the broader Church. While the needs of the local congregation and the needs of the broader Church can be in tension at times, I have repeatedly experienced St. Luke as a place that wants to have Kingdom impact.
You sent a strong message to me when I first got here by letting me take time to go teach even though it was not convenient for the congregation. There is nothing convenient about me leaving this April–far from it! But St. Luke is again affirming a willingness to be inconvenienced as a congregation for the sake of broader Kingdom health. That’s a powerful position to take, and one that makes me excited to be on staff here!
inconvenienced for the Kingdom
2. Teaching keeps me sharp
If you really want to learn something, teach it. While you may have heard that adage before, a 2009 article in the Harvard Business Review actually suggests that teaching is a more effective way of learning than being mentored!
Experientially I would have to say this has been true of me: I have never known the Old Testament as well as when I was teaching it at the Sem; I am always more aware of my preaching whenever I am preparing to teach preachers; my theological thinking is stretched most when Bible, theory, and real life application all collide in the classroom and get taken back into congregational life.
Below are some examples of preaching and teaching that benefitted from the work I have done in metaphor theory, preaching, and theology. Nothing keeps you sharp like having to teach (and grade!) the next generation of preachers and theologians.
3. Equipping preachers and theologians impacts the Church
I love that moment when the light bulb goes off and someone finally grasps the implications of the work you have shared! I love the Aha! But I also love to see what others do with the basic tools I get to put in their toolbox.
As they apply what I teach to their own fields of expertise, some amazing things happen. I once had a pastor do a study of how metaphor theory shapes the way we understand communion fellowship across denominations. Another did an in-depth analysis of Paul’s Exodus metaphors in the Greek of Colossians 1.
An international student analyzed warfare metaphors in his Brazilian culture and applied what he learned to preaching in this article: The Brazilian Metaphor LIFE IS A BATTLE. A Deaconess getting her Ph.D. worked with metaphors in hymn texts and came up with this paper, Plato’s Cave, Hymnody, and Metaphor Theory.
One of the things I like best about teaching is seeing what intelligent and creative people do with what you teach. I get the opportunity to sit with pastors, teacher, deaconesses, missionaries, and future professors of the Church! And it is awesome to see what they are going to do next!
So thank you, St. Luke! Thank you for being a Kingdom-focused congregation. Thank you for encouraging me to take the time to go and teach, even though it inconveniences you. What I learn and bring back is a real benefit to my ministry here, but mostly, it’s just a joy to get to serve the broader Church.
I will miss you, but I look forward to sharing with you what I learned while I was gone!
Grace and peace,
For more on ways in which Pastor Justin has applied his degree in Theology and Culture to mission and ministry at St. Luke, check out justinrossow.com, especially blogs like: A Tale of Two Easters, Advent Sermon Structures, or The 7 Tools for Development in Action.