Seminary: A Place for Missiological Preparedness -- By: Manuel Ortiz

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 59:1 (Spring 1997)
Article: Seminary: A Place for Missiological Preparedness
Author: Manuel Ortiz

Seminary: A Place for Missiological Preparedness*

Manuel Ortiz

[Inaugural address as professor of Ministry and Mission, delivered at Westminster Theological Seminary, February 6, 1996.]

It was shortly after my conversion in New York City and my initial entrance into discipleship and training at Philadelphia College of the Bible that my wife Blanca and I drove by Westminster where many of the authors of my textbooks were laboring for the cause of Christ. I whispered to Blanca, “Imagine me teaching here one day?” After a number of years in Philadelphia serving in the African-American community and teaching in an elementary school, I headed toward another city to plant churches and develop leadership. For the next fifteen years I would serve the Lord in Chicago without any remembrance of that brief whisper. As I rounded the corner of what seemed to me to be the close of my work in Chicago where the churches that were planted now had indigenous leadership pastoring, I wondered, “What now, Lord?”

One day I was speaking with Dr. John Gration, Professor of Missions at Wheaton Graduate School who had served in Africa for 20 years, and with Dr. Herbert Kane, who was teaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and had been a missionary for many years in China. I asked them, “How did you make the transition?” They responded as missionaries in academic clothing and said, “In one three-hour course at Trinity or Wheaton, the Lord has provided us with the opportunity to impact and disciple for missions many more than we had ever imagined.” In other words they were telling me, a reluctant Jonah, that mission had not ceased because they were now standing in the halls of academia. Dr. Kane and Dr. Gration were taking seriously their call to develop missionaries in a setting not as popular for missions as we would like.

Many of us have grown up being warned that seminaries are graveyards for those seeking spirituality and mission excitement. John Frame notes that students who arrive at seminary expecting a “spiritual hothouse” often find it to be a singular test of faith.1 But I was surprised, somewhat like Peter when he encountered Cornelius and noticed the work of the Holy Spirit where he did not expect it, that the work of preparation for missions is ongoing in many of our evangelical institutions.

When I had finished my work in Chicago, I began to pray for several weeks about God’s plan for Blanca and me. I was prepared to go and do

whatever the Lord required. It was two weeks after my commitment to pray that Dr. Harvie Conn called wondering if I would be interested in coming to Westminster....

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