In Uncategorized on February 6, 2005 at 4:30 pm

moving beyond name, class and major

On Monday morning at 8 a.m. we gathered for the first time. After the professor made an inane joke about our ability to locate the classroom and provided a brief synopsis of the course, we began the ritual introductions. “my name is bobby” the smiling Korean-American student sitting two seats to the right announced. “last year I completed my MDIV at Gordon-Conwell and am now close to completing my Th. M in preaching. My beautiful wife Claire is a third-grade teacher and our heart’s desire is to do church planting in Japan. As soon as we raise three-quarters of our funds, which we hope to do by next September, we should be on our way!” After bobby stopped speaking, the professor accentuated the student’s curriculum vitae by telling us that bobby was also a bar-certified lawyer in the state of California.

“My name is john,” the student on my right admitted. “I am a third year MDIV student who, Lord-willing, will graduate this May. My wife Wendy and I live in New Hampshire and we serve as youth pastors for a small church in North Union, Maine.” After another ill-fated attempt at humor the professor asked john what his life’s passion was. “My wife and I would eventually like to develop a residential community in which foster children and troubled youths from the ages of 18-22 could make a more effective transition into adulthood.” My ears perked up at the mention of incarnational ministry and I made a personal note to connect with John during the break. His desire to pursue this type of ministry suggested that he could be a useful ally throughout this spring campaign.

After the professor made a remark about the “fascinating” group that had gathered for this class, he glanced in my direction. At that moment, I had a decision to make. Was I going to provide the class with my less than impressive curriculum vitae or was I going to split the curtain and give them a brief glimpse of my heart. 99 times out of 100, when faced with this conundrum, I choose the former option. For some reason, last Monday, I chose the latter.

“My name is Jeff Gentry,” I began. “I am beginning my third, third year of seminary, I lead a home church in Beverly that is known as the Sinners and Saints Christian Community and I make a living mass-marketing The Purpose-Driven Life. Although I sell hundreds of copies of the Purpose-Driven Life a week, I deplore the work.” At this point I knew it was time to lay the cards on the table. “In all honesty, I think that coming to Seminary was a mistake. During the summer between my graduation from Bible college and my matriculation at Gordon-Conwell, I worked with the L’Arche Daybreak Community in Toronto, Canada. You may have heard about this community because Henri Nouwen was pastor there for a number of years. However, I never met him since he died four years prior to my arrival. At L’Arche I was learned more about loving people, the vitality of faith and beauty of community than I could have learned in a hundred years of either Bible college or seminary. However, in the midst of practicing the spirituality of cleaning toilets and assisting the poor I was offered a fifty-percent scholarship to Gordon-Conwell. Since I realized that I would probably never be able to attend Seminary without this scholarship I made the move from L’Arche. Although this move was clearly a mistake, God has redeemed the time by enabling me to take root in this community and attempt to fuse my passions for proclamation and compassion. Recently I have been offered a part-time job with Beverly Bootstraps, which is the leading social service organization in Beverly. I hope that this part-time job blossoms into a full-time position, so that I can have an occupation that lines up with my vocation and put the Purpose-Driven job behind me. I also hope to remain faithful to the little community that God has enabled me to be a part of.” With that, I shut my mouth.

When I began this post, I wanted to tell you a little about the significance of my L’Arche experience. However, I don’t think I am ready to reduce that experience to words or, quite honestly, share that with you. That being said, I think that recounting my introduction is a good first step.


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