Reflections of a College Chaplain

02.19.21 | Coffee Stained Notebook | by John Jones

Reflections of a College Chaplain

    I think of the Center of Pastor Theologians as a Brain Trust of Practical Theology for a Complex World. This is not what they call themselves. Their mission is to “equip pastors to be theologians for today’s complex world.” I really like what they are doing. 

    Trygve Johnson is the Hinga-Boersma Dean of the Chapel at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. He is also a member of the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts at the University of St. Andrewsin Scotland, which is where he completed his PhD.  

    Here he is interviewed by CPT and there were a few things I found worth noting: 

    1. I like what he calls a “parish mentality.” He feels obligated to care for people of the college, regardless of where they are in the faith, their desire to be a part of a parish, their degree of affection for the college, etc. Plain and simple: they are in his parish and he is their pastor. I would love for my own church to grow and mature in ability to draw folks into a parish … even prior to their decision to become official members. There is such a person as a regular attendee who needs a proactive elder to be mindful of their Christian walk. 
    2. I like his high regard for the institutional church. He is not afraid of the more boring aspects of organizing ourselves into a church body with order and officers and government (this is especially evident in another interview). In this regard, I like his comment that “good administration is also good pastoral care.” He goes on to say that clarity of mission and purpose and accountability creates a good and holy culture. In this culture, people are being seen (“valued and cared-for”) as well as “challenged and pushed.” 
    3. I need to reread Andrew Walls because Trygve comments on the “indigenounizing principle” and the “pilgrim principle of Andrew Walls. We are always being formed within a particular culture, but the gospel also pushes us out into culture as “lifelong pilgrims.” I don’t recall this from reading Walls, but I found the discussion helpful. 
    4. The main challenge of college life? the smartphone. You need to listen to Trygve. Here he cites Jean M. Twenge’s book, iGen, which is a very challenging and important book, especially if you have Gen-Z children (born 1997-2012). 
    5. Trygve loves liturgy and talks about it as something that we have the honor of experiencing at each corporate gathering. For him, singing and prayer and the Word are in the center. I agree. Unusual for a college environment, at Hope College they come to the Lord’s Table often (every Sunday evening).  
    6. Finally, his comments on Romans 12 and the necessity for living the Christian life competently, rather than anemicnarcissisticcounterfeit believers. This authentic Christian life, with the ability to detect that which is false, is what the Bible means by “wisdom.” 
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