And 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.”
In a part 1 of this series, I wrote about Covenant Seminary’s commitment to Scripture as the unchanging, inerrant Word of God—and thus as the foundation that underlies our ministry. Part 2 focused on the holy charge that shapes and motivates our ministry: Christ at the center of everything we teach and do. In this final post, I want to look at some of the compelling Kingdom consequences that flow from our conviction and charge.
If Christianity is True—So What?
Many of us may recall that C. S. Lewis once noted that “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
No one ever demonstrated this better than the apostle Paul, as we see in 1 Corinthians 2:1–5:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
We cannot read these words and not sense the urgency and necessity of Paul’s apostolic task. Without a doubt, his life demonstrated what were the consequences flowing forth from the conviction that God has spoken in the Scriptures and had acted for our salvation in and through Jesus Christ and his crucifixion. Those truths are also profoundly consequential for us here at Covenant. I will mention two consequences that have the greatest relevance.
We Are Called to Go—Both Far and Near
First, we must ask ourselves, Why was Paul in Corinth? Why had he been in Athens? And before that, why Berea, Thessalonica, Philippi? What explains Paul’s journeys across the entire Mediterranean basin? There can be only one answer—the revelation of the gospel in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul had been so gripped by God’s grace, that he was compelled into a life of missional service.
To be faithful to the gospel, we must not only preach we must also go. As Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:18–20, if we are to make disciples of every tongue, tribe, and nation, we must go out into all the world. Being missional is not in itself the gospel, but it is among the first consequences flowing forth from it! In fact, a failure to be missional begs the question of whether we have truly been possessed by the gospel.
Additionally, we must not regard the consequence of mission as being merely one of geography. To be sure, we must go “over there” to help (cf. Acts 16:9–10), as we understand from traditional missionary work. But at the same time, given how diverse and secular most communities in our own nation have become, “going” today also requires that we build relationships with the non-believers who live next door to us and with whom we share an office cubicle. Too often, though, we don’t see our missional task in this way.
Professor Jerram Barrs, our faithful pastor and apologist at Covenant Seminary, quotes a non-believing friend who soberly said, “The trouble with you Christians is that you wrap yourselves in a cocoon. All your close friends are other Christians. What about pagans like me? Who is going to reach me?” Who indeed? Because the only way this statement can be true is if we as believers fail to engage in meaningful and encouraging relationships with non-believers—which is precisely what the gospel calls us to do.
Mission isn’t just about going to different places; it’s about drawing near to different people—those whose skin color is different than ours, whose value systems are different than ours, whose political ideologies are different than ours, whose family stories are different than ours—all for the purpose of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
We Are Called to Show—by Word and Deed
But as important as it is to go and proclaim the Good News, our gospel-centered charge also requires that we show that Good News to a watching world. Francis Schaeffer frequently described this effort as one of “observable orthodoxy” or “observable love.” Without the manifestation of gospel fruit, the church and her witness are imperiled. Schaeffer wrote, “There is nothing more ugly than a Christian orthodoxy without understanding or without compassion.”
Sadly, today it can feel as though the orthodox church is taking its behavioral cues from the world rather than from the Scriptures and the example of our Savior. Indeed, this cultural moment is long on outrage and short on compassion. Recently, political commentator George Will noted,
It has been well said that the United States is the only nation founded on a good idea, the proposition that people should be free to pursue happiness as they define it. In recent years, however, happiness has been elusive for this dyspeptic nation, in which too many people think and act as tribes and define their happiness as some other tribe’s unhappiness.
Will laments our common affliction, which affects everyone—believer or non-believer. Yet his words are piercingly relevant to the church. Have we in the church decided that our well-being, our human flourishing, is unduly linked not only to getting our way, but also to ensuring that others do not have theirs? No wonder the world is confused when they encounter Christians. We proclaim a Savior who set aside his eternal glory, gave up his rights and journeyed to a Roman cross, all for us and for our salvation. Yet we struggle to give an inch to our neighbor. Isn’t it better to ask ourselves, “How ought we serve and sacrifice for our neighbor?” How can we expect to gain a hearing for the gospel we proclaim if we do not show forth its fruits in the community of the church? Jesus put it this way, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Again, Schaeffer is on point,
Every single generation should be able to look to the church of that generation and see an exhibition of a supernaturally restored relationship, not just between the individual and God, though that is first; not just between the individual and himself, though that is crucial; but between person and person in the church.
The church in every generation must commit itself not only to telling the truth of the gospel but also to manifesting the reality of the gospel through the beauty of its community. The love and compassion we extend to the watching world are not optional suggestions. Rather, they are fundamental consequences for anyone who has encountered Christ and him crucified.
Bearing and Sharing the Gospel—for the Sake of the Church and the World
The mission of Covenant Theological Seminary cannot help but intersect with this missional going-and-showing priority inherent in the Good News.
- As a seminary, our specific mission is to train pastors, church planters, counselors, campus ministers, missionaries, youth ministers, and other ministry leaders seeking further training for their Kingdom work. These are the ministry leaders who will guide the church into the future. But how will they lead without themselves having a passion to go? And how will they gain that passion unless we as their professors, mentors, pastors, and friends model it for them?
- This also has implications for the modality of our instruction. There was a time in Covenant’s history when the residential model of theological education was the only option. That was the case when I attended the seminary in the 1990s. Without a doubt, attending classes on campus, sharing in the campus community, and being shaped by the experience here are truly life-giving and transformative. Even so, the spirit of this institution was never St. Louis-centric, but always gospel-centric and missional. Today, the on-campus model of ministry education still flourishes, but by God’s grace and through the wonders of new technologies, we are able to reach and train more people in more ways and in more places than ever before.
- Through the Missional Training Center–Phoenix and a variety of strategic partnerships with other agencies, organizations, and networks, the Seminary is able to expand its on-campus educational model and ethos to other locations so that peer cohort groups of those already involved in ministry can get the additional training they need while continuing to carry out their own missional callings.
Robert Laird Harris, one of Covenant’s founding professors of Old Testament, put the Seminary’s heart well when he wrote to a prospective student,
I was called to the ministry myself forty-seven years ago out of graduate study in chemistry, and I have always praised the Lord for giving me this call and opportunity. The needs of the world for the gospel are so great and the command of Christ is so explicit and his promises so wonderful that we are thankful indeed to see you also moved to take part in this ministry with us.
No matter the degree program or delivery system, our priority remains the same: we are training missionaries to follow in the footsteps of Paul by going out into the world—both the one that is overseas and the one that is just across town—with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
As we begin this next chapter in the life of Covenant Seminary, we remain founded on and firmly committed to the truth of the inerrant Word of God; with a charge that is indelibly shaped by the divine person and work of Christ in his life, crucifixion, and resurrection; and with hearts so profoundly transformed by the reality of the gospel that we are compelled to go and show that hope to all people in all places in this hurting and hopeless world.
What greater mission can there be than this? We praise God that he allows us to be part of it!
 C. S. Lewis, “Christian Apologetics,” in God In the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 102.
 Jerram Barrs, The Heart of Evangelism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2001), 148.
 Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who Is There, in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, vol. 1, A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture, 2nd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1982), 148.
 George Will, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” The Washington Post, September 14, 2021, accessed 09/21/21,https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/14/george-will-pursuit-of-happiness/.
 Francis A. Schaeffer, True Spirituality, in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, vol. 3, A Christian View of Spirituality, 2nd ed.(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 358.
 R. Laird Harris, quoted in David B. Calhoun, By His Grace, for His Glory: Celebrating Fifty Years of God’s Faithfulness (St. Louis, MO:Covenant Theological Seminary, 2006), 23.