President’s Note: Live Theater

Life is always live theater: a continuous unfolding and layering of the expected and the unpredictable.  We might think we are ready for a world of health issues, but COVID-19 felt unimaginable, in itself and also in its national and global reach, its devastation, its exposing and divisive impact.  We might think we are adaptive and ready for a world of continuous change, but then we experience shut-downs and life through a linear, virtual lens, for what feels like forever—Zoom takes over the world. Live theater. Every day.

The live theater that is Fuller Theological Seminary has experienced the unexpected and the unpredictable right along with other communities and educational institutions.  The wild ride of this past year and a half has been just that.  It has been hard, confusing, wearying, sad, fearful, and highly creative.  FULLER NEXT, our Board of Trustees’ newly and enthusiastically adopted strategic plan, sums up some of the most intense reimaginings of Fuller that we have perhaps ever undergone.  The process of its development has invited and involved every sector of Fuller, and the results are clarifying, bold, and responsive to the changing realities of church, society, and education.  Let me share a few elements of FULLER NEXT.

The first priority and practice is listening.  We must listen more intentionally, more deeply, and more diversely than ever.  We will not live into the future faithfully if we don’t lean into listening afresh to God: through worship, communal reading of Scripture, prayer in all dimensions of our common life.  Along with that, we are prioritizing more deliberate efforts to listen to outside voices in industry, culture, arts, media, and nonprofit leadership; to diverse voices, generationally and racially; and to highly varied church and missional voices around the country and the world.  We are doing what Fuller has always sought to do, but in ways that allow us to turn ourselves inside out, toward the church, cultures, the public square, and the entire globe.  The value of what’s next for Fuller is dependent on doing this as wisely and vigorously as we can.

The second priority of FULLER NEXT is the overarching theme of the plan: rethinking church in the 21st century.  Internally, this involves assessing where we think the church is in these very challenging and divided times.  Macro and micro aspects are roiling, and the confusion, fatigue, and intensity can be ferocious.  We are asking ourselves, What is happening and why?  What are the primary nodes of the crisis, both in the US church and the church around the globe?  Is what we are doing contributing to the problems, or is what we are doing helping to bring fresh insight and wisdom to the church in this season and beyond?  What is the good news amidst the painful news?  What does the Evangel of God’s redeeming love and justice in Jesus Christ call us to now?  We are paying fresh attention to the Scriptures, and to the movements of the Spirit that we discern.  We are also listening to very diverse people across the country and globally, since the crises belong to God’s church everywhere.  Rethinking the church in the 21st century is at least a three- to five-year project and one that may reveal more about Fuller’s long-term contributions than we can now see.

Whether to Fuller students (degree-seeking), learners (certificate-seeking), alumni, donors, friends, or Fuller’s wider audiences, we want to offer indispensable, formational education for diverse Christian leaders everywhere.  That’s what’s next.  It will be a story of live theater: the expected and the unpredictable.  By God’s grace, we believe the upside of the down season allows the God of hope and resurrection to bring us humbly and vigorously into the narrative that is God’s doing.  Reviving and renewing the vitality and integrity of God’s new community will take Fuller into familiar and unfamiliar places, cultures, needs, longings, and hopes.

What’s next is daunting and hopeful, as we yield and attune Fuller to our part in what God is doing.

mark labberton

Mark Labberton, President

Life is always live theater: a continuous unfolding and layering of the expected and the unpredictable.  We might think we are ready for a world of health issues, but COVID-19 felt unimaginable, in itself and also in its national and global reach, its devastation, its exposing and divisive impact.  We might think we are adaptive and ready for a world of continuous change, but then we experience shut-downs and life through a linear, virtual lens, for what feels like forever—Zoom takes over the world. Live theater. Every day.

The live theater that is Fuller Theological Seminary has experienced the unexpected and the unpredictable right along with other communities and educational institutions.  The wild ride of this past year and a half has been just that.  It has been hard, confusing, wearying, sad, fearful, and highly creative.  FULLER NEXT, our Board of Trustees’ newly and enthusiastically adopted strategic plan, sums up some of the most intense reimaginings of Fuller that we have perhaps ever undergone.  The process of its development has invited and involved every sector of Fuller, and the results are clarifying, bold, and responsive to the changing realities of church, society, and education.  Let me share a few elements of FULLER NEXT.

The first priority and practice is listening.  We must listen more intentionally, more deeply, and more diversely than ever.  We will not live into the future faithfully if we don’t lean into listening afresh to God: through worship, communal reading of Scripture, prayer in all dimensions of our common life.  Along with that, we are prioritizing more deliberate efforts to listen to outside voices in industry, culture, arts, media, and nonprofit leadership; to diverse voices, generationally and racially; and to highly varied church and missional voices around the country and the world.  We are doing what Fuller has always sought to do, but in ways that allow us to turn ourselves inside out, toward the church, cultures, the public square, and the entire globe.  The value of what’s next for Fuller is dependent on doing this as wisely and vigorously as we can.

The second priority of FULLER NEXT is the overarching theme of the plan: rethinking church in the 21st century.  Internally, this involves assessing where we think the church is in these very challenging and divided times.  Macro and micro aspects are roiling, and the confusion, fatigue, and intensity can be ferocious.  We are asking ourselves, What is happening and why?  What are the primary nodes of the crisis, both in the US church and the church around the globe?  Is what we are doing contributing to the problems, or is what we are doing helping to bring fresh insight and wisdom to the church in this season and beyond?  What is the good news amidst the painful news?  What does the Evangel of God’s redeeming love and justice in Jesus Christ call us to now?  We are paying fresh attention to the Scriptures, and to the movements of the Spirit that we discern.  We are also listening to very diverse people across the country and globally, since the crises belong to God’s church everywhere.  Rethinking the church in the 21st century is at least a three- to five-year project and one that may reveal more about Fuller’s long-term contributions than we can now see.

Whether to Fuller students (degree-seeking), learners (certificate-seeking), alumni, donors, friends, or Fuller’s wider audiences, we want to offer indispensable, formational education for diverse Christian leaders everywhere.  That’s what’s next.  It will be a story of live theater: the expected and the unpredictable.  By God’s grace, we believe the upside of the down season allows the God of hope and resurrection to bring us humbly and vigorously into the narrative that is God’s doing.  Reviving and renewing the vitality and integrity of God’s new community will take Fuller into familiar and unfamiliar places, cultures, needs, longings, and hopes.

What’s next is daunting and hopeful, as we yield and attune Fuller to our part in what God is doing.

Written By

Mark Labberton, President

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