June 29, 2010

Picking up the Mantle

Second Kings 2: 1-14 recounts the story of Elijah’s departure by fiery chariot and the desire of his successor, Elisha, to continue his prophetic mission. Indeed, he asks Elijah for a “double share of your spirit” in order to minister effectively. His entreaty is answered and God empowers him to take up the mantle of service from his forebear. The Holy Spirit and the spirit of Elijah descend upon Elisha and he, too, can part the water and proclaim the sovereignty of the Lord God in a time of national crisis.

At Prairie Baptist Church this past Sunday we had an experience of picking up the mantle of a beloved saint, Margaret James, who had made provision through her estate for her congregation to pursue some of her key concerns: health, justice, education, cultural diversity, and women’s issues. A portion of her bequest was allocated to the capital campaign and an endowment fund; however, approximately one third of it was designated for mission projects. Prairie members were invited to submit applications for grants that would be in keeping with her life of service. Prairie entered a process of discernment and decided to disperse nearly $120,000 to fourteen expressions of missional outreach. Rather than hoarding or seeking to be self-protective (especially in these economic times), the church decided to scatter these resources literally throughout the world. Of course, a church has to gather funds to sustain its life in worship and Christian formation, but if it does not scatter also, its apostolic vocation as the people of God withers. Emil Brunner, one of the 20th century’s most thoughtful theologians, wrote: “As a fire exists by burning, so does the church exist by mission…”

Central Seminary is a grateful beneficiary of some of these funds; four projects are strengthened by her generous sharing of her mantle. The Margaret James Mission Fund supported “The Philippine Connection,” which was a pastor training event staffed by Central faculty members Drs. Terry and Ruth Rosell. The fund also provided for travel expenses for two students and two senior leaders at Central to offer programming for youth and adults at the Thailand Baptist Missionary Fellowship annual meeting. In addition, the fund will provide two endowed scholarships for Central students. Our partner in mission, the Journey Community Church, a new church plant housed here at Central, also received funds to assist its publicity and its grand opening. How thankful we are for these transformative gifts.

No institution or individual can do its work well without picking up the mantle of those who have gone before us. Making provision for those who follow must surely be an aspect of faithful ministry. The witness of the prophet and of a visionary church member encourage the hearts of those who sustain the mission of the people of God, and we seek to honor their memory by following their inspiring lead.

Molly T. Marshall

To learn more about Central as a perichoretic seminary, please visit our website www.cbts.edu

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