Following Jesus in a Changed World

By: William D. Shiell

a Changed World

Twenty-five years ago this month, Dr. Dennis Sansom led a group of Samford University religion majors and others to Rüschlikon, Switzerland. We were part of a study abroad program staying at the International Baptist Seminary. We visited with Jürgen Moltmann, toured the closed Dachau concentration camp, and traveled to Budapest to visit the Baptist seminary. Needless to say it was an eye-opening, exhilarating experience for this college sophomore.

While we were there, the seminary received news that the Southern Baptist Convention was no longer going to fund their operations. Simultaneously, we were traveling into the now former eastern Europe to see a once underground operation come to light. We were living in the midst of a shifting political scene, changing church dynamics, and new doors for the gospel opening wider than ever before. Like early disciples we were learning as we traveled, seeing the world with new eyes.

We felt like missionaries who had been dropped into a world that no one expected to see in our lifetimes.  

Our Changed World

WorldLike the changes that happened in church and seminary life across the globe 25 years ago, we are once again in changing times for churches and seminaries. More than ever we need the church and the seminary “for such a time as this.”

We are now living in uncharted territory. We are explorers in the kingdom of God during a time of political and cultural upheaval, visiting territory we thought we would never need to address and reaching people for Jesus that we never thought we would have the chance to meet. The doors of the gospel continue to swing open wide for those with courage to follow.

FREE WEBINAR, JAN. 30: “The Great Gospel Experiment” with Scot McKnight, on the disruptive gospel.


Following Jesus

In John 1:35-42 and Matthew 4:18-25 we see Jesus recruiting disciples, and these disciples bring along others from their networks. Some are attracted to Jesus, while others are summoned. No matter how they arrive, the call is the same, “Follow me.”

When disciples ask Jesus where he is staying, Jesus invites them to come and stay with him for awhile to see what followership is all about. Their classroom would be both the teachings and the doings of Jesus. By emulating him, they would develop the character and competency to walk through the open doors of the gospel made possible by resurrection.

Clearly these disciples did not know everything necessary when they began, and they still had many character flaws to be addressed through the process. But Jesus was determined to take people with him to the kingdom of heaven. The only way to start was to follow.

you ready to follow Jesus?

I don’t know how you might perceive the last few months of life. Through a violent 2016 in Chicagoland, a presidential election, and fears of the future, it would be easy to be full of despair. However, the call of God is still the same. He walks beside the shoreline of your life and invites you into a journey to explore this new territory with him.

If you’ve ever contemplated seminary, now is the time to say yes to that invitation. We’re starting another Master of Arts New Testament cohort this fall with Dr. Scot McKnight, and continuing our Master of Arts in Theology and Mission (both of which are available no matter where you live). We are also enhancing our Master of Divinity degree.

We don’t have to fly to Europe to recognize how we live as missionaries in our world today. At Northern, we are positioned at the intersection of life and church to train you how to lead your church to live Christ’s life today. Come join us at Northern, and learn how to lead the church and engage the world.

January 11, 2017

William D. Shiell

President, Professor of Pastoral Theology and Preaching

ABOUT William

Ready to start your seminary Experience?

Apply Now