Throughout the New Testament, many times when Jesus talks about the kingdom he first says to repent. As Matthew 4:17 tells us “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Within Christian circles today there are renewed conversations about the kingdom but not nearly as many conversations about genuine repentance. Perhaps we can take Jesus’ words as a challenge to embrace repentance before we enter into kingdom conversations.
During several recent Winebrenner staff meetings we’ve been discussing this connection between repentance and kingdom-work. Our mission is to equip leaders for service in God’s kingdom. One of our recent conversations highlighted that before we embark on God’s kingdom we should first individually and collectively repent of our sins. As a seminary, here are some items for which we need to repent:
- At Winebrenner and many other seminaries, we’ve burdened students with enormous debt. Father, we repent of not fully embracing your kingdom economy.
- Winebrenner Theological Seminary has neglected to see our cost structures and business models as part of a larger financial ecosystem that includes local churches and denominations. Father, we repent of not stewarding your resources well on behalf of all of your kingdom.
- While Winebrenner fully supports women in leadership and ministry, there are many within theological higher education who don’t actively work to advance the cause of all students, regardless of gender. Father, we repent for remaining silent and being complicit in a system that undermines all humanity, whom you created.
- Winebrenner was established by the Churches of God, General Conference, who has a long history of advocating for gender and racial justice; and yet, Winebrenner has historically been a white male school in terms of students, faculty, and staff. Father, we repent of not advancing the opportunities of all.
This list is not intended to be exhaustive but to serve as a conversation starter for ways we can follow Jesus’ words as we seek to carry out his kingdom initiatives. As Pastor Rick Warren shares, repentance simply means that we turn and go in a different direction. To truly repent means we won’t just announce our sins, but will work to actively change our trajectory. This line of thinking invites legitimate discussions to be had about individual and communal responsibility as it relates to repentance.
In the coming weeks I will be outlining some specific ways that Winebrenner can fulfill its mission of equipping leaders for service in God’s kingdom. But, first, we must repent.
-Dr. Brent Sleasman, President
-Image by photographer Jason Wong, from and accessed via Adobe Spark