FNW Director Charles "Kim" Anderson
A couple of times each week, I spend some time in my local YMCA. There are many parts of my experience there
that intimidate me: the dexterity
of some of the people; the strength of others; the complexity of some of the
exercise machines and the technology of others (where do I plug in my
iPod to watch TV while I run on the treadmill?). There was a man who came into the exercise space today,
however, who beat everything on the intimidation factor. His physical appearance was very scary
I pretty much work out on just one machine for an hour. I listen to my iPod, nod my head in
time to the music and keep a low profile.
This morning, however, I glanced up at one point and saw this monster of
a man, dressed all in black, 6’6” and 250 lbs. or more, with lots of tats and a
mean look on his face. I’m writing
this less than a week after the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings and I’ll
admit I, like many, am a little jumpy at the moment.
I glanced up and this guy was coming toward me with his arms
up, shadow boxing while moving down the aisle where my machine was placed. He looked angry and his arms were like
huge pistons as he danced, weaved and punched the air. Then I saw it. On his T-shirt he had written, “Isaiah
54:2: Send me.” He was part of my
tribe, a Christian! I started
breathing again. His shirt
had given me the vital information that I needed to be able to be at ease and
communicate with him.
I remember another time when fear gripped our youngest
daughter. She was a youth ministry
leader in a suburban church near Seattle and after about six months of leading
a Bible study with some high schoolers, she came to me and said, “Dad, can I go
to seminary? My kids are asking me
questions about Scriptures that I don’t know how to answer.” To communicate effectively, she needed
the right information as well.
It’s been said that we fear the things that are both seen
and unseen, or things we don’t understand. For example, I’m not particularly afraid of technology, but
I’m concerned long-term about what technology means for our society. Is it healthy and does it build
community to email work colleagues who are but a few steps away? Is it healthy for so many kids to be
playing violent games with new technology that makes everything seem so
lifelike? Where is the line
crossed between reality and fantasy?
My fear is that our society will change significantly, not for the
better, as technology drives more and more both our professional and our
What other things do I fear? How about global warming and the way we seem to individually
and collectively be unable to give up those things that are heating up the
planet and may one day kill us. How
about the number of women and children who move through our country and in
particular our ports in Washington and are being trafficked as sex-slaves? I fear for them and I fear for what
their abuse does to individuals and families. I’m afraid for our fragile economy and what the short
and long-term implications are for families, those who are homeless, especially
single parents with children who are caring for them under such stress. I’m afraid for the way the marketplace
is creating an enlarged gap between rich and poor. Wealth, that can offer great promise, may be a huge pitfall
for our country and in particular for our Northwest region.
What drives my fear?
Knowing that these threats are out there, but not knowing enough about
them to be able to understand them or much less to create and articulate a
theology around them. If some of
the issues I’ve listed above look familiar, it’s because they are what people
are talking about. They are issues
that the church and we as Christians need to address.
Just before Thanksgiving, we received wonderful news that
Fuller Northwest has been awarded a grant by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust
to help us establish a new institute, the Fuller Theological Seminary Northwest
Institute for Theology in Context. This institute will help students, alumni, pastors and church
leaders understand and be able to articulate, from a Northwest context, the
Gospel in new and exciting ways.
It will allow us to address current and emerging issues like the ones
mentioned above. We’re going to be
having wonderful conversations with great minds to help us see how our theology
and faith intersect with our Northwest culture.
Fuller Northwest is going to be an exciting place to be as
we begin putting the pieces in place for the NW Institute and start these
important conversations. We’ll be
showcasing the best of what the big Fuller tent has to offer as well as reaching
into the evangelical Christian community and finding people who are specialists
in particular areas of interest. For
example our region has people working in medical technology who are specialists
in genetic engineering. This is a
topic that could be a hot button for many Christians. We are only afraid of the things we don’t know much about,
or don’t understand. It’s kind of
like facing a big guy shadow boxing in the gym until he turns and we see Isaiah
54:2 stenciled on his shirt.
When I was equipped with a bit of knowledge and was
reassured by the message offered by a t-shirt, I offered an outstretched hand,
introduced myself, told him Isaiah was one of my favorite books of the Bible
and received an outstretched hand and a big hug in return. The man with the mean look on his face
had a hidden mega-watt smile that lit up the gym that morning.
To be the Christians that I believe Jesus calls us to be, I
think we need to confront the things we fear or don’t understand. Moreover, I think it’s our
responsibility to help raise the level of civil discourse about those things so
that Christians and non- believers alike have the tools needed to discuss and
take intelligent action. That’s
the mission of Fuller, to educate and equip so that we can enlarge our tent and
respond to God’s call by saying, “Send me!”