Why are you here?

April 16, 2014 | 4 p.m.

Bethel halls ring with complaints of that which is its central purpose

Views | Michael Urch

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The following piece was written by a Clarion staff member, but does not represent the views held by The Clarion. If you agree, disagree or would like to submit a letter of your own, please e-mail clarion@bethel.edu.

It is absurd to imagine myself paying eight semesters of tuition and spending four years of my life without allowing Bethel to fulfill its purpose; yet, I’m concerned that this may be a common mistake.

I write to many well-intentioned students who are here for the sole purpose of spiritual growth. You are right, for we are spiritual beings. As we continue to live, we ought to continue to grow. But your purpose is awfully fundamental. Every Christian, everywhere, at every stage in life ought to seek such growth. How does this purpose set your time at Bethel apart from the rest of your life?

Some would even go further and treat Bethel as a church. It is not. Student Ministries, chapel and Vespers offer wonderful supplements to encourage spiritual growth. Take advantage of them, by all means. Regardless, Bethel is not meant to replace the local church. There is a reason that Student Ministries does not have any events on Sunday mornings.

I also write to students who have come to Bethel merely to make friends. Bethel’s primary purpose is not to be a social club. I applaud the realization that humans are gregarious creatures. We are not meant to be alone, and having friends in life is of utmost importance. I even encourage people to use this time to build a network that they can carry throughout their lives. But this is not our primary purpose at Bethel. If my only objective were to make friends, I could have saved an enormous amount of money befriending customers while working at Otto’s Bakery in Byron, Minn.

There are others to whom I write, for Bethel’s purpose is not that of a gaming center, Netflix streamer, spouse generator, job finder, student government or a money pit. It is true that video games are played, Netflix is watched, spouses are found, jobs are secured, students have a government and money is spent at Bethel, but to claim any of these as the chief purpose of Bethel would be a gross misstatement.

Have we forgotten that the purpose of Bethel is to educate? Are we not here to become disciplined readers, capable analyzers, critical thinkers, innovative creators and scholarly writers, that we may leave this place to strategically use our gifts in the world? Are you paying for this school without recognizing its primary purpose?

Sadly, these halls often ring with complaints about papers, homework, exams and other silly academic endeavors. I myself fall prey and contribute to the cries of the overwhelmed, groaning about “bothersome academics” that keep me from pursuing the important things of life: afternoon naps, hard-boiled detective novels and “Settlers of Catan.”

I understand that a certain amount of camaraderie is attained through such protests, but I wonder if there is something more behind them. Can we not see that such grumbling can undermine the very purpose of being here? We ought to approach our studies not with grumbling but with meaning. Not with sour pouts but with minds devout.

Bethel founder John Alexis Edgren thought the performance of Bethel ought to be measured by God’s accomplishments through its graduates, and today our mission statement proclaims, “Bethel prepares graduates to serve in strategic capacities to renew minds, live out biblical truth, transform culture and advance the gospel.”

How can we renew minds if we do not challenge our own? How can we live out biblical truth if we cannot understand it? How can we transform culture if we cannot thoughtfully interact with it? How much more will we be able to advance the Gospel if we are able to clearly articulate our ideas? Do you not see the importance of our education?

Oh, to be a school that takes academics seriously because we take our faith seriously; to have a student body that pursues academic excellence for the glory of God; to have the halls resound with the hymnist’s words, “Take my intellect and use every power as you choose.”

I plan to leave this place equipped to critically examine the world, to analyze claims of truth and to strategically implement my gifts to make my own contribution to the world. For what purpose have you come?

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