Bethel Seminary Students Recognized for Excellence in Preaching

Meet Jenny Vang S’20, Kyongmin Song S’21, and Kavan Rogness S’20, the three finalists in the 2019 Omark Preaching Competition.

By Cherie Suonvieri '15, content specialist

July 18, 2019 | 9 a.m.

Omark Award Winners 2019

Jenny Vang, Kyongmin Song, and Kavan Rogness

This spring, Bethel Seminary announced the winners of its 52nd annual Omark Preaching Competition, awarding first place to Jenny Vang S’20, second place to Kyongmin Song S’21, and third place to Kavan Rogness S’20. All competition participants wrote and delivered sermons responding to the given topic: “What Jesus Accomplished on the Cross.”

In the first round of the competition, three finalists were selected from a pool of video submissions by a panel of Bethel Seminary faculty and experienced pastors. In the second round, finalists submitted new videos after receiving feedback on their first submission. The award order was determined through a weighted voting process, which included both a judges’ review and input from online voters. All finalists received a scholarship award.  

Meet this year’s Edwin J. Omark Preaching Award finalists:

Jenny Vang

Several summers ago, Vang sat atop a Ferris wheel with a mentor of hers, Stephanie O’Brien, director of Bethel’s Ministry Scholars Program and adjunct Bethel Seminary professor. O’Brien asked Vang what she wanted to do in ministry. Vang explained what she was passionate about and the areas she felt called to lead. “So you want to be a pastor?” O’Brien asked. Vang responded, “No, no, no!”

When Vang looks back at that moment, she laughs. “Yes, I did—and do—want to be a pastor, but I was so afraid of the ‘P’ word,” she says. “I didn’t see any other single Asian-American women seeking to be pastors in a majority context, so how in the world was I supposed to know how to do this? It terrified me."

Today, Vang is in her fourth year of the Master of Divinity program at Bethel Seminary. She also works as an administrative assistant within the Seminary Dean’s Office and serves as a pastoral intern at North City Church, a church plant out of Mill City Church. She says she’s choosing to pursue full-time ministry as a vocation because, it’s where her greatest passions align with the world’s greatest need.

Vang decided to participate in the Omark because she viewed it as an opportunity for growth. To all who participate, the competition provides the chance to hear constructive feedback from professionals in the field, even if they don’t make it past the first round. Vang’s sermon responded to the given topic by looking at Ephesians 2:13-22, a passage on the Jew and Gentile reconciled through Christ. She particularly focused on Ephesians 2:14, which describes Jesus as our peace and the ways he has destroyed the barrier between groups.

“We live in an ever-changing and increasingly polarized political, social, and cultural world that causes us to want to build up the ‘wall of hostility,’” she says. “But because Jesus Himself is our peace, we, the body of Jesus-followers, have been given the ability—and more the mandate—to live in the really hard places of tension in the world, in the church, and in our hearts, minds, and relationships. In doing this, we discover more of our innate identities in Christ and help to continue creating ripple effects of true peace around us.” 

Kyongmin Song

As a high schooler, Song was an atheist, but a friendship with a coworker at Starbucks introduced him to the concept of theology. He remembers processing questions and ideas over books and conversation, and these moments soon impacted his perception and relationship with God. “As someone who has always been really curious and enjoyed education, theology was something I could connect with right away, especially the idea that I can worship God through learning more about Him,” he says.

Song is in his second year of the M.A. in Theological Studies program at Bethel Seminary. He’s also an environmental engineer for 3M and an elder at Mercy Vineyard Church in Northeast Minneapolis, where he teaches classes on Christianity and culture. Song is unsure what the future holds, whether it’s participating in engineering missions, being a lay leader at his church, or something else entirely. To him, seminary is a part of the journey, and he’s enjoying the learning that’s accompanied the process.

For the Omark competition, Song chose to talk about how Jesus has reconciled all things through himself. “I wanted to push past this idea that Jesus only died for the penalty of our sins,” he says. “I think that’s a very limited scope of what Jesus accomplished. What Jesus does is bring peace between God and humanity, and then humanity with each other. This reconciling work isn’t just vertical.” 

Song says one of the most valuable lessons he’s gleaned from his time at Bethel Seminary so far is the importance of developing the whole person.

“It’s not enough to just learn intellectually or academically. We need to be thinking about forming the entire person—spiritually growing in Christ, maturing as a person, building relationships, all in addition to having that strong biblical and academic foundation.”

— Kyongmin Song S'21

Kavan Rogness

Rogness was watching his sister walk across the stage at her college graduation, when he realized that he wanted to do that again, too. He has already completed a bachelor’s and master’s degree—and seminary will be the next to follow. “I’m 32 years old, and I’ve only not been in school for nine years of my life. And those first five years don’t really count,” he laughed.

Throughout his life, Rogness has had a variety of people tell him he could be a pastor. While he didn’t see what others did at first, it soon struck him that all the things he enjoys most—reading, public speaking, and interpersonal communication—are things that pastors do. So he enrolled in Bethel’s Master of Divinity program in fall 2015.

While preparing for the Omark competition, Rogness says he wrestled with how to answer the topic question. “There are a lot of right answers,” he says. “To me, it was never a matter of finding the right answer. It was about searching my own heart for what Jesus has done for me.”

The theme that he chose was based on the original design that God intended for creation. “Throughout my life, I’ve just felt this consistent sense that this is not the way things are supposed to be,” he says. “Jesus provides us a way back to that original design and to our true identity.”

The Omark Preaching Competition celebrates good preaching, and while all three finalists expressed the importance of accurate interpretation of the Bible, they also spoke on the value of incorporating different perspectives when understanding Scripture. “I’m going to have a different perspective than Jenny or Kyongmin have,” Rogness says. “If we’d all chosen the same text, we’d likely have different takes on things—and we could all be right. We can all learn from each other.”

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