Thinking About Incarnation

Jay Akkerman

Jay Akkerman

Since Christmas, “incarnation” has been on my mind. For Christians, the incarnation refers to the way God condescended into our world. If you’ll pardon the expression, God “dumbed down” by entering into our world as human flesh and blood. We call that “incarnation.”

Recently, it occurred to me that education is incarnational as well. Take the students in—and graduates of—the Graduate Theological Online Education (GTOE) programs at Northwest Nazarene University’s School of Theology & Christian Ministries. Each one takes insights and knowledge from their professors, colleagues, textbooks, ideas and experiences, and transfers all of this into their lives and ministries. Then they incarnate all of this as they go out into the world. They are, quite literally, shaped by the people from whom they’ve been learning.

One of the things prospective students often wrestle with when deciding where to pursue their Master of Divinity or Master of Arts degree is who their professors will be. Never underestimate the people who will shape your learning. It’s an important consideration—perhaps the most important one.

The professors who teach in NNU’s fully online, nonresidential program are invested in their students. They care deeply about church and theological education. So when you graduate, you take that mindset out into the world.

As professors, we are passing on what we’ve learned, just as we have received it. It’s all about handing off the baton to our students so they can take what they’re learning and forge new ground. These connections often last long after graduation day. For example, NNU’s Dr. Mark Maddix went to India recently to help a former student, who is a director of education there, to teach new pastors. And just yesterday I was connecting with a graduate from Alaska who was seeking some contacts for spiritual direction. These bonds extend far beyond commencement, for sure.

Learning is an incredible opportunity to grow—to take on new ways of thinking and new ways of connecting with God and with others. Education is an incarnational process because we stretch and grow in ways that we typically wouldn’t without putting ourselves in an environment where that growth can take place. At NNU, we couple that with faculty who really want to pass on what they’ve learned—and who want to do that in an environment where students are respected—and where growth is nurtured. It’s a rich experience.

To learn more about our program and our professors, please tune in for our next Online Information Night from 4-6 pm (MST) on Thursday, January 23. Via a live video stream, you can ask questions—or just listen. Please RSVP here!

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