These words were shared by Truett student Scotty Swingler at the annual Friends of Truett dinner on November 12, 2017.
While I’m thrilled to be here, I must confess that I’ll be far more thrilled to be sitting in a movie theater 32 days from now.
On December 14, I will be at the Waco IMAX premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, ready to take in the next chapter in my favorite story of all time. Several months ago the first trailer for the movie dropped, and legendary Jedi Master Luke Skywalker is speaking with our new hero Rey. Luke asks Rey to meditate, saying, “What do you see?” Rey replies, “Light. Darkness. A balance.” Luke, in a hushed voice, almost as if in reverence of the very words he’s about to speak, replies, “It’s so much bigger.”
I came to Truett Seminary with a very narrow scope. While being a student at Baylor had certainly opened my eyes to Christian practices and beliefs that were not my own, I still held very tightly to a rigid doctrine that I had been taught all my life was “right.” There was light, and there was darkness. There was a correct way to live a balanced Christian lifestyle.
When I graduated from Baylor with a degree in communication, I spent my first year out of college looking desperately for a place to pastor. I wanted to lead a church, or a college ministry, or a youth group, or whatever. I wanted to pastor. I wanted to shepherd God’s people. I wanted to lead. I thought I had everything figured out, and I could point people to a better walk with Jesus.
That year was humbling, as I realized very quickly the reality of today’s church climate: getting hired to pastor is near-impossible without the coveted MDiv degree. Oh buddy! The MDiv! That was my ticket! If I could just get that degree, I could finally fulfill my purpose.
Naturally, I came back to Baylor, to the seminary a mere block away from the Penland Residence Hall where I’d lived my freshman year of college. And it was here in my hometown, on the university campus I was so very familiar with, that I discovered I knew nothing.
I sat a half-semester into my Introduction to Theology course overwhelmed. Suddenly, I was Rey, and my educators and colleagues were Luke Skywalker.
“It’s so much bigger.”
When speaking of Jesus Christ and of ministry, I quickly discovered that there are thousands of years of thinking, writing, and tradition that have been laid out behind me. I discovered that there are some difficult, tedious, exciting, and harrowing questions about how the Bible should be read, how God has moved and is moving through our world, and how I - a 5' 7" blonde kid from Waco with very little to offer him - fit into this puzzle of life.
As quickly as Truett Seminary challenged me, it began equipping me. I have the opportunity to study amongst the best and the brightest right here in my hometown. My teachers at Truett are both my professors and my peers, and I have learned incredibly valuable things from both. The conversations had, the great texts read, and the instruction received have all impacted my personal walk with Jesus Christ and have even more so impacted the way I do ministry.
I’ve found that the world is so full of people who need the love of Jesus Christ. And somewhere along the way, as I realized I was completely unprepared to lead anybody, Truett began shaping me into someone who could. Over the past year and a half, as I’ve studied at Truett, I’ve realized that I do fit into this puzzle of life. I do have a place. This goofy, awkward 25-year-old does have an opportunity to do ministry.
"It's so much bigger."
Truett is no longer a place I came to punch my ticket to church leadership. Truett is now a home for me. It is where I have the most meaningful conversations, do the deepest thinking, and a safe place for me to ask the most difficult questions. For that, I am forever grateful.
I don’t know where I may be called to lead or serve God in my future. I certainly still hope that I have the opportunity to shepherd and lead congregations. But wherever that calling may lead, I will be well-prepared to lead, teach, and serve with excellence because your generosity allowed me to learn here. I wouldn’t be enrolled at Truett or standing here before you this evening if it weren’t for the financial blessing of many families who love and support this world-class theological school.
Thank you for allowing me, just another Waco kid, to find myself, find my purpose, and become equipped for the ministry of Jesus Christ.