The poor in spirit are rich. They experience God’s presence, on earth, right now, every day. They already taste heaven every minute. Their lives are not defined by divisions of self-will and God’s will; fear and security; loneliness and community; confusion and knowledge; sacred and secular. They experience life as a whole … true integrity. Integral life. Integral mission.
In Matthew 5:3, Jesus states, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In verse 3 and 10 Jesus promises the kingdom of heaven in the present unlike future blessings of verses 4-9. We all want to experience the kingdom of heaven on earth right now. When we see glimpses of it, we experience it is the most real joy we know. We want to return to that place over and over again.
For centuries, theological students have attempted to experience the kingdom of heaven by retreating from the world to study in isolated ivory towers, dividing God into categories such as Trinitarianism, Christology, and Pneumatology. The best theologians are experts in jargon within specialized boxes of knowledge. Theology becomes an activity of the mind separated from emotions, the body, and the work
of daily life that might distract students. The whole is divided into smaller and smaller pieces hoping to conquer what is not understood.
By isolating theology from the confusion of real life, the traditional path of theological studies rarely leads to a present experience of the kingdom of heaven. Luke 6 records Jesus’s words as “Blessed are you who are poor for yours is the kingdom of heaven”. Matthew adds the words “in spirit”. Many understand that the present experience of the kingdom of heaven is not just for the poor but the poor might have an inside track. Perhaps the best way to do theology is to be with the poor; amid real-life distractions; embracing confusion, all the while diligently studying/living/feeling the presence of God. The Bible is always the anchor of any theological studies, but we study the Bible not just to preach it on Sunday, but to submit to it all seven days of the week. The end goal becomes not to become an expert teacher of theology, but to experience the kingdom of heaven and invite others to be on that journey as well. Some call this way of life: integral mission.
For this very reason, BGU is not a seminary. Bakke Graduate University has colleges of theology, business, and urban studies so that pastors, business leaders, and urban workers experience the journey together. BGU students continue in their daily jobs as they pursue their degrees. We do this in innovative ways that comply with the standards of graduate-level accreditation. To add even more to the chaos, BGU students come from 65 nations. After doing this for almost 20 years, we’ve learned a lot about confusion as leaders in these various roles have different worldviews, giftings, experiences, roles ,and languages.
We are now delighted that God has called into more confusion with another language (Spanish) through a partnership with a community who has done integral mission better than BGU. Our family is expanded with the Comunidad de Estudios Teológicos Interdisciplinarios (https://www.ceticontinental.org/). They are significantly influenced by Latin American theologian Rene Padilla who in 1974 added much of the mission and justice language to the Lausanne Covenant which is BGU’s doctrinal statement. They have taught us much about how to shed big theological words in order to embrace big theological lifestyles.
If you are a BGU alumni, student, perspective student, faculty, supporter, partner or casual observer and your soul is thirsts for more experience of the kingdom of heaven, come join us as we embark on a renewed journey with our new family members. Whether we pursue a conversation, webinar, certificate, city-immersion, or a masters or doctoral degree, our goal is that after all that hard work, we’ll be more equipped to lead others because we are more aware of what we don’t know, and more mutually and desperately dependent upon God.