Ryan Munn – RCSA President, 2009-10
I have something to confess: when I came to Regent in the fall of 2008, I was ‘Regent-Myth’ free. I should have known about the giant steps of pioneer Dr. Jim Houston. I should have felt an awe of walking in the footsteps of JI Packer and Eugene Peterson. I should have been mesmerized about the work of Iain, Rikk, Sara, Craig, John, and the like. I should have developed nuanced definitions of Regent-type words such as ‘transformation’, ‘tension’, ‘nominalism’, and ‘community.’ And I definitely should have anticipated a time of growth and challenge in community: a place of safety to be radically transformed. Nevertheless: myth free I was. And truthfully, I had no idea what I was in for.
But let’s leave aside the word ‘myth’ for the moment. Let’s let our minds flood over the ways in which we had hoped that we would be changed, formed, or discipled at Regent. Whether we’ve been here for 5 weeks or 5 years, I’m sure that most of us feel a mixture of gratitude and disappointment, and what I want to get at is our idea of what transforming discipleship is and how we see this hazy reality in our lives.
Really, what I want to explore is our idea of transforming discipleship and how we grasp this hazy reality in our lives.
As I have already mentioned, I upon arriving at Regent, I wasn’t too well versed in what I should expect Regent to be in my life. But, Regent categories or no, the reality was that I was looking for something to form me. To grow and to be discipled. To be mentored. And this was something that I had never experienced in my life.
Upon reflection, I think that there were two reasons for this. First, I think that my attitude was one of passivity. I thought, like a faithful member of the global generation, that I had a right to discipleship and that those who were worthy of discipling me would recognize this right and offer me the opportunity of their wisdom. And second, I had come to believe that I needed to intellectually ascent to every aspect of a mentoring person or institution in order to allow myself to fully submit to their guidance and leadership. I wanted to ensure that all the things that I would ‘submit’ myself to were things that I already agreed with. So basically, I was selfish and proud.
And this is where the RCSA then fits into my story. Upon being elected as an RCSA first year rep, I realized that I was now part of something bigger than myself. Not only was I acutely aware that the RCSA had a life that preceded my involvement in it that I had to conform to, but I also realized that I was now responsible to the student body and thus the Regent community as a whole. As President, it became intimately apparent to me that servanthood could not be divorced from growth and, in order to be a good servant, I needed to be submitted to the needs of those I was charged to serve. In a strange way, even before I realized what I was doing, I had submitted myself to a process, a community, and a telos that was ultimately forming my character and changing me with every passing moment. On top of all that, like a rock in a tumbler, I was constantly bouncing up against faculty, staff, fellow students, and Regent traditions and practices that I was forced to participate in and respond to. Ultimately, I can say with 20/20 hindsight that my active decision to commit to RCSA, and therefore this community, lead me to where I wanted to be but didn’t know how to get to: participation in a discipled community.
Now, by no means am I attempting to suggest that our discipleship is our own responsibility, or that the Spirit of God isn’t the primary agent in our formation. Quite the opposite: I had no idea what was happening until my time with RCSA was almost over. Additionally, I am by no means implying that those who are not lead to get involved in the community in a formalized way are either selfish or aloof. Many of us have other, rightly more important commitments, and I still do believe that our primary mode of faithfulness at Regent is to live into the disciplines of study and theological reflection. However, what I am attempting to convey is the ever-present and intimate link between personal (and spiritual) formation and personal (and practical) involvement.
And so back to the ‘Myth.’ Firstly, let me say that I am now incredibly aware of how great Regent is. I have met Dr. Houston and think he really is a giant. I have now been enlighten as to the gift that Drs Packer and Peterson are to Regent and the church, as well as all of our current faculty (not to mention our current students and alum!). But my contention is that there is a Myth that we need to shake free from. It is the Myth that says we will be formed into what has become the Regent Tradition simply by showing up. It is the Myth that says it is Regent’s responsibility to create a discipling community, and it is our job to receive its benefits. And as you can probably guess, my prescription for the healing of this misconstrual is the following: let’s serve our community in the ways that we are gifted. Make some soup. Sign up for an Offering of the Arts workshop (or lead one!). Become a TA, write for the Etc., or offer to help with summer school. And yes, with all my heart I urge you, consider serving your fellow students as a member of the RCSA. Like me, it just might save your life.