Grace Note Reflections on the Christian Life
An Interview With SPU’s Interim University Chaplain
Interview by Hannah Notess | Illustration by Stephanie Dalton Cowan
This fall, Bo Lim took the post of interim university chaplain at Seattle Pacific University. In this role, he gives leadership to the Office of University Ministries and the John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development. As associate professor of Old Testament, Lim has been at SPU since 2006 and is currently seeking ordination in the Evangelical Covenant Church. Response spoke with Lim about his calling to the position, his experience, and what he hopes students will take spiritually from their experience at SPU.
What does it mean for you to shift from a professor role to a chaplain role?
The role of the chaplain is to provide leadership connecting the various units of the University to work together for discipleship. I do think it helps that I’m a School of Theology faculty member, to be in this role.
Perhaps the events of June 5 just highlighted this reality for me. What was I doing during that time? I was praying for students. We were talking about Scripture as it pertains to life. My role as a professor was so clearly pastoral at that moment, and I was doing some genuine pastoral care, meeting with students, sometimes with individuals, meeting with families.
In some ways, the chaplain role seems to me a continuation of that activity. Although I’m taking a break from my scholarly work, I still have that educator hat on. Whether I teach in the School of Theology, or whether I serve as a chaplain, vocationally, in a way, I’m doing the same thing.
What does discipleship look like on a university campus?
I have had the pleasure of working with undergraduate and graduate students, seeing that whole spectrum in their development. As faculty members, we have a pastoral role, and that comes with the territory. In a Scriptures class, they’re beginning to challenge and be challenged on some of their previous assumptions. University Foundations 2000, “Christian Scriptures,” is the one that really challenges them.
I’ve taught a lot of junior transfer sections of “Christian Scriptures,” and that’s been a very helpful experience. My goal was to be attentive to the transformation that takes place within our students. I think the modes of discipleship need to continue to reach the junior and senior population, as well as our transfer students, our commuter students, our non-Christian, and our nominally Christian students.
What spiritual formation looks like for a 22-year-old student coming from community college looks different than for a 19-year-old traditional freshman. I think the task of discipleship, wherever we’re at as followers of Jesus, is just very, very diverse.
What do you think is the value of integrating spiritual formation with academics?
I went to a public university, and I was heavily involved in a campus ministry, as well as a local church’s college ministry. They were hugely influential to my spiritual formation, and I am very grateful for it. One of the things, though, that I lacked, and many of my friends lacked, was cohesion between what was happening in the classroom and what was happening in church and in my student ministry. I might have had an academic mentor who was very distinct from a spiritual mentor, and so one might have cared very much about our professional and academic development but cared nothing about our spiritual development, and vice versa.
So it’s refreshing to be at a place where students have so many Christians who can mentor them in so many vocations. We help students find spiritual direction, but it’s shaped in a context of peer and mentor interaction.
I think SPU provides an initiation into a lifelong community that is connected to God’s kingdom work. It’s no coincidence: When I see on this campus and in Seattle all those who graduated from SPU, I see that from early on, they had committed themselves to God’s kingdom work, and they have connected themselves lifelong to others who journey together. I see those who have come through this place; they have this network of friends who are lifelong resources for discipleship, resource networks that are committed to God’s work in the world.
Learn more about Bo Lim and Seattle Pacific’s Office of University Ministries at spu.edu/um.