Collegial Conversation: Being a Public Person

Last week, President Rast led a collegial conversation on “Being a Public Person.” The collegial conversations are held once per quarter, during the usual convocation time slot after chapel, and are always very pastoral, spoken as someone with parish experience to those who are still only students but will someday either be in the parish themselves or will be in a supporting role in ministry and mercy work.

“You will – are – already a public person,” Dr. Rast said. “You can’t get away from it. Ever. Whether or not you want to be, you are.”

Paraphrased in short, his talk went as follows:

1. Whatever you are doing at any point, anywhere, is a public act. Even when you are not wearing the clothes of your office. And the collar is a special target. People are watching and judging you, whether fairly or unfairly. LSB 724 (“If God Himself Be for Me”) was a theme of Dr. Rast’s talk, and he took a moment to quote verse 6:

“Who clings with resolution to Him whom Satan hates
Must look for persecution; for him the burden waits
Of mock’ry, shame, and losses heaped on his blameless head;
A thousand plagues and crosses will be his daily bread.”

“Go in peace!” Dr. Rast immediately added, which got a good laugh from the students. “Serve the Lord.”

2. Know yourself: be self-aware of your strengths, gifts, and limitations. We are differently gifted—that’s why we need each other. “Despite me, the Lord is going to do great good,” Dr. Rast added. He shared some personal experiences and stories, and spoke of the innate gifts that different faculty members bring to the table, explaining, “My colleagues bear me up.”

3. Know your audience. You are engaging a number of audiences, and though you cannot control how they respond, you must be aware and intentional of how you are presenting yourself. Be as blameless as humanly possible. Before you speak, before you publish that post on social media, give it a second thought—maybe a third and a fourth.

“You will do foolish and utterly stupid things,” he went on to promise the students, adding that they will and must continue to learn over the years. “I wish I could tell you there’s a point where you’re done.”

But of course Dr. Rast didn’t leave the talk there. He quoted from Scripture, Philippians 3:12-16:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”

“You are Christ’s; you are his own dear child,” Dr. Rast concluded. “The promise of Christ is firm and sure.” The students were then dismissed to lunch where they met with their faculty mentors. Collegial conversations always end with the mentor lunch, so that the students have a chance to immediately discuss that day’s topic with each other and their professors.