“Protestantism is known for its work ethic,” said Leonard Sweet. “As we come to the 500th anniversary of Protestantism in 2017, it is worth pondering how well this work ethic has served us, and whether or not we have lost a ‘play ethic.’”
Sweet will speak four times at Union College Sept. 12-14 on the theme: You Don’t Work a Violin. “If creation is an act of God at play, might not play be the oxygen for imagination, which sparks creativity, which ignites innovation, which combusts in paradigm shifts?” he asked.
Leonard Sweet is a writer, teacher and preacher, world renowned for his books and sermons. He was voted one of the 50 most influential Christians in America by ChurchReport Magazine in 2006 and 2007, and one of the top ten most influential Christians in 2010 by a popular non-English Christian website. One of the leading figures in the emerging church movement, he is an ardent supporter of the digital contextualization of Christianity.
The E. Stanley Jones professor of evangelism at Drew Theological School, he has written more than 200 articles, 1300 published sermons and 50 books, including bestsellers such as Soul Tsunami, Aqua Church, Jesus Manifesto (with Frank Viola) and Jesus: A Theography (with Frank Viola). He will speak for Union College’s monthly Power Pac series at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13, and 9:15 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14.
Originally from West Virginia, Sweet earned a Master’s of Divinity degree from Colgate Rochester Divinity School and a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester. He has additionally received five honorary doctorates from universities across the country. “When I first heard him speak I thought, with no sacrilege intended, ‘this is the closest my imagination could come to sitting at the feet of Jesus,’” said Rich Carlson, vice president for Spiritual Life at Union College. “The way he explained the gospel and how it fits into life, service and humanity was exactly how I imagined Jesus would.”
Through many of his writings, Sweet emphasizes the importance of knowing Jesus and following Him introspectively. “I believe the lifeblood of evangelism is not propositions, but prepositions,” he said in the first chapter of his 2010 book Nudge: Awakening Each Other To the God Who’s Already There. “For God to do something through us, God must be doing something in us. If we are not always evangelizing ourselves, we have no business evangelizing others.”
Union’s first Power Pac speaker of the new academic year, Sweet will discuss service as it relates to authentically following Jesus. “His first talk is on Project Impact day,” explained Carlson, referring to Union’s annual volunteer community service day. “I don’t usually tie speakers in to a topic, but he’s big into understanding what ‘being the hands of Jesus’ is all about, and I’d like him to share his thoughts with Union College.”
Carlson first heard Sweet speak at chaplains’ meetings several years ago, from that first moment hoped to bring him to Union. “He inspired me so much that I wanted to share with my school family,” he said. “We’re so fortunate to have him come.”
Carlson hopes Sweet’s presentations will impress upon students and community members alike the beauty of serving others for Christ. “He talks of coming to action not out of obligation, but because it should be inside of us,” he said. “To transition from just being kind people to intentionally saying ‘you know, it’s not all about me, what can I do to shake off this self-centeredness and make a difference in someone else’s life?’ That’s what he inspired in me and I think that he’ll do it for everyone else.”
The services will be held in the College View Seventh-day Adventist Church on the campus of Union College. The church is located at the corner of 48th and Prescott and the events are all free and open to the public.
Each talk will also be webcast live at uclive.ucollege.edu.