INDIANAPOLIS – “It’s not that churches and schools have missions on behalf of God, but God is the one who has a mission,” said alumnus and former Professor of Religion at the University of Indianapolis, the Rev. Dr. Steven O’Malley. He continued, “And sometimes God uses schools as vehicles of that mission.”
O’Malley, the J. T. Seamands Professor of Wesleyan Holiness History at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., spoke these words of wisdom in the afternoon and evening lectures about the pedigree of the University motto: “Education for Service” during the Showers Lecture March 19 at the United Methodist-related University of Indianapolis.
O’Malley has written and edited seven books, including Touched by Godliness, The Legacy of The Otterbein’s and Early German American Evangelicalism. He was ordained in 1967 in Ransburg Auditorium when the university was known as Indiana Central, and was in the last group of candidates for ordained ministry in the former Evangelical United Brethren Church, one of the former denominations of The United Methodist Church.
“I feel highly honored to be able to speak to the faculty and students of this institution again,” O’Malley said. He thanked the faculty, students, friends of UIndy, his wife of 24 years and his father-in-law.
During the lecture, O’Malley talked about the ideological core convictions of UIndy and its incredible potential for informing and reshaping its educational enterprise in strategically important and compelling ways. He explained the university’s motto – Education for Service – as being connected to the service and guidance of God.
“I am eager to see the university realize its potential as a God-given institution of higher education in the 21st century,” O’Malley said. “The vision of this university was originated from the mission of God.”
O’Malley stated that our service is not just to ourselves but to others as well. He said that the theological approach to service defines service as baptism, and baptism in that sense is our commission to a life of service.
“Baptism incorporates one eternally in the body of Christ. The gift of the spirit in confirmation makes one a living member of that body in Christ,” O’Malley said.
O’Malley also said that one’s eternal destiny is connected to his or her life and service on earth. He advised that everyone must strive to be what is declared to us in our baptism and receive what he or she truly is, a true Christian being.
“There are two types of service,” O’Malley said. “The service that is God-serving and the service that is self-serving.”
O’Malley explained that we make choices regarding the type of service we want to partake in, but in every choice, it is more beneficial to serve God and our neighbor rather than just ourselves.
Senior business major Yaa Opoku appreciated the message of the lecture.
“I learned that through the UIndy motto, we are all connected by service to our neighbor or by service to God,” Opoku said. “I understand our motto way better now, and I feel empowered to go out and make the world better.”
In his evening lecture – “Service in the Company of Christian Revitalization,” O’Malley explained that a major shift in the structure occurred in the life of the Christian church during the reformation in the 1500s. That shift was from a top-down Christendom structure to a bottom-up community structure.
He likened the shift of thinking to that of Pentecost, with the birth of the church (a community event) coming out of a structured Judaism. He called the shift a Pentecost movement, which transformed society and the world.
He said when such a shift occurs – from the structure of Christendom to Pentecost community – the church grows and gains vitality.
O’Malley wished UIndy the best and hopes the institution grows in the light, love and service of God. He also encouraged faculty and students not to relent in the completion of God’s mission.
Chidinma Naze serves as a staff writer for the United Methodist-related University of Indianapolis.
Dr. Steven O’Malley reflects historically on the motto of UIndy during his two Showers Lectures at the university.
“It’s not that churches and schools have missions on behalf of God, but God is the one who has a mission.”
– Steven O’Malley