College: A Blessing That Increases Our Ability to Bless

Oh,_the_Places_You'll_Go“You are blessed to be a blessing.”

This past weekend, driving to Canton, OH to speak at the First Friends Church, I listened to a sermon by John Ortberg. I have been listening to his sermons pretty regularly for the past year, motivated after reading his most recent, inspiring book Who Is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus.

This particular sermon was part of a series about the mission of the church. Pastor Ortberg points out that the church’s mission is based on two words: “Go. Bless.” Ortberg then walks through the Biblical story, pointing out how the people of God are “blessed to be a blessing to others.”

There is a bit of surprise (spoiler alert!) during the sermon when Ortberg invites a woman onstage to talk about how she blesses her passengers as a bus driver in San Francisco. It is very moving and quite powerful. Take time to watch or listen to this sermon. You will not be disappointed.


I think the reason I loved this sermon so much was that it resonated with my work very directly. Ortberg begins by talking about Dr. Suess’s popular “graduation” book Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and throughout the sermon compares it to the people of God. God sends us out to be a blessing, wherever we go! I think that’s the vision we need for college.

We often talk about college as something you do in order to open more doors that can lead to a successful career. The message and guidance most students hear is that college increases the opportunity for “success.” There is truth to that vision, of course. I certainly don’t want to undermine the role that college can play in helping others succeed in life. But I offer a different vision: College is a blessing. It is a gift. And a college degree should lead to having more opportunities to bless others. In other words, a follower of Jesus should think about college as increasing their ability to bless.

What I like most about Pastor Ortberg’s sermon (and the CTI vision for college!) is that this basic understanding of the Gospel can be lived out regardless of someone’s educational level, IQ or occupation. We can be a blessing to others, we can “love God, and love our neighbors” wherever God places us.

After a seminar, someone once said this to me: “I think this vision for life and learning changes everything.” I think it does too. Understanding or even grasping the implications of the Gospel, however, is not the tough part. Living it out and making college decisions based on this vision is where the rubber meets the road. Oh, the places you’ll go!