Presentation marks Dr. Schmit’s promotion to full professor
Members of the School of Theology and the wider Fuller community gathered on Tuesday, April 20, in Travis Auditorium for the inaugural professorial lecture of Clayton J. Schmit, Arthur DeKruyter/Christ Church Oak Brook Professor of Preaching and Academic Director for the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts.
“Those of us in the academy have to spend a lot of time alone, thinking—that’s scholarship,” President Richard J. Mouw offered in his opening comments. Citing Fuller’s mission statement, Mouw said that such solitary moments in libraries and at laptops aim at the specific outcome of equipping men and women for the manifold ministries of Christ and his Church. “These inaugural professorial events celebrate that lonely work as it is made public,” he stated.
In his introduction of Dr. Schmit, School of Theology Dean Howard Loewen remarked, “I have discovered that Clay is an enormously creative person who faithfully offers solutions to problems, detours around road blocks, and cutting edge insights to the Fuller community.”
Schmit spent part of his lecture discussing performance as a theological concept, the topic of his research trajectory. “All the great narratives of the gospel cannot be realized," he stated, "unless someone brings them to life.”
Certain misconceptions, however, often lead Christians to believe that there should not be performance in the Church. The “diva syndrome,” as Schmit calls it, is one example of performance gone wrong, when pride rules as one puts oneself on display and takes on a sense of entitlement. Another misconception is that of “mere performance,” suggesting that we are not being authentic in our roles.
But Schmit pointed out that the gospel is not boring unless a preacher makes it so, and creating interest in a sermon requires a kind of performance. “Preachers must realize that they are performers of the Word,” he stated, and skilled performance—using one’s entire voice and entire body in proclaiming the message—is required lest it actually distract from the message.
“Performance is a theological imperative and an incarnational necessity,” Schmit said, explaining that the focus is actually God’s self-performance. “We are agents of God’s own self-disclosure.” With that in mind, performance is not a matter of pride, but a matter of humility as we submit to God’s message and perform our duties well.
Moving on to the second part of his talk, Schmit described his desire to be involved in a project publishing a collection of hymns, songs, and psalm settings. With the help of musicians from the Fuller community, he then led the group in singing four pieces that he wrote: “What Does the Lord Require?,” “A Fuller Vision,” “Search Me O God,” and “O Lord My Eyes are Not Lifted Up.”
Afterward, Schmit shared that he sees his ministry from the Apostle Paul’s perspective: “I have the gospel in this jar of Clay,” he said—with hand on chest, playing on the connection with his name. “We are flawed and easily broken, but we must perform our roles so God can use us for God’s purposes. To this end, let us walk humbly with our God."
Clayton J. Schmit joined Fuller’s faculty in 2000 and teaches homiletics and a variety of courses in liturgical arts. He is an accomplished choral music director, a published composer, and the author of several books, including Sent and Gathered: A Worship Manual for the Missional Church (2009) and Too Deep for Words: A Theology of Liturgical Expression (2002). Schmit is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.