KNOXVILLE – This year, Johnson University’s chapel theme is “My Praise in the Great Assembly,” as chosen by Bill Wolf, Dean of Chapel.
In developing the theme, Wolf noticed that many issues on campus and throughout the world deal with identity at their core, so he chose a theme that would focus on how Christians have an identity as members of the Great Assembly.
At the heart of the theme is Psalm 22, which begins by illustrating David’s depression and self-depreciation and ends with his worth being found in the heavenly Great Assembly of Praise.
This Great Assembly includes “the whole globe, the living and the dead, those yet unborn, the rich, and the poor,” Wolf said.
The exploration of the theme will begin with three “big steps” in an understanding of identity. The first step involves humanity’s identity as creations of God in the Genesis Garden and the fall of humanity. The second step involves the nation of Israel, when God calls them to be His people. The third step involves the identity of Christians, who are in the world and yet not of the world.
The theme will continue with a focus on “My Praise,” with discussion on David and his acts of praise, which include lamentation, confession, faith, and acts of mercy.
Each element of praise is unified by its emphasis on a high view of God.
At this point, chapel on Tuesdays will involve study of praise elements and Thursdays will be a time to focus on the act of praise.
The next emphasis will be on the specifics of the Great Assembly, which involve local, global, and cosmic assemblies.
However, Wolf mentioned that the theme will also speak to a Christian’s identity in Christ.
“Jesus is the one to whom we are being formed into, His likeness,” he said.
After Thanksgiving, chapel services will concentrate on the life of Jesus while anticipating his birth. In the spring, this will continue with a study of Jesus’ teachings and ministry, as well as the cross and resurrection.
In addition, Wolf emphasized the importance of actions in the theme.
“In both the theme last year and the theme this year, there is an underlying message that what we do matters, not just what we think or what we say, or even what we say we believe, but the actual acting out in faith matters,” Wolf said.
A powerful example of action in relationship to the theme occurs at the beginning of each chapel. The first visual seen by students entering the chapel room is a field of stars in the background of the stage. This is meant to symbolize how the stars or “the assembly in heaven precedes our praise always; it’s ongoing,” Wolf said.
The candles are then lit as a symbol of the students’ own lights being added to the Great Assembly.
Through these visuals, students can experience the action of the candle lighting, with the ultimate goal to internalize the concept of their own part of the Great Assembly.
“There’s something formative to what we do,” Wolf said. “We don’t gather just to express our faith; we don’t sing just to express our praise, but we are formed by it when we do those things.”