FROM THE PROFS: RTN experience capped off by plane-ride conversation
Nathan Burggraff accompanied a fellow Southwestern professor to Juneau, Alaska, for Revive This Nation (RTN) earlier this year. Burggraff, assistant professor of music theory, led worship throughout the week while the other professor, then-dean of the Terry School of Church and Family Ministries Waylan Owens, preached revival sermons. When the week concluded, Burggraff found himself on a long plane ride home. But as he traversed over the larger part of North America, he discovered that his work was not yet done.
Interestingly enough, during the flight, Burggraff had to change seats three times. This ultimately placed him next to a woman who works as an adjunct musicology professor at a Christian university not far from the Southwestern campus. The coincidence of sitting next to someone who worked in the same field and just a few miles away led Burggraff to conclude that it is “a very small world.”
Burggraff began the conversation by inquiring if the woman had signed a statement of faith when she was hired at the Christian university. She said “no,” adding that the institution has “a whole plethora” of faculty members with different religious viewpoints. This opened the door for Burggraff to ask about her religious viewpoint and upbringing.
“She had sort of a checkered background,” Burggraff recalls. “Her mom had dabbled in a lot of different religions. And so I spent the next two hours with her, showing her different Scripture passages and going through the Romans Road.”
After they went over key elements of the Gospel message, including man’s sinfulness and God’s love demonstrated through the sacrificial death of His Son, the woman turned the conversation to the subject of miracles. Specifically, whether the miracles recounted in the Bible were real events or just stories.
“She asked specifically about the feeding of the 5,000,” Burggraff says. “She looks at it more as an allegory. So I explained to her the miracle and that we believe it actually occurred like the Bible said.”
As the two continued their conversation, they eventually discussed the topic of abortion. The woman asked Burggraff if he thought abortion was ever justified. Burggraff explained his belief that babies are living souls from the moment of conception, meaning that to abort a pregnancy is to kill a living thing.
Burggraff attempted to point the woman back to the Gospel throughout their conversation, as he wanted to ensure that everything he said was ultimately rooted in Scripture and in Christ. Though the woman never did respond in any way to the Gospel message, Burggraff did have the opportunity to invite her to some of the School of Church Music’s events, such as the annual Gala and Keyboards & Carols concert, which opened the door for her to come and be further exposed to the Gospel.
“She didn’t [respond], but it was an amazing opportunity to end Revive This Nation with a two-hour witnessing conversation with a lady with whom, in a very small field of study, we had a lot of commonality with music and music theory,” Burggraff says. “So that was a fascinating experience.”