New Gift from Above:
MLC’s Dean of Chapel

“Every good gift is from above.”

We’ve received a wonderful gift from our Father above in our new dean of chapel, Jacob Behnken MLC ’08, WLS ’12. He began his service at MLC in October.

In addition to being an ordained pastor and worship leader for 10 years, Behnken comes to us as an accomplished organist. He took his first organ lessons in sixth grade with Dr. Ed Meyer here on the hill. It was a bit of a drive from his home in Brookings, South Dakota, to New Ulm, but no worries. His father, who’s a licensed pilot and flight instructor, flew him here every week in a little Beachcraft Bonanza.

“It was a 25-minute flight,” Behnken says, “so usually we just flew here after school once a week. Dr. Meyer picked us up at the New Ulm Airport and dropped us off again after my lesson.”

Gift from above indeed.

At MLC, Behnken continued organ lessons with Dr. Wayne Wagner and sang in the College Choir with Dr. Kermit Moldenhauer—while studying his Greek, Hebrew, theology, and all the other courses in MLC’s preseminary program.

Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary saw him singing and playing organ as well, and upon graduation he was assigned to Good Shepherd-Midland, Michigan, where he served as pastor and worship leader for a decade.

One of the key initiatives in Pursuing Excellence Under the Cross directs us to embrace our identity as confessional Lutherans. That includes placing worship at the center of our lives. The Chapel of the Christ holds one corner of campus, and twice-daily chapel is a cornerstone of campus life. But Professor Behnken notes something really special about MLC:

“The amazing thing about a place like MLC is that really every part of our campus is a place of worship. Everything we do together on campus can be a spiritual act of worship in which we give glory to our Savior. That’s evident in classrooms and on athletic fields, and most especially in our chapel.

“In the chapel,” he continues, “we come together in public worship to sing our praises and confess our faith in Jesus. It’s probably the most visible way that we worship together as a community.”

But worship is not primarily about the praise of God’s people, he says. “Far more important than what we are offering to God is what God is doing for us. With his gospel in Word and sacrament, he is feeding and nourishing our faith. He is assuring us of his love and forgiveness and giving us strength to walk with him. I’m looking forward to playing a role in sharing with the students the strength and comfort God gives us in his Word.”

In addition to coordinating our worship services at MLC—including daily chapels and special services for Evangelism Day, World Missions Day, Commencement, Homecoming, and so on—Professor Behnken will also teach Lutheran Worship.

He says he’s especially looking forward to interacting with the students. “MLC is such a special place because of all the young people ready to offer their lives in service to the church,” he says. “After just a few days on campus, I’m already amazed at the depth and variety of the gifts God has given them. As dean of chapel, I’m especially excited to be a part of putting those gifts to use in our public worship.”

MLC has had excellent leadership in the planning of worship services in the past, but we’re so grateful God has allowed us to have one person who can make worship his primary focus. Professor Behnken will devote the best of his time and gifts primarily to planning and preparing, coordinating and collaborating to make chapel worship both edifying for the campus family and instructive model to our students, many of whom will be worship leaders themselves very soon.

“Chapel of the Christ is the very heart of our campus,” he says, “because there we come into God’s very presence as he equips us for our lives of service to him—both on this earth and for eternity. My prayer is that my work as dean of chapel can be a blessing for these students while they are preparing here on campus and as they go out to serve where God calls them.”