Rediscovering the Christian in Christian Higher Education by pgu13428

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									  Southern Baptists and Higher Education:
                      Rediscovering the “Christian” in
                          Christian Higher Education
                                                                                                                            Bob R. Agee


Bob R. Agee has been the president            Introduction                                   their pilgrimage they operated with a
of Oklahoma Baptist Universit y,              The Southern Baptist higher education          strong commitment to teaching the Bible
Shawnee, Oklahoma since 1982. Un-             family is going through a tremendous           as sacred literature and to the centrality
der his leadership, OBU has been rated        period of transition and upheaval. His-        of Christian thought as they dealt with the
one of the top ten liberal arts colleges in   toric relationships between colleges and       various academic disciplines. Their cata-
the Southwest by U.S. News and World          universities and their sponsoring state        logs and other promotional material con-
Report. Agee has been active on regional      conventions are being put to the test with     veyed strong ties with some facet of the
accreditation teams and Southern Bap-         several of our oldest and finest schools       Christian family and they boasted of ap-
tist education committees. He is a much       choosing to sever or dramatically alter the    proaching education with strong empha-
sought-after speaker on educational is-       nature of their relationship with their con-   ses on Christian values. They gave the
sues and a consultant on long-range           vention family. The decisions by boards        training of ministers prominence in their
educational planning. He is also the au-      have certainly not come easily nor are they    programming and actively involved
thor of several scholarly articles.           always with evil intent. Because the Bap-      themselves in supporting and promoting
                                              tist papers seem to carry stories of these     the mission and ministry of the church to
                                              departures far too regularly these days it     which they were related.
                                              is inevitable that pastors, members of lo-        At some juncture in their history, how-
                                              cal Southern Baptist churches, and other       ever, and for a variety of reasons those
                                              denominational leaders wonder about            schools severed their formal ties with the
                                              what the ultimate shape of Southern Bap-       founding church-constituency. It may
                                              tist involvement in college and university     have been because they wanted their
                                              education will be.                             trustees to be self-perpetuating to mini-
                                                  A careful analysis of church-related       mize church involvement in control. It
                                              colleges and universities across the U. S.     may have been because a major donor set
                                              reveals a variety of approaches as to how      stipulations for a gift that involved sever-
                                              to understand the relationship between         ing ties with the denomination. It may
                                              the various colleges and universities and      have been part of a calculated strategy to
                                              the church bodies to which they do now         appeal to a larger universe of students and
                                              or have at some time related. There are        prospective donors. It may have been be-
                                              those institutions, for example, which can     cause of a breakdown in communication
                                              be categorized as “formerly church-re-         and understanding between the college
                                              lated,” i.e., at some point in their history   and its founding or sponsoring church
                                              they were started by or had a formal rela-     body. For whatever reasons those schools
                                              tionship with some church body and for         categorized as “formerly church-related”
                                              a period of time operated with a close tie     broke away from their church ties and no
                                              to that religious constituency. Early in       longer operate with any formal connec-




40
tion between the institution and the            gious emphasis normally consists of a re-
church body that brought them into be-          quired course on the Bible and a church-
ing or to which they formerly related.          connected student organization whose
    Further analysis points to another cat-     program and emphases have little connec-
egory of institutions—the “formally             tion with overall institutional planning
church-related colleges and universities.”      efforts. In reality there is often little dis-
Careful analysis demonstrates that there        cernible difference between the “formally
are a number of colleges and universities       church-related” college or university and
which maintain a formal connection with         a purely secular institution.
a church body, either a denomination or             As one analyzes the history and nature
some other group of churches but the re-        of church-related institutions a third cat-
lationship is purely formal and it is often     egory of colleges and universities emerges.
difficult to find evidence of active efforts    Evidence suggests there are those institu-
of promoting their Christian heritage or        tions among the 3,800+ colleges and uni-
of maintaining close ties to the church’s       versities operating on the American scene
agenda. That formal tie may express itself      today which could be referred to as “dis-
by the church body being involved to            tinctively Christian” colleges and univer-
some extent in the selection of trustees and    sities. These are the schools which were not
churches or the denomination may even           only brought into being by a church body
contribute financially to the support of the    but are institutions where the tie and the
school. Mission statements may make             relationship between the school and the
some reference to a Christian dimension         churches are taken very seriously and are
of the school’s mission and promotional         highly valued. The church bodies elect the
literature may refer to the institution’s       trustees or are meaningfully involved in
connection to a church constituency. Quite      some manner in the approval process. In
often, however, among institutions where        these institutions the trustees are chosen
the tie is merely formal or historic in na-     from among the church constituency and
ture it is very difficult to find much in the   are regularly reminded that they are ac-
way of serious effort being undertaken to       countable to and responsible to the church
demonstrate that the college or university      body that elected them for the Christian
takes seriously its church connection or        mission of the institution. The administra-
its Christian mission. In administrative        tion and faculty are comfortable with ac-
design and program priorities it is diffi-      knowledging that the institution is either
cult to find evidence that the institution      owned and operated by the sponsoring
is attempting to think through the rela-        church body or the sponsoring church
tionship between faith and learning or          body feels a deep kinship to the mission
evidence that the school gives any sense        and purpose of the college or university.
of prominence to an emphasis on spiritual       Administration, faculty, trustees, and the
growth and development or religious ac-         sponsoring church body work hard to find
tivities in its planning or institutional op-   ways to articulate that relationship. Trust-
eration. There is still a connection between    ees seek to hire faculty and administrators
the church and the school but little evi-       who are committed to the core values of
dence that the tie is taken very seriously      the Christian community which sponsors
in the ongoing life of the institution. Reli-   the institution. The approach to educa-



                                                                                                 41
     tional programming and administrative            institution’s Christian mission as admin-
     design give prominence to planning for           istrators and faculty might prefer. Insti-
     spiritual growth emphases and promote            tutions located in metropolitan areas
     activities that affirm and support the val-      which find themselves attracting a largely
     ues and emphases of the churches. In a dis-      commuter population may have a diffi-
     tinctively Christian college or university it    cult time generating as Christian an atmo-
     is not unusual to find a strong emphasis         sphere as the administration and faculty
     on ministerial training and on missionary        would like. Institutions which choose to
     involvement, but the institution’s overall       offer significant graduate degree pro-
     commitment is to provide quality higher          grams in a wide variety of disciplines may
     education in all the disciplines and profes-     find that they are attracting more students
     sions in a distinctively Christian environ-      who choose the institution not because it
     ment. In these institutions it is also not       is Christian, but because it offers a degree
     unusual to find a strong ongoing dialogue        in an area of emphasis that they desire to
     within the disciplines regarding the rela-       pursue. Issues such as size, percentage of
     tionship of the essence of the Christian faith   student body which come from the spon-
     to the various academic disciplines.             soring church body, and ratio of residen-
        Many church-related colleges and uni-         tial undergraduate students to commuter
     versities in America are struggling with an      students, all affect the atmosphere on a
     identity crisis today. Trustees and admin-       campus. By choosing to offer quality
     istrators of colleges and universities of        higher education in all the disciplines and
     most religious bodies are wrestling with         to venture beyond serving the needs of the
     how to relate and what the nature and fu-        traditional-aged residential student, a
     ture of their institutions ought to be. Even     Christian college or university accepts the
     among Southern Baptists, administrators          reality that it will have to think more cre-
     and trustees are called upon to answer           atively and intentionally to create a cam-
     questions frequently about what they see         pus culture and atmosphere in which the
     as the future of their institutions and their    Christian nature of the institution is obvi-
     relationship to the state conventions to         ous. Difficult as it may be, however, it is
     which they have historically related.            possible to be seriously Christian and still
                                                      be a world-class academic institution of-
     The Distinctive Culture of                       fering degree programs in all the disci-
     Christian Higher Education                       plines. It just requires more thought and
        There are a number of factors which           more conscious effort on the part of trust-
     influence the personality and corporate          ees, administrators, and faculty.
     culture of a Christian institution of higher        In addition to these issues there are nu-
     education. Decisions which are survival          merous external demands facing univer-
     decisions can deeply affect the atmo-            sity administrators and trustees today.
     sphere and nature of a college or univer-        Private church-related institutions often
     sity. The decision, for example, to place a      face more pressures than purely secular or
     strong emphasis on adult education in            public tax-supported institutions. Presi-
     non-traditional time-frames and settings         dents of colleges or universities which have
     sometimes makes it difficult to articulate       historic connection with Southern Baptists
     as overt an approach to fleshing out the         tend to be people with a deep sense of stew-



42
ardship about the position of being presi-       face the difficulty of responding to govern-
dent, who want very badly to do a good           mental regulations and to expectations of
job at providing quality education and be-       regional and program accrediting agencies
ing responsible to their institution’s mis-      while maintaining meaningful control of
sion. Consider a few of those inescapable        curriculum and the prerogatives necessary
and difficult issues that presidents of Chris-   to staff the institution with people who are
tian colleges and universities face.             committed to shared values. Tracking leg-
    Every president and board of trustees        islation at the state and national levels be-
among Southern Baptist institutions of           comes an increasing concern for leaders
higher education known to this writer face       within higher education to keep federal
the difficulty of finding enough financial       and state governments from adding to the
support to undergird a quality educa-            burden of regulations already in place.
tional program, compete successfully for         Presidents and boards have fought major
top-notch faculty, equip the labs and li-        battles in recent years to prevent state and
braries with the latest technologies and         federal governments from being overly
learning resources, and still offer educa-       intrusive in the affairs of our schools. In-
tion at a price affordable to the rank and       formed presidents and board members
file Southern Baptist family. Thanks to the      have worked diligently to address pres-
Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists           sures and stated agendas from government
have provided a higher level of financial        officials who want to make higher educa-
support for their colleges and universities      tion a regulated industry, with them being
than most denominations have done. Yet,          the regulators. Determining to be serious
while Cooperative Program support                about being a Christian institution calls for
within the state conventions has shown           a willingness to stand firm on a number of
stable amounts or modest increases for           key principles in the face of threats from
their schools over the past decade, the          governmental regulatory agencies in order
budgets of the schools have grown at a           to maintain control of hiring practices and
far more rapid pace due to dramatic in-          behavioral expectations of students, faculty
creases in costs of technologies, paper sup-     and staff.
plies, utilities, construction, maintenance,        Most regional accrediting agencies
etc. Most institutions have watched with         avoid being overly intrusive in affecting an
considerable sadness as the percentage of        institution’s philosophy or purposes. They
institutional budget coming from the state       do, on the other hand, expect a high de-
conventions have shrunk. College presi-          gree of professionalism and expect colleges
dents today find a growing portion of            and universities to define mission and pur-
their time being given to fund-raising to        pose, set meaningful standards, verify that
try to keep from passing all of these in-        they do what they say they do, and in gen-
creasing costs of operation on to students.      eral operate with integrity both internally
Escalating costs and an increasingly com-        and with their external constituencies. That
petitive marketplace for fund-raising            means that an institution cannot operate
make institutions vulnerable to struggling       in a knee-jerk or whimsical approach to
with what it will take to attract support        changing mission, program, philosophy, or
from major donors.                               procedures. Going through the process of
    Presidents and institutional boards also     providing evidence that the institution



                                                                                                 43
     complies with the expectations of the pro-      already begun to think through the impli-
     fession is often a costly and time-consum-      cations of the Christian faith to the various
     ing event. Quite often, administrators and      dimensions of their academic disciplines,
     faculty have claimed that they could not        and who are able to articulate the points of
     be more intentionally religious in their ap-    tension between biblical faith and their
     proach to education because the accredit-       field of specialty. The end result has been a
     ing agency would not permit it. That is a       lack of serious informed dialogue within
     complete misrepresentation of the role and      the academy about what is involved in of-
     function of the regional accrediting bodies     fering higher education from a distinctively
     and of the role and function of most pro-       Christian perspective. Far too often church-
     gram accrediting bodies. They do set stan-      related colleges or universities end up be-
     dards and expect institutions to operate        ing small imitations of state universities
     with high levels of professionalism and         with a few assorted religious activities. It
     with integrity toward all their publics, and    is a challenge often left unmet to lead fac-
     that puts pressure on administration and        ulty and administrators to think about and
     faculty to develop and communicate ap-          define core values that will undergird the
     propriate policy, avoid arbitrary and capri-    life and work of a college or university that
     cious decision-making, and honor due            is serious about being Christian.
     process in dealing with personnel.                  Another difficulty has been that of find-
        One of the most difficult tasks is that of   ing faculty who are serious scholars in their
     carving out a set of core values which de-      disciplines who understand the impor-
     fine those non-negotiable unchanging            tance of finding a healthy balance between
     philosophical presuppositions which             academic freedom and a strong sense of
     deeply affect the way education is offered      accountability to the core values of the
     within an institution. Usually administra-      sponsoring church body. An institution
     tors and faculty come from a wide variety       that is serious about remaining true to its
     of undergraduate and graduate degree            heritage as a Christian institution of higher
     programs and from a wide variety of insti-      education has made a strong commitment
     tutions. There are very few, if any, doctoral   to offer education in a manner that does
     programs available in the disciplines, in-      not sacrifice academic integrity and at the
     cluding religion, which engage the doctoral     same time affirms and challenges a
     students in any consideration of or dia-        student’s faith perspective. There has to be
     logue about the implications of the essence     some reasonable degree of freedom to in-
     of the Christian faith to the issues and di-    quire and to probe the depth issues of life
     mensions of the various disciplines. That       if the education is to have any substance at
     results in a void within the thought pro-       all. High standards of academic and pro-
     cesses of administrators and faculty mem-       fessional excellence should characterize all
     bers that does not lend itself to addressing    that the institution does. At the same time
     core values and applying those to the way       the administration and faculty should feel
     a faculty member will deal with the mul-        enough compatibility with the values and
     tiple issues and values within the academic     philosophical presuppositions of the spon-
     discipline. It becomes increasingly difficult   soring church body that they do not mind
     to find faculty with terminal degrees who       some sense of accountability and respon-
     are deeply committed believers, who have        sibility to the church family for the way



44
they treat students and offer education.       specific intent that all they do will be
Academic freedom without the balance of        Christian in substance and in appearance.
spiritual and professional accountability      If a president and a board allow God’s
often results in an irresponsible treatment    spirit to capture them individually and
of students and content.                       corporately with a heartbeat for a mission
                                               driven by a passion for impacting this
Elements of a                                  world for Christ it will affect everything
Distinctly Christian College                   the institution attempts to be and do.
    How then does one go about leading a       When we come to recognize that God’s
college or university to be a “distinctively   concern encompasses all knowledge and
Christian” institution? Does it really fol-    all learning processes and that He wants
low that if one takes faith seriously he or    us to be about the task of turning out men
she cannot be a serious scholar or if a col-   and women who will feel the call to be
lege or university takes its faith connec-     Kingdom outposts in their world—in
tions too seriously it cannot offer quality    business, medicine, law, the classroom, or
higher education? In my judgment, edu-         wherever God plants them—it will make
cation is not really complete if it does not   a tremendous difference in the way we
address the serious faith issues which         feel about and do education.
undergird all of learning and becoming.            2. Think through and have a clear understand-
Below are some suggestions about how           ing of the core values that form the philosophical
to go about being a “distinctively Chris-      underpinnings of being a distinctively Christian
tian” college or university.                   university. For Baptists and others who have
    1. Determine to build your university      been or are a part of the Protestant evangeli-
around a strong, positive, visionary Kingdom   cal stream of Christian history there are two
agenda. Jesus’ admonition to “seek first the   essential values that serve as organizing prin-
Kingdom of God and His righteousness. .        ciples for all of the rest of what we think and
.”(Mt 6:33) really does apply to a college     do. First, being serious about being Christian
or university just as it does to any church,   hinges on our genuine, personal, heart-felt
any business, any family, or any indi-         commitment to Jesus Christ as the final and
vidual. Every institutional leader and the     complete revelation of God to mankind and
board which oversees the work of the in-       as Lord of every area of life. Second, that com-
stitution defines an agenda for the life and   mitment must be coupled with a devotion
work of the institution. Somewhere within      to the Bible as the accurate, authentic, authori-
the set of purposes defined for the aca-       tative, eternal Word of God. Many a church-
demic program, the campus atmosphere,          related university has drifted into the malaise
the support programs developed, there          of ambiguity about mission and purpose by
must be some Kingdom intent. Institu-          allowing the treatment of the essence of the
tional leaders cannot assume that some-        Christian faith and the accuracy and authen-
thing Christian is going on simply because     ticity of the Bible lightly or with lack of rev-
the college or university has some historic    erence and respect. When you compromise
connection with a church group. A college      those two essential elements of your philo-
or university becomes serious about be-        sophical presuppositions then the content
ing Christian because its leadership ap-       and substance of all you do will be compro-
proaches their responsibilities with a         mised. For Southern Baptists a strong view



                                                                                                    45
     of Holy Scripture is essential to everything        stitution must understand that the institu-
     else they do. Virtually every confession of         tion has a distinctive reason for existing
     faith ever adopted by Baptists begins with a        beyond that of any other type of college or
     statement which defines the Holy Bible as           university— it has a mission to perform
     the sole rule of faith and practice. In order       that is deeply rooted in the role of the
     for that to be a meaningful cornerstone doc-        church in the world. When faculty and staff
     trine it is imperative that the Bible be viewed     are hired, administrators have a responsi-
     and revered as accurate, authentic, and au-         bility to be sure they discuss those core val-
     thoritative. To approach education and its          ues and offer contracts only to those who
     multiple disciplines with a conflicting set of      share and are committed to those core val-
     convictions about the Bible makes it difficult      ues and who are willing to conduct their
     if not impossible to offer education that is        classes and themselves in a manner that
     “distinctively Christian.” There are certainly      affirms the Christian commitment of the
     other important core values which undergird         institution. Otherwise the integrity of the
     a Christian philosophy of higher education,         institution can and will be compromised.
     but the two stated above should be seriously            4. Determine to offer the best education
     considered in the process of formulating            available in your part of the world. Institutions
     foundational core values for the institution.       which are serious about offering a distinc-
         3. Understand that any definition of aca-       tive kind of education do not offer educa-
     demic freedom without appropriate accountabil-      tion out of some remote noble human
     ity to the mission and purpose of the institution   motivation. We do what we do because we
     is not appropriate for a Christian college or       are a part of the larger work of the King-
     university. When a church body or denomi-           dom of God in the world. We are not just
     nation elects trustees those trustees are ex-       serving the needs of humanity— we are
     pected to approve the mission and purpose           serving a living God who deserves noth-
     and programs of the university in behalf            ing less than the best we can be and do.
     of those who elected them. Even when a              Expect faculty to strive for excellence in
     board elects its own members but claims             their disciplines. Expect faculty and staff
     affiliation with a church body or receives          to strive for the highest credentials in their
     financial support from a church body there          professional arenas. Push each other hard
     should be a sense of accountability to those        to be impact players and serious partici-
     who are providing that support. The Board           pants in the larger world of higher educa-
     of Trustees participates in and ultimately          tion. Project your mission into the regional
     approves the institution’s statement of mis-        and national scene, determined to be a wit-
     sion and purpose. All who are hired and             ness that Christian excellence has some-
     who work for the university have a respon-          thing to say to that larger world and has
     sibility to live and work consistently with         not been translated into isolationism or a
     that Board-approved statement of mission            fortress mentality. Engage the academy in
     and purpose. The prevailing values which            thinking through the implications of the
     guide the operation and content of what             Christian faith to intellectual and profes-
     takes place at a “distinctively Christian”          sional development. Do not be afraid to
     college or university are not defined solely        measure yourself by the benchmarks in the
     by the academic community at large. Ad-             disciplines and the profession and estab-
     ministration and faculty in a Christian in-         lish the reputation for being a leader and a



46
pace-setter at the regional and national             regarding in-depth faith issues and the con-
level. That is the assigned field of Chris-          nectedness of all knowledge. If an institu-
tian witness and the sphere of influence             tion plans to be serious about being a
God has granted to those who will dare to            distinctively Christian college or university
be “distinctively Christian” institutions of         such conversation must take place.
higher education.                                       6. Aggressively search for ways that the col-
    5. Call upon and plan for administrators, fac-   lege or university can demonstrate its desire to
ulty, and students to engage in the never-end-       form a working partnership with local churches
ing, on-going dialogue about the implications        within the denomination and/or with associa-
and application of the essence of the Christian      tions and/or state conventions. When mem-
faith to the issues and assumptions of the vari-     bers of the academic community find
ous academic disciplines. A Christian educa-         pleasure in being unduly critical of the life,
tor understands that God is the origin and           work, mission, and efforts of the local
author of all knowledge. God is not intimi-          church they should not be surprised when
dated by the pursuit of knowledge in any             the pastor in the pulpit and the people in
discipline. The Christian professor works            the pews become suspicious and critical of
from the vantage point that all truth ulti-          the academic community. Relationships be-
mately points to and exalts the one and only         tween Christian colleges and universities
true and living God. He or she also has ac-          and their sponsoring church bodies can
cepted the reality that there is much more           and do become strained, and distance be-
to be learned than what we have yet learned,         tween the two grows, when the predomi-
and that God is honored when we probe                nate pattern of the relationship is one of
the depths, wrestle with questions, chal-            criticism or cynicism. Distinctively Chris-
lenge previous understandings, and cause             tian institutions tend to be those where
the human spirit to value the pilgrimage of          trustees, administrators, and faculty work
growing and becoming. There is tremen-               at forming relationships of mutual appre-
dous value to a Christian university envi-           ciation and respect for each other. The aca-
ronment where diversity of opinion is                demic community can work at affirming
allowed and appreciated and where there              the best of what the church is and does,
is the romance of openness on the part of            which makes the atmosphere on campus
faculty, students, and administrators to             more wholesome and mutually encourag-
learn something new and come to appreci-             ing. Administrators and faculty can play
ate old understandings with new depth.               an important role by acknowledging the
Christian education takes place best where           importance of spiritual growth and devel-
there is a relationship of academic, profes-         opment as part of the overall educational
sional, and spiritual trust among adminis-           experience, which will help the churches
trators, faculty, and trustees that allows for       come to have a deeper respect for what the
open dialogue about the implications of is-          institution is trying to do. There are so
sues within the disciplines to the Christian         many opportunities in which the denomi-
faith and open discussion of the application         nation and their related colleges and uni-
of the principles, concepts, and essence of          versities can work together to strengthen,
biblical faith to the issues within the disci-       serve, and otherwise benefit each other.
plines. Far too little substantive conversa-         Leadership of the institutions and of the
tion takes place within the academy today            denomination must be willing to maintain



                                                                                                        47
     close friendship and very open conversa-         education is emphasizing the globalization
     tion in order for ideas to flow that result in   of the university education, Christian col-
     mutual benefit.                                  leges and universities have a golden op-
         7. Find ways to involve students and fac-    portunity to globalize the educational
     ulty in global missions, starting with service   experience and at the same time make a
     at home and reaching around the world. There     significant contribution to advancing the
     is no emphasis which ties a Christian col-       cause of the Kingdom of God in the world.
     lege or university to its church family quite    An institution which aspires to be distinc-
     like active participation in intentional ef-     tively Christian should be a major player
     forts at making a Christian impact through       in promoting the involvement of students
     missions involvement. Denominations, lo-         and faculty in the missionary enterprise.
     cal churches, associations, and state con-
     ventions will take great pride in knowing        Conclusion
     that their colleges or universities are tak-        It takes more than the nature of the
     ing the initiative to find opportunities for     structural relationship between a college
     students and faculty to be involved in some      and its sponsoring church body to make
     type of missionary activity. Summer mis-         an institution “distinctively Christian.”
     sions opportunities are available through-       There are those outstanding institutions
     out the U.S. and across the world. There         of higher learning which have no formal
     are phenomenal opportunities currently           relationship to any church body. Colleges
     available for students and faculty to use        like Wheaton College, Taylor University,
     foreign study and travel for educational         and a number of others have demon-
     purposes as the context or platform for          strated that it is possible to be very seri-
     Christian witness. The Consortium for Glo-       ous about being Christian without direct
     bal Education (formerly the Cooperative          denominational ties or involvement. It
     Services International Education Consor-         takes more than the denomination elect-
     tium) came into existence approximately          ing trustees to make a college or univer-
     ten years ago at the initiative of several       sity distinctively Christian. It takes more
     presidents of Southern Baptist colleges and      than required religion courses, required
     universities for the specific purpose of pro-    chapel, and a few students attending the
     moting missions impact through interna-          campus ministry activities to make a dis-
     tional education experiences. Thousands of       tinctively Christian university. It does re-
     Southern Baptist college students, faculty       quire a serious intentional commitment on
     and staff devote summers, semesters, and         the part of trustees, administrative lead-
     years immediately following graduation to        ership, and faculty who are willing to ad-
     the effort to impact their world for Christ      dress the component parts of what it
     through intentional missionary activity.         means to be Christian.
     When a Christian college or university is           There has never been a time when it
     aggressive in promoting missions and mis-        was more important to American society
     sion involvement as part of its institutional    for a serious effort to be made at offering
     strategic plan, the sponsoring church body       higher education which places equal pri-
     will take great pride in pointing to that in-    ority on nurturing spiritual development
     stitution as theirs and in supporting its ef-    and academic excellence. There is no ques-
     forts. At the very time when all of higher       tion that young adults between ages 18



48
and 24 are in their most formative years
and are facing some of the most critical
decisions of their lives. During those criti-
cal years values are shaped, affirmed, and
strengthened; mates are chosen; prepara-
tions are made for the first venture into
the job market; career decision-making
skills are formed; and faith begins to
emerge in more adult forms. Non-tradi-
tional aged students are often more open
and responsive to conscious efforts to
make the education experience Christian
value-centered than their younger coun-
terparts. All of us who have felt a call to
minister in the arena of Christian higher
education need to hear afresh the call to
take more seriously the task of being dis-
tinctively Christian in what we do—inten-
tionally, thoughtfully, purposefully,
substantively Christian. Our nation’s fu-
ture may well depend on our willingness
to do that.




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