The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) is a higher education association that includes 180 Christian institutions around the world, 117 of which are in North America. These schools deploy nearly 100,000 students each year. This adds up to one million Christians potentially entering the workforce and engaging in cultural issues over the next ten years.
It is well and good that we have Christians entering as many disciplines and fields of service that we can imagine, but how many of these students are going to be prepared to weave their faith into their area of discipline?
I am thrilled that at the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism we have an program called the Evangelism Initiative in which we work with administration, faculty, staff, and students on more than two dozen CCCU schools with the goal of helping them develop an ethos of evangelism that weaves itself into all levels of the campus, as well as prepares students for post-graduation.
Our two main Wheaton College faculty leading the charge on this is Dr. Jerry Root and Dr. Robert Bishop. In this edition of The Exchange, I want to share with you a recent note Dr. Bishop (a professor of physics and philosophy) wrote to the schools that have begun to incorporate an Evangelism Initiative on their campus. It encouraged me and I hope it encourages you.
When I visit campuses I sometimes hear the following complaint about making evangelism an explicit value: “We’re an academic institution, not a Bible college!” The underlying worry is that the academic mission will be displaced by evangelism. My response is that I don’t think this is the right way to think about evangelism as a core institutional value. We’re Christian academic institutions, so values like evangelism, worship, and service should permeate everything we do.
Nevertheless, if evangelism displaces our academic majors, or if it becomes that one course taught in the Bible department that some students take, we have missed our Christian academic mission.
Instead, evangelism should be a value that shapes our academic mission.
There are many ways this shaping might take place. For instance, evangelism might be a component of a core class all students take, where the relationship of the gospel to the academic subject matter is explored as part of the course. Students might have an assignment where they discuss how sharing the good news of Jesus relates to that subject matter as a means of assessing an academic outcome for the course.
Another idea would be to have a capstone outcome on evangelism that provides orientation for how departments can shape some of their faith and learning activities so that students can successfully demonstrate that outcome as part of their capstone work.