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A Chrisitan College or University--A Place to Be

September 19, 2013

I recently watched the movie "Field of Dreams" on television for the fourth or fifth time.  It was actually released in 1989.  You may recall that the leading actor, Kevin Costner, played the part of a Midwestern farmer who had the notion that if he built a baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield, he could resurrect a baseball team from the early part of the 20th century--the infamous Chicago Black Socks.  The famous line was "If you build it he will come!"  When the team of deceased players finally emerged to play their dream game on his field, they blinked their eyes and asked, "Is this heaven?" and the disappointing response was, "No, it's Iowa!"

At the beginning of every academic year, thousands of new students walk onto the campuses of our Christian colleges and universities, and they may blink their eyes and ask the the question--"Is this heaven?"  And my response would be "No!"  But with no disappointment in my voice I would assure them that they are attending a distinctly Christian institution that focuses on the integration of faith, learning, and living.

Steven Garber, in his classic book, The Fabric of Faithfulness, Weaving Together Belief and Behavior During The University Years, discusses the characteristics that he believes any successful college or university experience needs to include:

  1. Forming friendships with others who share the same worldview.
  2. Finding faculty who can integrate that worldview.
  3. Framing a worldview in a pluralistic world.

Permit me to reword these characteristics in a way that they will be more easily applied to a Christian college or university.

  • A PLACE TO BELONG "Forming friendships with others who have the same worldview."
A Christian college is not just an academic community, it is a Christian community.  Students live, study, pray, worship, compete, perform, work, serve and sometimes even debate together.  God's spirit is at work within this small body of Christ known as Christian higher eduction.  Students have the privilege of learning and growing in a company of friends who have and are further developing a Christian worldview.

  • A PLACE TO BE LED "Finding faculty who can incarnate that worldview."

Education is more than reading books, completing assignments, taking exams, and spending X number of hours in the classroom.  The activities just cited may result in a degree but education or learning is much more than an academic exercise.  A Christ-centered learning community provides the opportunity for students to build relationships with caring faculty and staff.

  • A PLACE TO BECOME "Framing a Christian worldview in a pluralistic world."

A Christian college provides a true sense of meaning in terms of how students can relate to their world.  I believe there is a personal God who gives meaning and purpose to the world in which we live.  I believe that meaning and purpose come through redemption, a personal relationship with God's son, Jesus Christ.

So, is this heaven?  No!  We cannot claim that our Christian colleges and universities are heaven, but our students are growing  and becoming more conformable to the image of Christ.  A Christian college or university is a place that is committed to heavenly values--A Place to Belong, A Place to be Led, A Place to Become.  A Place to Be!

Larry J. McKinney
Higher Eduction Consultant

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