In my last post, I discussed what we mean by the word Christian in the phrase “Christian community of faith and learning.” The next word is community. Listen to the primary definitions of this word: a social group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society in which it exists. Another definition is: a group of men and women leading a common life according to a rule. Some other definitions are “similar character,” “agreement,” “identity.”
These definitions capture what I believe should be our vision of a Christian community of faith and learning. We are a community. We are a social group that has gathered around common characteristics and common interests: a common faith, a common Lord, a common baptism, a common confession.
We also perceive ourselves as distinct, in some very important respects, from the larger society within which we exist. We are also a group of men and women leading a common life according to a rule. We have a similar character. We have agreement. We have identity.
The word community means not only that you have things in common, but also that you have unity. So we have things in common, and we come together around that common Lord, faith, baptism, and confession. We have unity. We are a family. And there is much that holds us together.
Within this unity we have diversity in our family. One of the reasons for our community standards is that we have a diverse community. In the midst of our doctrinal agreement, some of the members of this community are from more-conservative homes and churches than others. Others are from backgrounds of more-progressive practice (within our context of conservative evangelicalism).
Living in community means people from both sides of our spectrum sacrificing things, giving things up for the sake of others. God has brought us into this place for some wonderful reasons. He has brought us into community with fellow Christians who are different from us, who have different backgrounds from us, who have different perspectives. We learn from each other in this community, in this family. But we do so only through sacrifice—by giving some things up to live in community.
A Disciplined Community
We must continue to have a disciplined community that enables our students to learn and discipline themselves. We must give them habits that will enrich their lives. Our community standards are not always only moral in nature but they help us live together, and love together, and learn together in the way we ought. This college must yet continue its dedication to moral goodness. In a relativistic age, we must continue to teach and model before our students holy living that is rooted in a profound, disciplined relationship with Jesus Christ.
But when we become impatient with each other, let us never forget that we are a flawed community. We are not perfect. We are fallen. Let us encourage each other to realize that these flaws arise from our fallenness and yet urge one another to become what God wants us to be in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
A Tight-Knit Family
One of the things about being a family is that we are small. I do not aspire to be always as small as we are now, but we must not forget that there are benefits to being small. God often uses small things to show that people who will accomplish His mission are not the great and mighty and powerful but the small people whom the world thinks are the least apt to carry out that mission.
We must teach our students, by instruction and example, the value of living in community, and what it contributes to preparing them to be leaders in the intellectual, spiritual, cultural, and public lives of their own communities.
At Welch College we are working together to foster a sense of unity. It is amazing to see it as we develop our faculty and staff, with a new, young generation of faculty and staff joining our seasoned veterans committed to the same mission, vision, and strategic plan. We are all working toward the same goals. My aim is to lead in a way that sees unity—indeed community—as vitally necessary to accomplishing our academic and spiritual goals.
The road ahead poses many challenges for Christian higher education. It will not be easy, but we must join hands and boldly traverse it together. By embodying the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace, Welch College can accomplish the awesome task the Lord has set before us, thus bringing greater glory to Him and extending his rule over every area of life.
Faith and Learning
The last part of the phrase is, of course, “faith and learning.” This means that Holy Scripture is integrated with every subject, whether the natural sciences, psychology, literature, business, or history. No matter what the subject is, we aim to view it from a thoroughly Christian perspective.
That does not mean that we simply take a secular subject and sprinkle moralisms and Bible verses over it. Rather, we attempt to integrate the Christian worldview with everything we think and do, including our academic subjects. That is the task of our faculty: to integrate Christianity with the disciplines they teach.
We must teach our students that God created the world and said it was good, that He became incarnate in the world in the form of His son Jesus Christ, and that He aims to redeem this fallen world by the power of His Spirit through Christ’s work on the Cross.
Therefore, Christian students must be diligent students of the world that God has made. This will aid them in their calling to bring about transformation and redemption in this world.
Every Course Has a Purpose
We also need to continue to emphasize that every course has a purpose. Some students come wanting to study only their field, thinking that the arts and sciences are not necessary. We must not succumb to the contemporary notion that career preparation is the primary purpose of higher education. Every course in our curriculum has its purpose.
At Welch College we are more and more committed to our core curriculum, which will play a part in producing truly educated and well-rounded students who have a truly Christian mind. We must remain committed to educating our students in biblical studies and theology, which will enable them to forge for themselves a Christian worldview. But this theological orientation will not be limited to the Bible class; it will pervade all aspects of teaching and learning. That is why we place so much emphasis on our general education core curriculum at Welch College.
The New Welch College Core
Next year we will be rolling out the new Welch College Core—a core curriculum in the liberal arts that will enable us to further our vision of integrating faith and learning. (I plan to spend some time on this blog in the future discussing the new core.) Our goal is to produce graduates who understand God’s Word and how it relates to God’s world. The Welch College Core will help us to do that more consistently.