Why give up being the president of a theological seminary to lead a Christian university? That’s a question I’ve been asked a lot lately. Mid-fall 2016 I finished my work as president and professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando and began my new job as president of Colorado Christian University. This week is my inauguration at CCU.
The bottom line answer to this question—I felt called to CCU. Of course, that doesn’t ignore a season of prayer, drawing on the wisdom of others, a long careful thought process, and having compelling reasons for making the change.
I am very thankful for my time at RTS. It was a privilege to serve at a great seminary with a gifted team in the cause of training leaders for the church. Christina and I thank God for our six wonderful years there.
Why change then?
Rewind with me to when I turned 50. I was serving as a senior pastor of an EPC church (Evangelical Presbyterian Church) in Denver. My friends humbled me by giving me one of those “Oh my, you’re turning 50 parties.” I didn’t feel any older, but a new conviction arose in my heart as I hit the half-century mark. I felt a compulsion to give more and more of my time to training the next generation of Christian leaders. As a result, I created an intern program while pastoring and began mentoring younger men preparing for the ministry. With the move to RTS, I realized I could have a multiplying influence in a school setting since we focused mostly on pastors, counselors and missionaries.
It was in the seminary world while I was working on a book on “calling” that I was reminded how God calls people to many different vocations, not just missionaries and pastors. This, of course, is the opportunity of a Christian university. We are clearly training future pastors and counselors, but we’re also training future doctors, nurses, teachers, scientists, lawyers, engineers, soldiers, statesmen, artists, business leaders, etc.—all these professions where one can serve under the lordship of Christ. There is a “creation-mandate” breadth that one encounters in a Christian university and that breadth is refreshing.
In addition, I’ve always been enamored with the original vision of the Western university. While teaching church history at RTS, I often lectured on “the rise of the university.” Recall that the Western university was actually born out of a Christian vision. The great universities of Europe emerged out of monasteries and cathedral schools. Their intellectual foundation was based on the truthfulness of the Bible, the supremacy of Jesus Christ, and a Biblical worldview. There was a conviction that Christ is the One “in whom all things hold together,” as Colossians 1.17 states. In this vision, all subjects are connected and integrated by their relationship to Him. The Christian university has a unifying center—Jesus Christ. It also has a expansive breadth—all things under Christ, all honorable vocations for the glory of God and the blessing of people.
Of course, it’s pretty obvious that the modern secular university has lost this vision. Allan Bloom, in his book, The Closing of the American Mind, told us in the 1980’s that relativism reigns on most American university campuses. On today’s campus, radical autonomy is prized above all. The modern university is often characterized by an intellectual incoherence that comes from a loss of vision. In fact, it is my contention that the university does not really work, and will not thrive, in a “post-truth” culture.
But again, this is the advantage of a Christian university that still embraces the classic vision—they have a moral, spiritual and intellectual coherence. These schools unabashedly affirm goodness, beauty, and truth, because they know from whence they came!
Along with this, I am captivated by the scale and vast influence a Christian university has. Next to the church, the Christian college or university has the second greatest influence in shaping and discipling the younger generation. My desire as a minister has long been to raise up an army of young people who are passionate about serving Christ in all kinds professions. I want to help build a solid foundation under their feet. My new position at CCU allows me to do this.
It’s been said that the destiny of a nation depends on the training of its youth. It’s also been said that one of the greatest threats to our country these days is our colleges and universities because many of them have become hotbeds of political correctness, hostility to authority, relativism, anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, anti-Christianity, etc..
But what if instead a university could be a place of spiritual awakening? What if a university returned to the source of its vitality and life—Jesus Christ? Imagine the impact such a school could have on our churches, our culture, and our civilization.
I’ve had a long association with Colorado Christian University (CCU). Since 2004 I have served on its Board of Trustees. I believe in its mission, its doctrinal commitments, and its Strategic Objectives. I’ve had the privilege of working closely with its former president—the late Senator William Armstrong. I want to carry on his work and CCU’s mission.
So, for this next season of my life, I believe this is a great way to strengthen the church and engage the culture. We are shaping a new generation of Christian leaders—what CCU calls “world changers.” Our hope is that they really will “turn the world upside down,” just like those early Christians described in the book of Acts. Some will go on to become pastors, counselors, or Christian ministry workers. They will impact the church. Others will be serving the Lord in any number of professions, and will impact the wider culture.
Strengthening the church and engaging the culture: this wonderful, double vision, coincides rather nicely with the two great commissions of Scripture—the commission in Genesis 1 and 2 to rule over creation and take care of it, and the Great Commission in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all nations.
That’s why a Christian university is so consequential, and that’s why I count it a privilege to take up this new calling at Colorado Christian University.