Seven Purdue professors gave brief testimony to their faith in Jesus Christ as the annual Symposium opened to a crowd of 1000 on campus February 17th. You can see them here.
The Problem of God (this year’s theme) addressed head-on the issues that keep many seekers from knowing Christ. Over two days of plenary sessions and seminars, ten Christian academics considered questions like:
- Is God a Moral Monster?
- Does God know about the Big Bang?
- If a loving God exists, then why isn’t He more obvious?
- Why does God seem judgmental and intolerant?
- Can Christianity contribute to the rebuilding of business morality in China today?
Dr. Paul Copan, professor and current president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society addressed the question, Is God a Moral Monster? Good, Evil, and the Old Testament.
More than an hour after the lecture ended, long lines continued to snake behind the open microphones when Faculty Commons staff and event emcee Corey Miller had to end the Q&A time. Almost all of the questions came from people who were not believers in Jesus: international students, members of the Society of Non-Theists, leaders of Muslim groups and the Pagan Academic Network.
The weekend succeeded in making God a topic of discussion on campus, and will promote spiritual conversations for the year to come. “I’ve begun follow up and have already had some good discussions,” Corey relates. “This was really a legacy building event. We saw fruit all year long in follow-up [from last year’s similar event], and I suspect this year will be even better.”
For more information about the Purdue Christian Faculty and Staff Network visit their website here.
Recognize this? These QR codes are popping up in more and more places lately. Through an app on a smart-phone, these codes will connect you with a website. Some airlines even use them as electronic boarding passes.
The Christian faculty group at Western Kentucky University uses QR codes to connect college students with the gospel.
For 25 years, hundreds of Christian faculty groups have published ads that proclaim their faith in Jesus in their campus newspapers. Spiritually-hungry students can seek out one of the professors listed in the ad if they want to dialogue about spiritual topics.
The ad filled three-fourths of a page in the WKU campus newspaper in early December. It stood out since it was the only color ad that day. The 84 Christian faculty names in the ad represent a 50% increase over the “welcome back to school” ad the group ran in September.
The QR code in the ad links to “Who Is Jesus . . . Really?” (whoisjesus-really.com). This Cru website offers information about Jesus in 40 different languages, so it reaches most international students as well as English-speakers.
Dr. Larry Caillouet, the WKU prof who organized this ad, has even bigger plans for QR codes that link to websites about Jesus. “Our campus, like most others, is looking for any way to squeeze out a little extra revenue, so they sell ad space inside the shuttle buses,” Larry explains.
“We intend to put more QR codes there. Unlike a campus newspaper that lasts just a few days before it’s thrown out, the bus ads can run for weeks or months. And students don’t have a lot to occupy themselves with while riding the bus, so I think they will read the ads and follow the QR codes.”
Christian professors at North Carolina State recently adopted the WKU idea of using QR codes in ads on campus buses. Using normal web analytics, the NC State professors will be able to track how many students have clicked through from the QR code to the websites about Jesus, how long they stayed on the site, etc.
Not a bad use for 21st century technology—connecting college students with the first-century man who offers them hope, peace, and new life!
A forestry professor spoke through tears about God’s comforting presence since her six-year-old daughter died in a tragic accident in January.
A music professor related to the students how his inaccurate view of God had for years adversely affected his walk with Christ.
The Christian professors at Stephen F. Austin University obviously relished the opportunity last month to serve as spiritual mentors for the students who attended their What I Can’t Say in the Classroom presentations.
The professors had advertised the event on their office doors, and (to our delight and surprise) 10-12 additional faculty members attended, too! One, a math professor who did not indicate he was a Christian himself, said he came to hear his colleague tell her story.
A Q&A time following the talks prompted some great discussion. One student, who was attending a Cru (Campus Crusade’s student ministry at SFA) meeting for the first time, was overjoyed to learn it is possible to have a ”faith conversation” with a professor in her office. A new student at SFA, she learned after the talk that her academic advisor (also in attendance) was yet another Christian professor in the math department.
Another student was eager to continue this professor-student interaction: could they regularly pray together for their campus? The professors’ enthusiastic response: “We would love to make the time to do that!”
One student asked the professors why they were willing to come and talk to the students about their faith. All responded that they sense God’s prompting to see their work at the university as their ministry. Though they are active in their churches, now God is urging them to pursue ministry opportunities on campus with students and colleagues.
Some comments from the students:
“I feel like many of my questions about God were answered fully. I will definitely come again! Loved it!”
“I had no idea what I was walking into tonight, but God definitely did! Thank you guys for opening your hearts to a bunch of confused “20-somethings”! I am going to be an elementary ed teacher in a year and you are an inspiration and gave me HOPE!”
“You cannot imagine how much I need this…it’s been awhile that I was falling out of my fellowship with God. I was in a hard place in my life and still am…this really touched me.”
“It’s awesome to see that staff/teachers here at SFA are seeking to share their stories with their students and really use their profession as a vocation to invest in their students. I’ve been thinking of asking one of my nursing professors to be a spiritual mentor, and I think I might do it.”
When God is ready to launch a new Christian faculty/staff ministry on a campus, He brings resources together from unexpected places. In the case of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, the ball began rolling when Associate Professor Greg Bashford returned to his alma mater to teach biological systems engineering.
Greg was influenced by Cru’s student ministry as an undergrad at UNL. Now, after earning his Ph.D. at Duke University, Greg seeks to be a Christian professor who points his UNL colleagues and students to Jesus.
Months of Prayer
During 2009, Greg and two other Christian professors met regularly to study Ministering in the Secular University, written by one of Faculty Commons’ founding professors, Dr. Rae Mellichamp. One of many great ideas in the book is to start a faculty/staff ministry. After months of prayer, the three decided to start such a ministry at Nebraska.
Greg connected with Kansas-based Faculty Commons staff Mark Brown. In the spring of 2010, as the three professors planned the kickoff, Mark provided insight from his experience in working with similar ministries at other universities. “Mark’s advice was invaluable to the launching of this ministry,” Greg recalls. “I even asked him to vet the invitation email we were going to send out!”
At the kickoff meeting, “We offered free lunch and a chance to hear our vision,” Greg explains. He and two other attendees funded the lunch themselves, and were delighted to receive a much larger catering bill than he had planned on: “I expected maybe 10 people there, and about 45 came!”
One of the 45 was a new faculty member who had been a leader in Faculty Commons’ ministry at the University of Florida—and was eager to be involved in a similar group at UNL.
In the fall of 2010, the group organized a bi-monthly meeting. “One of our primary goals is to be a group of action, of spreading the kingdom at UNL,” Greg explains. “In that vein, we scheduled speakers we thought would give us practical advice on how to be a light at the university.”
A core group of 10-15 has since emerged, with over 90 faculty and staff now on the group’s mailing list. “While many can’t come regularly,” Mark notes, “they still email Dr. Bashford and tell him what an encouragement and source of strength it is to know this ministry exists.”
Outreach, Discipleship, and a Vision
The Christian faculty at UNL are following God’s lead in reaching out to colleagues and students with the love of God. “They have recently begun a partnership with a graduate student fellowship to start a new mentoring program between students and faculty,” Mark explains.
These kinds of discipleship relationships pay huge dividends later on, when the graduate students are Christian professors themselves—who influence tens of thousands of students over a 30-year career.
Greg and his key leaders plan to expand their visibility on campus in the upcoming school year. “We hope to start some reach-out activities that Rae suggests in his book,” he says, “such as a ‘Favorite Faculty’ dinner and Easter advertisements in the school newspaper.”
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
“This morning we were invited into a Haitian classroom at Inuqua University for a technical discussion on water borne pathogens, low cost water purification methods, and cultural exchange.
“The first surprise to the American students was being asked to stand for the opening prayer. Wow. It was refreshing.
“Haiti’s education system is almost entirely in French so we used translators. The first part of the guest lecture went well because terms like bacteria, virus, polio, and hepatitis all translate directly. But stories about getting sick from drinks with ice made from bad water were a bit more difficult. The Haitian students were engaged and asking questions. Methods for clean water is an obvious need for everyone here. Even us.
“We left them with about 40 color printouts of an extremely low cost solar method for purifying water called SODIS . The fliers are written in French and have easy pictorials for folks who cannot read. These university students can obviously can – multiple languages, in fact – but the material was still new to all. Even our US students.
“Another team is there this summer conducting a needs assessment of the universities. Next summer we will be helping to meet needs as well as other areas of the country. If any professors are interested in helping me, they can contact me.”
“P.S. No, Shannon and I are not adopting from Haiti, but I sure see how it could happen.”
Charleston Southern University
“Recently I had coffee with some dynamic Christian women who were in Charleston, SC doing some work for Campus Crusade. We ended up talking for two hours about the need for more professors who are working in the field of “Cognitive Science”, as I am, to connect “brain research” to the God who created our brains. It was a lively discussion.
“This spurred me to go to Meet The Prof.com and quickly create my profile page. I believe as a Christian professor that I can really make a difference in the life of a student. We can illuminate the world with the Word.
“I benefit from the encouragement and friendship of other believers. I like people who push the limits, but in a creative way. I enjoy the good energy of smart people who understand their place in the universe and who have not lost the perspective of Who God is and how amazing HE is.”
In addition to Charleston Southern University, Faculty Commons staff met with professors at the Citadel, College of Charleston, and Medical University of South Carolina. Faculty Commons hopes to place a fulltime staff representative in the Charleston area in the near future. — Ed.
(Photo courtesy of Frank Buchalski)
Some excerpts from Ralph Cooley’s emails:
“May 28. Today we moved to the Agape House where we will be staying for the rest of our time here and then made our way to the University of Ghana (left). We as a team spent time “De-coding” the campus and then went on a prayer walk.
“Asking God to lead, provide, connect us up with students. We met a number of students just this afternoon and they invited us to come on Monday to meet with them and their friends for lunch. God is beginning to open up doors for the Gospel just as you are praying.”
“June 6. Thank you so much for praying for our medical outreach on Saturday. It was a big success! It took place in a “sandlot” soccer field. As we pulled into the lot there was a large group of would-be World Cup soccer players competing. Our mission was to set up a medical clinic where the poor in this Accra neighborhood could come and receive some help in time of need.
“We worked with a young, small, mission church nearby. Our team that day was made up of three doctors, four nurses and twenty volunteers. We were part of the volunteers along with ten students from the Baptist Student Ministry. It was really exciting to see the team God called together to help meet not only the physical needs of the people but also the spiritual needs.”
“After meeting with the counselors they next went to the nurse’s station to have their blood pressure and temperature checked. Next they would see one of the three Ghanaian doctors. Then the last station was the medication station. The doctor would prescribe the medication and then some of our team members would fill their prescriptions and explain how many pills to take each day.
“We were all exhausted by the end of the day but sensed God’s hand upon us. It was also very cool to see our team working together, each finding a station where they really wanted to serve and use their gifts to meet needs. Next Saturday we will do another medical outreach but this time it will be in a village.”
To view the story of how Maxwell, a student at the University of Ghana, received Christ:
The “Winds of Change” Conference for 2010 was held Saturday, February 27, 2010. Click here to go to the conference information site (off site link).
Does your pastor see you as someone
who is called to serve students
and colleagues on campus?
John Cogdell was a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Texas, Austin,
for more than 35 years. Cogdell obtained his Ph.D. from M.I.T.
In the early 1990′s, Cogdell was commissioned by his church—in recognition of his ministry efforts on the campus—as a Christian professor and missionary to the university. It was a powerful statement to him and the church and a confirmation of his calling.
[The following is reprinted from the archives of Faculty Commons's Real Issue, www.realissue.org ]
RI: What events led up to your commissioning as a Christian professor?
Cogdell: The church wanted to broaden the leadership, so they appointed some deacons. They felt I was spiritually equipped to be a deacon, but they knew, or I said, that I was called to serve God on the campus; that’s where my work is. So they ordained me as a deacon, but without any responsibilities in regard to the church.
It was a recognition; it was an equipping of me spiritually—ordaining me to serve the Lord on campus. There’s really not a lot of visibility that came with the recognition. But I feel it was a spiritually empowering event because when the church lays hands on a person and prays for them and sets them apart for a certain work of God, things happen; God does His part.
It’s so freeing and empowering to have the church recognize your calling.
When Paul and Barnabas were ordained, or sent forth from the church in Antioch, the people laid hands on them and set them apart for the work to which God had called them. I think Paul and Barnabas already knew their call and this was the church simply confirming it.
Is the church supposed to be equipping people for the ministry or not? The church really should be equipping people to go out in the world and have a ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s so freeing and empowering to have the church recognize your calling and set you apart for it, just as they would a missionary to Africa.
RI: What motivated you to become a professor?
Cogdell: It goes back to a man who discipled me here on campus. I became a Christian between my junior and senior year here at the University of Texas, Austin, in 1957. He was not actually a faculty member; he was employed in a research laboratory on campus. I’ve never met anybody more brilliant than this man; he was a model in the intellectual realm as well as the spiritual.
He and his wife nurtured the InterVarsity group here for many years. I was a part of that and spent much time in their home. So that was the model for me; I came back to Austin from M.I.T. to do for others what they had done for me. I entered into the teaching profession with a sense that this is something to which God had called me.
RI: Has your perspective of ministry on campus been modified over the years?
Cogdell: Yes. I’ll have to preface this by saying that I’m somewhat shy and I tend to need people’s approval. I haven’t been a risk-taker, so I’m not naturally well-equipped to be a bold witness. But Christian Leadership Ministries [ now Faculty Commons- ed.] has really helped me, and having fellowship with other Christian faculty members has helped me. I feel that at least on the first day of class I can tell my students that I became a Christian–that my faith has been the real driving focus of my life. I do this because of the encouragement of CLM and people like Rae Mellichamp, Walter Bradley and others.
I feel I’m called to be faithful to do certain simple things to further the increase of God’s Kingdom on this campus.
There have been some changes. My main calling has been to work within a Christian faculty fellowship and not so much to give leadership. I’m not a leader–I’m not a visionary nor a person that can get people interested in something. But I am a worker, and so I’ve basically been the one who has kept up the email list–the one who’s mailed out the stuff. I support Christian activities among the faculty, and act, to some degree, as a resource for the Christian community here in Austin.
I guess I feel I’m called to be faithful to certain simple things I can do to further the increase of God’s Kingdom on this campus. I’m not a leader, but the simple truth is that people do view me as the leader because I do a little bit.
RI: Is there a balance for a faculty member to reach between church and campus ministry opportunities?
Cogdell: People need to hear what God has called them to do and be. No doubt many Christian faculty members have a terrific anointing to teach in the church–perhaps even children. I don’t see how there is a question of balance. I know in my case I am fed and empowered by the church and I go there for worship and fellowship, but not for service. I fill up my tank at church and then I work on the campus.
RI: What of those who say their ministry at church precludes ministry on the campus?
Cogdell: It’s certainly more comfortable for most of us to operate in church, in a Christian context, than in the somewhat more hostile environment of the campus. I did make a transition to deal with Christians on campus, but I really have not done a lot to challenge the prevailing philosophies here. I greatly admire people who can do that. I mentioned Walter Bradley before; I think Walter is able to do that. Phillip Johnson would be the paragon of someone who can operate on any level and in any environment on campus and challenge, from a Christian perspective, the orthodoxy in any area.
RI: How can professors help churches recognize their calling on campus?
Cogdell: I think the first thing they ought to do is become involved on campus. Then if they are asked to do things that are not a part of their calling, they can explain what they’re doing and how God has called them to that. And that’s true for any Christian; they should involve themselves in what God has called them to do and not allow themselves to be distracted by others.
It’s very important to have God’s call in your life confirmed. People should sense that the church is there to encourage them to go out into the world and minister.