I have really enjoyed thinking through this blog series, thank you for joining me! We have gotten lots of feedback and truly appreciate the time you’ve taken to respond. That being said, if you have any further questions about me, our church, or Berea please feel free to leave your mark on the comments or through the Contact Us page.
Before wrapping up, I do want to address one comment left on Part 3 of this series. ‘Adam’ asked if I had “any ideas on how a College could better fulfill a Christian mission.” He follows up, “Does it mean that it limits its Christian interpretations to one or another?” I wanted to respond to these questions on a more public forum, as they are especially thought provoking and relevant. Thanks Adam!
First, I want to echo a thought that Adam also made in his set-up – a College cannot be Christian. What do we mean? “People are Christians-not things, places, or institutions,” Adam wrote. He, I believe, is right on the money. While all things will be reconciled to the Father one day, Jesus’ atoning work on the cross absorbed the God’s wrath towards people. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 reads “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (ESV) Christians are involved in a ministry of reconciliation, as God has designed. Don’t forget that God saves people and people, in turn, engage in worshiping the God who saved them.
With that thought in mind, let’s talk briefly about how a College would fulfill its Christian mission. My goal in writing this series was not to offer my opinions on how any institution, Berea specifically, should go about their business. The main goal of this series has been for those who are, or will be, connected with Berea College and may find a disparity between Berea’s Christian identity and their own. However, I believe that entertaining this kind of question will finish off the series nicely.
Quite simply, I would suggest that if Berea College would want to fulfill a Christian mission, the College’s planners and administrators should surrender Berea’s faculty, staff, and students to the cause of Christ. To fulfill a Christian mission biblically, Berea should follow Jesus’ instructions and “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)
However, I am not totally convinced fulfilling a Christian mission is what Berea, as an institution, should do.
Jesus has left us very clear instructions as to how we should practice faith. The local church is the hub of a Christian’s walk. It is within that context that a Christian mission is fulfilled. Berea College, or any liberal arts school, does not have a charge from Jesus to fill any Christian mission, goal, or identity. Christians, people Christ has redeemed, have that charge. Our Christian lives are worked out through those “one another” commandments in context of the local church and, then, extended outwards to our communities. 21st century Christians should operate as 1st century ones did, “day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47 ESV)
My time as a student at Berea was challenging. It was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually draining. It was also highly rewarding. Berea does have an amazing operation going. How many institutions can pull such a vast group of people from such varied backgrounds into one place? How can those many people from varied backgrounds live, work, and learn together in such a stimulating and engaging environment? Where else can low-income students receive a top-notch education by Ivy League educated professors? I loved the learning that went on at Berea. I loved my fellow students. I loved my classes – I did!
How, then, did I survive and thrive? By finding my Christian identity not in what Berea, or anyone else, supposed it was. When I found my Christian identity in Jesus Christ, I could approach Berea as someone who disagreed but was never threatened. I thrived at Berea when my vertical relationship with Jesus was strong and, then, extend horizontally to my college community. And that, I pray, is how future students will also thrive at Berea College.
Hope to see you in the Fall!