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Will Anyone Recommend Christian Higher Education?
Will the Church be relevant to culture? Christians who are also concerned about the future of the Church can assist in at least three ways.

Thousands of Canadian Christian youth are graduating from high school this month. Many of them will be going on to further studies in September. I wonder: How many of them were encouraged to attend a Christian college or university?

Mennonite Brethren Bible College

Surveys at Canadian Mennonite University, where I used to work, routinely show that friends, family and church are the greatest influencers when it comes to choosing a college. I understand the key role played by parents. And who wouldn't want to study at the same school as friends? But what role can church members play?

Church members played a very important role in my case. After I graduated from high school, Christian colleges were not on my radar. But then some older adults at my church asked me: "Have you considered going to Bible college?"

Actually, no, I hadn't. It wasn't until these people I admired mentioned it that the thought entered my mind. As a result of their prompting, I decided to give Mennonite Brethren Bible College a try. It was the best decision I ever made. Not only did it give me an excellent education, it set me on my life's course, providing me with a strong and abiding faith.

Does that sort of thing still happen today? I hope so. I know I try to suggest it to youth at my church. So far, not one has ever suggested it's none of my business. They may not be headed for a Christian college or university, but they don't seem to mind if someone takes an interest in their decision.

And it is a big—and important—decision. In his book The Fabric of Faithfulness, Steven Garber notes that the college years are extremely formative for youth. During those years decisions are made "that are determinative for the rest of life. In the modern world, the years between 18 and 25 are a time for the settling of one's convictions about meaning and morality: Why do I get up in the morning? What do I do after I get up in the morning? One then settles into life with those convictions as the shaping presuppositions and principles of one's entire life."

But the decisions young people make about where to study aren't just important for them—they are important for the future of the church.

The fact is, I'm worried about the future of the church. I'm worried that it won't be relevant or respected if its members aren't able to thoughtfully, biblically, and Christianly participate in the great issues of our time.

And where will the members of tomorrow's Church learn to engage their world as Christians? At Christian universities and colleges, that’s where. It’s there they can begin to discover what it means to follow Christ as a lawyer, doctor, teacher, scientist, businessperson, engineer or any other profession. It's where they will learn how Christians should deal with thorny ethical and moral issues, or how Jesus would have them respond to a world filled with war, violence, hunger, sickness, and pain.

For some, Christian colleges aren't an option—they might not be able to take the courses they want. But even just a year spent learning in a Christian environment can help prepare them for future studies, and to know how to give a good answer for their faith in the classroom and beyond.

Then there's the issue of empty pulpits. Over the next ten to 15 years thousands of Canadian pastors are set to retire. Where will their replacements come from? Pastors don't drop magically out of the air and into pulpits; they have to be trained and prepared for ministry. A Christian college or university education is an important first step in that process.

Are you concerned about the future of the church? Do you want to be part of the effort to call people to pastoral ministry? If yes, there are at least three things you can do.

First, you can encourage youth to consider studies at Christian colleges and universities—places like Steinbach Bible College or CMU.

Second, you can encourage your church to help pay the tuition of students who choose to attend a Christian college or university.

Third, you can give to Christian colleges and universities. They will especially appreciate your help during these trying economic times.

Do you care about the future of the church? If the answer is yes, what better way to show it than encouraging young people to study at a Christian college or university?

John Longhurst directs sales and marketing for Mennonite Publishing Network; he previously directed communications and marketing at CMU.

Originally published in the Mennonite Brethren Herald, May 2009.




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