And Another Thing…

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Well, so much for that

I was saddened to learn that Cascade College, the only institution of higher learning in the Northwest affiliated with the churches of Christ, will shut down at the end of the spring 2009 semester.

Despite not having attended there (I was already a college graduate when Cascade first opened for business in August 1994) I have several memories of the place. The summer before my senior year of college I interned as a youth minister with the church of Christ in Richland, WA. I took the kids in the youth group to GNEW (Great Northwest Evangelism Workshop). Over the course of the week I got to meet a bunch of people who were going to be involved in the opening of Cascade. They seemed so excited about what they were engaged in. I was so envious of them. I remember thinking, “What a once-in-a-lifetime experience, to help build a college from the ground up.”

A few years later, during my tenure as a youth minister in Portland, OR (where Cascade is located) I got to know more faculty and staff from the school; people that I was pleased to count as friends. I am sorry for them and the students.

So this leaves our fellowship with Rochester College, Pepperdine University, and Ohio Valley University as our only schools outside of the Bible belt. I wonder how they are staying afloat. I suppose that Pepperdine’s approach is to be super-expensive, but what about the others?

I think that Christian colleges can be a good thing, a real boon to the kingdom. I do have my quibbles with how they do things, but that doesn’t mean that I would throw the baby out with the bath water. I don’t like the hypocrisy of the rules. I am more than a little uncomfortable with some of our schools’ readiness to hop in bed with a certain political party. And I detest the recruitment rhetoric that administrators and admissions counselors use to try and guilt our teenagers into attending these schools. I once heard a Christian college president say that “Every college student in the church should be attending a Christian college.” Screw you, state school campus ministries! Who needs you? [Ron Clark, a church-planter in Portland, has an interesting take on this]

I have often wondered why our fellowship is so provincial. Why can’t we get a meaningful foothold anywhere outside of Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas? What do you readers think?

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9 Responses

  1. David B says:

    Don’t forget York college in York, Nebraska.

    Basically the problem with these schools comes because those schools outside the bible belt count on church of Christ kids. If this is the case (which it isn’t for Pepperdine), then they have a hard time making it to about 500, which my understanding is the point of sustainability in terms of a business model.

    As far as why we can’t get a church foothold out of the bible belt, the problem comes because we are rarely interested in evangelism outside of our little corner of the world. Look at the station guide for a show like Search…most stations are already in the Bible. One also continues to see church plants in Memphis and Dallas, which are almost ‘overchurched’ at this point…instead of really want to export Christ, we are desiring to establish our brand of church style, a style that often appeals only to a certain southern once-rural demographic. We are concerned with ‘our’ type first and only marginally are concerned about the world.

  2. odgie says:

    Dave,

    Whoops! Forgot about York, but then, who wouldn’t outside of the midwest (oh no he didn’t). I think that you are right about our desire to “spread out model” rather than spread the gospel. Sad really.

  3. Jr says:

    Some historical factors relate to why the CoC isn’t too numerous outside of the areas you mentioned (though you can find CoCs in other places).

    During the reformation, the CoC (as it is currently known) could only spread west and not south. The reason was that the southern baptists and presbys (among others) formed a pretty decent southern strategy during and after the Civil War which linked southern national pride commitment to faith commitment. Believe it or not, it wasn’t the CoC that started the link to country – to the contrary, (as you probably know) – many in the CoC movement denounced any link to a nation including military service, civic service and voting.

    So, the CoC did not make inroads too far south and could only go west. When the dust bowl happened, many in OK and TX left to California – which is interestingly where you find a pretty good number of CoCs.

    The northern parts of our country were more inclined to follow an ecumenical church at the expense of certain doctrine (some biblical, some not). And of course, you had Catholicism. So it kind of seems like after the strong push from the reformation, the CoC kind of just settled into its little buckle of the belt (and California).

    I could go on and on as to why it seems the CoC is immobile in America – but I am encouraged to see more and more CoCs getting involved in foreign missions.

    However, American is becoming vastly unchurched. And a significant number of those who do attend I fear do so for the wrong reasons. And a bigger shame is many church plants in America cater to those wrong reasons at the behest of “winning” the oh so enlightened “postmoderns”.

  4. preacherman says:

    I am a graduate of Lubbock Christian University. It has wonderful staff and has many ways to reach out to youth and those searching for a place to go to college. I know that the school does reach out to youth through Pine Springs summer camp, Encounter, and other vairous camps throughout the year. The Biblical staff are top scholars who care and have ministry experience. LCU is growing year by year in the number of those attending and graduating. The campus continues to build buildings so it can keep up with the growth. As an alumni it is exciting to see. I am proud and excited about what is going on in Lubbock!

    I think great PR is essential in the sucess of universities. I didn’t even know that OH and Or had a Church of Christ university. I have never heard of it. Of course it is always sad when a univesity closes. I have to ask in what ways were they trying to reach out to those looking for university> How were they invovling alumi to donate and get involved in helping the university? What does it say about the leadership of the University?

  5. Frank says:

    Great questions and observations.

    Several of the Christian colleges begun by the Churches of Christ have recently reached fairly high academic standing. Consequently, some colleges and seminaries located in places with a sizable population (Oklahoma City and Nashville especially?) will increasingly attract good numbers of students who have no connections to the Churches of Christ. It won’t be as easy for the schools in smaller places, although the fine reputations of Abilene and Harding will still bring many students to those schools for a long, long time. It will be interesting to see how the colleges evolve, and how they will each take advantage or compensate as the case may be.

    Most all of these schools have decided to build new facilities or spruce up the old ones so that they’re much more appealing than before (a trend most everywhere?). Many have built or are building fancy welcome centers. Also, several of them seem to have gotten serious about developing a strong endowment. I get the impression that nineteenth century Church of Christ attitudes ran against a large endowment. That way, if the school went off the rails doctrinally, church members would be able to bring the school down by refusing to send their children and their money. Even now, that sort of discipline of some of the Christian colleges is being advocated by various preachers and writers. I get the impression that, for better or for worse, the colleges are developing more and more of an immunity to being reigned in like that. I say “for better or for worse” recalling that many of the now-secular, and in some cases radicalized, universities in the US started out as Christian colleges.

  6. odgie says:

    Jr – Interesting background. It’s funny how churches and denominations are impacted by demographic trends and sociological developments. My wife was raised in the American Baptist church; a denomination virtually unheard of in the South. Why do we have Southern Baptists and American Baptists? Because the SBs were pro-secession during the Civil War, and the ABs were not. So there you go.
    I share your excitement over foreign missions; there can never be enough. And I think that your concern over the growing unchurched population in America is equally valid. This is why we need a more aggressive strategy to spread beyond our perch in the Bible belt.

    Preach – More good questions; however, I have no idea what the answers would be. I do think that it is telling that we have colleges that a lot of believers haven’t heard of(!). By the way, a good friend of mine, Ethan Brown, just started at Lubbock as the campus minister this year.

    Frank – You raise an interesting dilemma, which was illustrated earlier this year at Harding when Mark Elrod, one of their political science professors, publicly endorsed Obama. Many of the Republican donors threatened to withold support of the school or “take them out of the will.” So which is better: to have schools in the fellowship with full academic freedom or to have some pull over them from the brotherhood? Thoughts, anyone?

  7. Jerri Harrington says:

    My first regular interaction with the church of Christ was through the campus ministry via the Bible chair. I was a relatively new Christian when I went to college,having been baptized right before my dad started working 7 days a week as a farmer, and my first week on campus, I went to church. The Bible chair director and campus minister invited me on my first retreat as I was walking back from practicing at the music dept. I declined, saying I didn’t have the money, and they offered to pay my way! I said I would go only if they let me pay them back. They did, and it was the beginning of a great relationship with a great bunch of Christian young people and adults. I think state schools with a Bible chair might be the best choice for some kids.

  8. preacherman says:

    I have heard of Ethan Brown.
    I think he will be sucessful in Lubbock with LCU, South Plains College, and Texas Tech.
    I know when I did ministry in Lubbock we would always have a huge college group. It is encouraging to see college students that take worship and church seriously. I was amazed at how many college students didn’t just come to church but get involved in taking part of the services. I am also encouraged by the direction that many of the churches are going. It is wonderful!

  9. Frank says:

    Jerri, the director of a Bible Chair, I didn’t realize that Church of Christ folks still knew what these things were. Here at Amarillo College, hardly any of my students at our Bible chair come from the Churches of Christ. Our ministry would be so much stronger if area congregations would be more supportive of a great resource that’s right in their own backyard.

    Odgie, I know very little about the incident(s) at Harding. But when a school is so tied to a Benson-Goldwater-Reagan orientation, it’s just a matter of time before faculty with bona fide doctorates begin to voice some other opinion. One doesn’t need to have absolute academic freedom in order to say he’s a Democrat AND a Christian, although a lot of Harding-ites apparently think so. Sort of makes you wonder what James A. Harding would say. . . .

    About the colleges remaining Christian (and Church-of-Christ) in commitment even as they advance academically: Requirements like all faculty members being active in a congregation of the Church of Christ, every student taking one Bible/religion course each semester, . . . these seem to be among the key standards that might eventually come under pressure.

    About the chapel requirement: My experience of chapel (Freed-Hardeman 1984-86) makes me think that this gathering functions much more as a town-hall meeting than a religious service. Chapel’s establishment of community and it’s maintenance of campus-wide communication are profound. At what other kind of college do almost all the faculty and students gather in one place five times a week? It can be a very good thing. But, then, that leaves open the question of what the Christian colleges should be trying to do in the first place.

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