The Voice: Fall 2002

The Voice

For the sake of the church

I didn’t go to college myself,” he said. “And I don’t know much about your college. But this much I’ve noticed. The students from our community who go to Dordt College and then come back to our town are filled with energy and commitment to service. They’re dedicated to our community, and they’re enthusiastic about our churches. I don’t understand what goes on in a college but when I see what your graduates mean to the schools and churches of our community, I figure you must be doing something right.”

That wasn’t exactly the kind of comment I would have expected to hear after church on a Sunday morning in a small town 1500 miles from the campus of Dordt College. True, I’m getting used to complete strangers coming up to me and making kind observations about the students and graduates of our college after I preach at a Sunday morning service. But what surprised me on the front steps of a church half a continent away from Sioux Center was this fellow’s emphasis on the importance of Dordt College for the sake of his church. He didn’t know much about colleges. But he did know about churches. And he knew that our college was making a difference in his congregation—even from more than 1000 miles away.

Those comments got me to thinking. Back in my days as a pastor, there were times when I tended to think of Christian colleges more as competitors for the time and treasure of my congregation’s members than as the fountainhead of energetic leaders for our church’s mission and service. It has taken the last half dozen years of conversations such as the one related above to help me see that, if for no other reason, then at least for the sake of the church each denomination and congregation ought to be equally interested in sustaining the vitality and health of their related Christian colleges.

Just think specifically of Dordt College and some of its closely allied denominations. Where would the Reformed Church in the United States be without the one-third of its pastors’ families in which either the pastor, spouse, or a child is an alum of Dordt College? Where would the Christian Reformed Church be without the more than 150 of its pastors who are Dordt College alums? And where would the United Reformed Churches be without the twenty pastors in their fellowship who attended Dordt College?

And that’s just mentioning ministers. What about the other thousands of alums who serve as elders, deacons, church school superintendents, missionaries, youth leaders, building committee members, custodians, contributors, and prayer warriors who attended Dordt College or other similar Christian colleges? Where would the church be without their enthusiasm, dedication, wisdom, insight, and biblical conviction?

The next time you watch one of the video Bible studies That the World May Know, ask yourself, “What would we be watching and studying if Ray Vander Laan had not attended Dordt College?” Or the next time you go to a Willow Creek Conference in Chicago, take time to reflect, “Where would our church be turning for inspiration and leadership training if Bill Hybels had never attended Dordt College?”

No, Dordt College is not the only place that contributes to such leadership, insight, and conviction. Nonetheless, the bottom line observation remains the same. To the health and strength of any congregation that values a solidly based and committed leadership, the Christian College remains a critical asset—even if the youth in our particular congregation have to travel 1500 miles from home to take advantage of it.

So why not check it out for yourself this weekend. This Sunday when you go to church, look around and try to imagine what your congregation would be like without the generosity, verve, and drive of those who had the privilege of having their outlook on life shaped in a Christian College. And while our observations may vary a bit depending on our own congregation, still that simple exercise, just in itself, ought to be enough to convince most of us that the observation of my Sunday morning acquaintance was pretty much on target—the graduates of Christian colleges do make a difference in the church.

And if, then, we also want our church in the future to continue to have a vital dedication to the well-informed comprehensive biblical discipleship that churches in the Reformed tradition have always prized, then I hope we also will encourage each young person in our congregation to consider attending a Reformed Christian college—whether it’s right down the street or across the continent. And then don’t forget to back up that encouragement with our money and our prayers as well.

After all, we don’t support Christian colleges, first of all, for the benefit it gives to us. Our dedication to Reformed Christian higher education, in the end, always needs to be for the glory of God alone—and for the sake of his church.