Christian colleges strengthen students’ character
by: Rev. Jon Davis
John Maxwell defines leadership as “influence—nothing more, nothing less.” To extend the leadership definition, one might consider the type of influence a leader demonstrates. Sure, there are many people who influence culture, business, and sports, but do they influence with character? In other words, the void of leadership is not in the lack of leaders, but the vacuum of leaders with character. Herein lies the value of a Christian college education.
Scripture addresses character on numerous occasions. The word character in Romans 5:4 is used six times in the New Testament. Defined as trial and approved, it carries the idea that character is the proof of someone’s identity. In other words, if you want to know what someone is really like, then the proof is in the pudding (that is, their character). A true disciple of Christ visibly demonstrates character.
So what does a Christian college bring to the table? The first way a Christian college strengthens character is by empowering the student with up-to-date facts through research that reinforce the student’s faith. Living in a culture where philosophical deconstruction reigns, giving proof (i.e., historical evidence, apologetics, etc.) of Scripture and its claims empowers the collegian to courageously live out his or her faith. Where faith and trust in Jesus increase, a believer’s behavior becomes more Christ-like as well (i.e., character).
The second way a Christian college strengthens character is through putting the student through a trial. Someone once said, “You don’t have a testimony unless you have a test where you moaned.” To engage society’s questions and concerns about the claims of Christianity, a student should be stretched, challenged, and engage with opposing views to defend the faith. [T]rials are good. A Christian university provides an environment where all ideas and claims (true and false) are evaluated, learned, and weighed against the Bible. People are looking for the truth (even Pilate questioned it). Truth can stand against any test. Students must examine their faith. It is within the confines of a Christian college that one’s true character will be seen when he or she studies rigorously and truth is scrutinized.
The third way a Christian college strengthens character is through approval. As stated earlier, approval (i.e., approved) is one of the words that defines character. What a student approves reveals what he or she believes. Approval reveals character. If I approve of lying, then it says that I accept lying. When a Christian college confers a diploma upon a graduate, the university says that this alumnus represents the values and ethics the institution is founded upon. Having the approval of a college with high character standards means that the school approves of not only the graduate’s academic acumen but also the character by which one lives. Having the approval of people we respect inspires us to be like them.
An example of a Christian college that develops and celebrates Christian character is Charleston Southern University (a liberal arts Christian college in Charleston S.C.) Chris McFadden, a junior at CSU, stated, “I have learned practical ways to become a disciple and to make disciples. I have been offered many different opportunities to serve the campus and community and actually put my faith to work.”
McFadden experienced what many other students do as well, the opportunity to display Jesus’ character with college’s blessing. Students receive a huge motivational charge when a college says, “We are proud to call you one of us.” Approval brings the encouragement to have courage. He continued, “I am grateful that I have the opportunity to freely express my relationship with Christ here at Charleston Southern.” Christian colleges do not just focus on learning but create an environment where character is developed and commemorated. As McFadden discovered, the freedom to express the character of Christ is a vital part of the educational process.
In essence, character is essential to effectively “releasing the presence of Jesus.” Without character, no one will listen, see, or respond consistently to the claims of Christ. Christian colleges play a significant and impactful role in the moral development of women and men. From Noah Webster (Webster’s Dictionary) to Timothy Dwight (former president at Yale), the character of these students was forged during their college tenure. May the Lord continue to bless colleges that stand for and live for His Name.
Jon Davis is campus minister at Charleston Southern University in Charleston, S.C. He is also the pastor of Summit Church. Charleston Southern University has been named one of America’s Best Christian Colleges, one of America’s 100 Best College Buys and is a member of The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.