Posts Tagged ‘Christian education’

Oklahoma Christian University has been a best-kept secret for too many years!

Last night Sherrylee and I were on their campus again for the 35th Annual Cocoa and Carols, a wonderful program that our dear friend Dr. Ken Adams has produced and directed from its inception. He is retiring at the end of this year after forty-one years at OC, so we especially wanted be there to share it with him and his wife Lindy.

One of the reasons I enjoyed teaching at Oklahoma Christian for so long was that OC has always been committed to excellence, and excellence is difficult to pull off when you are small and in the middle of Oklahoma! Cocoa and Carols is a great example of this kind of excellence, however.

For thirty-five years, Oklahoma Christian has offered its community a classical Christmas program, almost always using a full professional orchestra to accompany its own student choir. Each year they offer their audience a master work by not only the likes of Bach or Mozart, but also modern composers like the Gloria by John Rutter this year! (You can find excerpts of this modern classic on Youtube, if you are unfamiliar with the work like I was.) And this Christmas gift has always been given free to the public! I love it!

I’ve always believed OC has had an excellent academic program, if anyone cares about that anymore! OC has strong majors in sciences, with an excellent record in students going into medical school and other health-related fields. The school of business is highly recognized and the MBA program is one of the best in the State of Oklahoma.  OC has an outstanding engineering program, with a very hands on approach because many of the engineering professors have come directly from their industry to join OC’s faculty.

Of course, I’m a big fan of the liberal arts, so I can say that OC’s English department, history and political science departments, music department, art and graphic design areas all have outstanding professors and, though small, give their students just as much with more personal interaction than is really possible at larger schools.

No, you won’t find a big football program at Oklahoma Christian, but you can find championship golf, tennis, and  track and field, as well as baseball, basketball, women’s softball, and soccer! Social clubs and intramural sports offer plenty of time for play

And I do believe that Oklahoma Christian is still committed to delivering a Christian education, something that not even all colleges with Christian in their name are doing any more.  You can go to church with your professors, or work in inner city missions with them—not just your Bible professors, but your accounting or your biology professor as well.  They may invite you to join them on an overseas mission project during summer break, or they may just sit down with you in the coffee shop to check on your life!

I was trying to decide what keeps Oklahoma Christian hidden from the mainstream of Christian education. Part of the answer is its location—Oklahoma. I have a friend here in Fort Worth, who although living only about 100 miles away from the Sooner state for decades, had never been to Oklahoma.  It’s not Malibu!

Sherrylee would admit to thinking that God had made a big mistake when He sent us to Oklahoma Christian in 1979.  We thought He had taken us way off the map, but I can truly say now, that our years in Oklahoma were just wonderful!  And, although Oklahoma Christian likes to identify itself with the Oklahoma City community, the town of Edmond, to which it truly belongs,  was selected in 2011 #1 on CNBC’s “10 Perfect Suburbs” list!

Let’s don’t keep Oklahoma Christian a secret! It’s not perfect! It’s not the right university for every student! But don’t skip over it just because . . . . You and/or your student might find a wonderful oasis of people who love God and who are committed to offering excellence.

Thank you, thank you to people like Ken and Lindy, to Stafford and Bailey, to Ron and James and Lynn and Bill and John and Joe and Elmo and Kim and so many others who have committed the major years of their lives to teaching young people to be excellent Christians!

Well done, Oklahoma Christian!

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The Original Entrance to Harding University

A trip to Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, is always a bit nostalgic. For four years, this was my home, my community, and my church!  My parents dropped me off at Armstrong Hall in 1965, a couple of days before most freshmen would arrive, so there I was by myself except for the football players who had to report early.

My first class in college was Old Testament Survey under Neil Pryor. He was young, personable, funny, and never forgot your name! He later became the academic dean of the university and a classroom legend.  Dr. Pryor died this week, another saint on the other side.

My freshmen year was also Cliff Ganus’s first year as president of Harding. He inherited the presidency from George S. Benson, another legendary figure in churches of Christ. Dr. Benson had been one of our early missionaries to China, later came to Harding and took it to true collegiate status—then did the same for Oklahoma Christian University.  Dr. Benson stayed heavily involved in African missions, virtually until the day he died.  Cliff Ganus had large shoes to fill, but, in his quietly profound way, he became the heart and soul of Harding.

I saw Dr. Ganus last night at the Harding Lectureship. He and his wife Louise both will turn 90 years-old in the next few months, both still sharp and active. Dr. Ganus reminded me that he first came to Harding as a freshmen in 1939, so he has been a part of the Harding community for 71 years!!!

David Burks followed Dr. Ganus as president of Harding in 1987. His fingerprints are especially obvious on the campus, which has totally been transformed during his presidency. In 1969, the small campus was centered around the Lily Pond and in the years of Dr. Burk’s presidency, the old buildings have been reconstituted, and dozens of beautiful buildings have been built. The small college of my day has become a sprawling university on a beautiful campus.  And Dr. Burk’s is equally as loved by the students as his predecessors!

There are almost 7000 students attending Harding University this year! Sherrylee and I just laughed last night as we were walking out of the Benson Auditorium following the lectureship and award ceremony for Max and Opal Johnson, which I mentioned in the last posting.

In a small, dimly lit alcove near the auditorium, there were a couple of students, dressed in shorts and T-shirts, sitting legs crossed, facing each other.  It wasn’t until I noticed that he had a pen and had started to write on her leg that the couple even caught my attention.

My first thought was, oh boy, Dr. Benson would roll over in his grave if he saw this out in front of his auditorium! Things were very different then. No shorts, no PDA (public display of affection), and light bulbs in every dark corner of the campus!

But what made us laugh came next. Just as we got just even with this couple, we heard the girl say, “No, no, hesed  (which she said with an exaggerated guttural, clearing-her-throat sound) means “unconditional love.”

I don’t know what the context of this conversation was, but where on earth except at a Christian college like Harding would you hear a couple sitting in the dark late at night, discussing the meaning of a biblical Hebrew word?

No doubt, the role of Christian colleges in our fellowship is changing, but I’m very thankful for schools like Harding, where completely committed Christians still spend their entire lives filling up our children and grandchildren with the information about God’s world and faith in the Creator!


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If you are one of the people who have never thought well of Pepperdine, well, shame on you!  Let me tell you about Pepperdine University from my experiences with it.

Yes, Pepperdine has one of the most beautiful campus settings of any university in the nation. That’s what people see on the surface. And, yes, Pepperdine has a national reputation, being mentioned in the same breath with much larger, private universities, a reputation which it no doubt deserves. But this is not what I want to tell you about.  I want to tell you about the well-being of the Christian faith at Pepperdine, specifically with regard to its relationship to churches of Christ.

Pepperdine is a place where you can send your child to school and they will be taught by people of faith. Our three children and two of their spouses graduated from Pepperdine in the late 90s. While they were students, their faith was tested, their faith grew, and their faith was affirmed.  One was an English major, one a history major, one a biology major, one in sports medicine, and one was a religion major. Some were members of fraternities, one played collegiate sports, some were active in the campus ministry, and others were not particularly.  All of them graduated with a stronger commitment to serving God in better ways because of Pepperdine people who inspired them.  Even that occasional faculty member who does not share our faith tradition and who challenged my children were an opportunity for them to prove their faith. They learned not to be afraid.

Pepperdine actively seeks to serve churches of Christ with whom it has always had a strong relationship. We have just finished the Bible Lectures at Pepperdine—and it was a spiritual feast. The gathering of thousands on the campus each year is a highlight for Christians from across the country.  At these lectures, the best speakers/teachers in our fellowship gather. Classes are offered from 8am to 10pm, almost non-stop and the only bad thing is, so many are addressing issues, questions, methods, challenges, and ideas among our churches that it is impossible to be everywhere at once.

The evening venues are filled with a capella singing groups from throughout the country—and they are always packed. Next week, Pepperdine hosts one of the most unique conferences in the country, called “Ascending Voice” which is a celebration of a capella music from many traditions.

Conferences and opportunities are offered to California ministers, to families who want to grow in faith. Pepperdine just opened a Center for Restoration Studies, which is a repository for rare and valuable Restoration Movement pictures and documents. You really do not have to mine the Pepperdine website very much to find lots of events specifically for building up and serving Christians.

The very openness of the conversation at Pepperdine and the fact that a small percentage of its undergraduate students are from our fellowship make it suspect to some. My children thrived here as Christians for these very reasons. They found a real world environment that did not artificially protect them, but rather helped them learn to live as ambassadors for Christ in a way that did not alienate those they were living among. Sounds like the first century, doesn’t it, when the earliest Christians lived in favor in their community.

Has Pepperdine presented itself on every occasion appropriately; have any of our Christian universities? Are there faculty members who cross lines? Do some of the students do things that offend our sense of right and wrong?  Aren’t we just asking if it is full of people, some Christian, who don’t always do the right thing?

I love Christian education. I graduated from Ft. Worth Christian High School and from Harding University; I taught twenty-four years for Oklahoma Christian University. Over the years, LST has had much to do with Lipscomb, ACU, York, OVU, and many of the Christian colleges. I am proud that Pepperdine University is tended and supported by our fellowship.

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