Where Is Christian Higher Ed Headed?

We are beginning the new academic year at Nebraska Christian College this week with classes starting on Wednesday. I am teaching my seminar on “The Parables of Jesus,” perhaps for the last time. I have a great group of students signed up, so I am excited to begin.

I shared with my faculty three “points of emphasis” for this year. I believe these represent the future of our college, and perhaps the future of Christian higher education. Many schools that were begun with the purpose of preparing people for ministry have surely lost their way. The pressure from parents and constituents has been to provide public school teaching degrees, business degrees, psychology degrees, and many others. While it is certainly true that these programs can benefit from being taught from a Christian perspective, I don’t believe this is the same as providing leaders for the church of today and tomorrow. Here are my three points of emphasis:

Academic Points of Emphasis 2013-14






This is what we are about, what we must do, what we are doing. I am encouraging my faculty to always be thinking about this when then write course objectives, create lesson plans, and make assignments: how does this help prepare my students to be church leaders?

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We have disagreements among our faculty on the proper roles of women in church leadership. I, personally, don’t put any barriers to women in leadership, but I also believe that individual congregations will handle this differently. Nevertheless, I am asking my faculty to find ways to encourage women students in their callings to be church leaders.

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I think the days are long gone when sectarianism has validity or value in work of the church. This does not mean that I am willing to accept anyone who calls himself or herself a Christian without qualifications., but we need to work within the broad tent of Bible-believing, Christ-honoring Christians and their churches. When we send students to churches to be workers or interns, we need to accept that those are our partners in the work of the Gospel, not our rivals or enemies. If we believe that we have better and more biblical doctrines, then let them stand. Truth finds a way. We are servants of the Word, ministers of the Gospel.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending Lifegate Church in west Omaha where my daughter is a member and listen to a message from Pastor Les Beauchamp. One of the things he talked about was that Lifegate would be a disappointment for folks who wanted a church with a political agenda or a narrow doctrinal focus. I don’t know Pastor Les, but he seems like the type of church leader who has managed to rise above the sectarianism that plagues many churches. That is the spirit we need to cultivate among our students and practice in our own lives.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

See You Again

Berklee in Boston July 2013I indulged myself the other night in the pleasure of watching (again) the video of “Live at the Troubadour,” recorded at the famous nightclub in West Hollywood in 2007. It features James Taylor and Carole King with an all-star backup band. The two, who rose to prominence as solo artists and songwriters back in the 1970s, have had intertwined careers for 40 years. Now in the twilight of these careers, they still had strong voices and sang their songs with passion and expression, not showing the jadedness that comes from performing the same tunes thousands of times. I recently learned that Taylor had been awarded an honorary doctorate in music by the Berklee College of Music in Boston, an institution that Nebraska Christian College has an affiliation with, and where I had a picture snapped last month.

I always loved the songs of King and Taylor. I’m listening to the “Live at the Troubadour” while I write this blog. While their content is wide ranging, from a song about “Machine Gun Kelly” to various love songs, they both capture a certain pleasant melancholy, a nostalgia that remembers the past fondly, but understanding that it cannot be recovered. There are four songs in particular that capture this mood, and most of you will know them: “You’ve Got a Friend” (with its religious overtones), “So Far Away,” “It’s Too Late,” and “Fire and Rain.” It is remarkable to think that King and Taylor introduced these songs when they were in the twenties. Performing them thirty years later must bring many memories for them, as it does for me.

“Fire and Rain” is about a friend of Taylor’s, Suzanne, who committed suicide while he was recording with Apple Studios in England. He did not learn of her death for six months, the news being withheld from him by his handlers who feared a breakdown. He sings,

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again

We can all think of departed friends we would like to see again, so these lines touch our hearts. Even more moving, though, is the prayer that Taylor includes in the song:

Won’t you look down on me, Jesus
You’ve got to help me make a stand
You’ve just got to see me through another day
My body’s aching and my time is at hand
And I won’t make it any other way

I hesitate to hold up James Taylor as any sort of Christian example, but honest prayers come from surprising places. There are times that life is day to day, one day at a time, and without the help of Jesus we will not make it through. We cannot make it alone. And part of this is the blessed hope of Christians that we will see our loved ones again, that death is not the end of all things. If it were, praying to Jesus would be nonsense, because the core of Christian faith is the conviction that he rose from the dead and lives again.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

Nobody Knows

High PlacesThe community where I work has recently been touched by two sudden and seemingly senseless deaths. As a trained pastor, I am supposed to have insights on such things that gives healthy perspectives. After all, there is “a time to be born and a time to die” isn’t there?

The church I preached at yesterday in rural Nebraska was typical in many ways, small but with a certain vibrancy and an obvious sense of hope and care for one another. It had a printed bulletin with announcements and information. There was a specific “prayer list” for a dozen or so situations. What struck me was another list. It was just titled “Cancer” and had many names, probably as many as were in attendance at the church that morning. I can only imagine the untold pain behind those names.

The old spiritual sang, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen …” We often live lives of silent pain, living expectantly. But our expectant living is sometimes not for good things in the future, but waiting for the next blow to fall, the next shoe to drop. Dante Gabriel Rossetti expressed the age-old lament of the sailor when he wrote:

And though thy soul sail leagues and leagues beyond—
Still leagues beyond these leagues, there is more sea.

Habakkuk, the Complaining Prophet, lived a life that is virtually unknown to us. He prophesied under the looming threat of the invasion of the ruthless armies of the Babylonian empire from the east. His word from God about this invasion was not comforting, but an assurance that this calamity was coming as a corrective punishment for the nation. The future was disaster in waiting.

At the end of his book, Habakkuk tells of a time of great poverty. No figs, no fruit, no olives, no field crops, no sheep or goats, no cows (3:16).

No nuttin’. (I know that is an impossible double negative. 🙂

But the prophet ends his book with these words:

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights. 

Hannah Hurnard summed this up by combining Scriptures to say:

Make haste, Beloved, be Thou like a hart on mountains spicy sweet;
  And I, on those High Places where Thou art will follow on hind’s feet.

Even in times of darkness and despair, we can find joy in praising the Lord. May our thoughts not be on the endless sea of our troubles, but on the God of our salvation.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College