As an aspiring leader, I believe that Christian higher education has the opportunity and the ultimate gift to help students reach their academic goals and create a wholesome person rooted in faith. As New York Times columnist David Brooks told CCCU leaders a few years ago, “You [Christian colleges] have what everybody else is desperate to have: a way of talking about and educating the human person in a way that integrates faith, emotion, and intellect. You have a recipe to nurture human beings who have a devoted heart, a courageous mind, and a purposeful soul. Almost no other set of institutions in American society has that, and everyone wants it.”
It is imperative that the CCCU maintains its emphasis on integrating faith and higher learning. For our students to love truth and pursue it, we must show them that education can strengthen and extend their faith and put it into action.
That is one of the reasons I was grateful for my recent experience attending the CCCU’s Leadership Development Institute (LDI) alongside nearly 30 CCCU leaders from across the country. After much time apart, it was refreshing and encouraging to have fellowship with other CCCU leaders. More importantly, I was able to see the love of Christ in the leadership that was represented at LDI. Every leader there showed me that it is essential for godly leaders to rise and encourage students to be Christ-like in their love for one another.
In a profound presentation, CCCU president Shirley Hoogstra stated the shared goal of CCCU institutions: to shape students who act for the public good out of love for Jesus Christ at a cost to themselves. Additional sessions addressed diversity realities in Christian higher education and the importance of diversity in creating a holistic leadership framework. They emphasized why our campuses should be at the forefront of pioneering the cause for interethnic justice and act as catalysts for social change on a broader scale within local, national, and global communities.
We, as Christian leaders, must take ownership in showing love to diverse people. Never has there been a more critical time in Christian education to provide a learning experience that educates the whole person by integrating faith, emotion, and intellect so that our graduates will have purposeful souls that impact society. The current racial issues our nation faces further compel us to train future leaders that the world desperately needs. My time at the LDI also demonstrated to me that our campuses should become a safe place for all God’s diverse people. The word of God is the beginning point of understanding the nature, words, and works of Christ, which can serve as an on-ramp to cross-cultural leadership.
As I reflect upon my time at LDI, I feel blessed to have fostered meaningful relationships that I will continue to cultivate and grow. I hope to be able to impart the knowledge I have attained to aspiring leaders. More importantly, I fully recognize I am in this part of history to positively empower those who are defenseless and positively impact our community and society. I believe the onus is on us to show the world how to love our neighbors and genuinely represent Christ.
My own leadership journey has taken many unexpected twists and turns, but I believe I have an instrumental role to play in Christian higher education. As I navigate the unknown, I entrust to God the path I should take not only to impart the wisdom I have gained over the years but also to be a voice for the voiceless.
Fijoy L. Johnson, D.Min., is the assistant director of campus ministry at Lee University (Cleveland, TN).