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Preparing Our Replacements

Even as new Assistant Professors, down deep inside, we know that we will not be here forever. An abundance of Scripture affirms the brevity of life, and a career of 30 years passes quickly. As profs we have the privilege, and the weighty responsibility, of training the next generation.

Students from our classes will be the poets, politicians, and professors of the future.

What a responsibility we have, but also what a great opportunity! As Christian profs, we are also preparing the Church’s next generation. Those Sunday School teachers, preachers, and missionaries are sitting in our classrooms—seeing us, watching us, sometimes even emulating us.

So what are we teaching them? 

Certainly our subject matter is crucial to our students, but our spiritual example is even more crucial. Whether we choose to be or not, we are models of how to minister as professionals.

And every one gets the message.

When we teach Ph.D. students, the work-life connection is obvious. If we are modeling a Christian approach to professorship, we are communicating that we are Jesus followers in the truest sense. If we model a compartmentalized approach that relegates our faith to Sundays only, they get that message. If we are continually ministering to our hurting students and colleagues, they get that message. And if we seek ways to communicate the Gospel to a dying academic world, they get that message. When we teach undergraduates, we can model a willingness to be identified with our Christian undergraduate students. We can model the truth that great intellect and academic achievement are indeed compatible with a Christian world view. We can relate our own subject matter to the Scriptures or to the applications of Christianity in our fields. We can answer questions on Christianity and help resolve students’ conflicts. We can ease the pain of some by countering the anti-Christian message that they hear on some campuses. And they get the message. 

What kind of replacement? 

To some extent, we are the product of our major professors and our teachers. We are like them, for good or for ill. As we reflect on that, let’s consider again, that many of our students will teach like us, handle students like we do, and conduct research using our models of philosophy and ethics. We can model good academic citizenship, and we ought to do that.

But, our students are immortal, just as their students, clients, and patients will be. Because our students are immortal, because the BEST gift we can possibly give them is a deep and abiding relationship with the God of the universe, we model best when we display Christ, who dwells in us.  Are we modeling him?

 — Phil Bishop, UA

This book is a classic–having help forged generations of disciples (from the Greek: mathetes meaning learner) and of disciple-makers (thus, the makers of learners).  Here are the principles, based on the life of Jesus, for preparing our replacements.  As Coleman writes, “It is good to tell people what we mean, but it is infinitely better to show them. People are looking for a demonstration, not an explanation.”