It has been said that God gave human beings two ears
but only one mouth in order to remind those who follow
him that we ought to be doing a lot more listening than
talking. Indeed, one could make a case that listening
ranks at the top of the list of underappreciated skills and
practices. This applies to contexts ranging from marriages to
church business meetings to community gatherings to public
debates on foreign policy.
It seems, however, that no one had to convince Paul R.
Corts, the former president of the Council for Christian Colleges &
Universities (CCCU), about the importance of listening. In June
of 2006, Corts initiated his CCCU presidency by embarking on
a "listening tour" of CCCU schools. As reported on the CCCU's
website, the tour consisted of phone conversations with nearly
30 people in 30 days. Corts heard from current and former
members of the CCCU board of directors, as well as from longterm
CCCU institution presidents and a few "prominent friends
of Christian higher education."
Among other things, Corts wanted these people to express
not only their thoughts about the council, but also their hopes
and dreams for their own institutions and for the Christian college
movement in general. After finishing the tour, Corts took his turn
to speak. Following is some of what he said:
"The overriding aspiration [of CCCU member institutions]
was to have a really significant impact on our culture. A lot of
people voiced a great concern for our nation's moral character
and values. So character development, moral leadership, providing
a moral compass were all hopes of those I interviewed.
Our institutions want to turn out leaders in all aspects of life."
The fact that much remains to be done should in no way
imply that not much has been done to this point. For decades,
Christian colleges and universities have been turning out men
and women who, as followers of Jesus Christ, have functioned
as salt and light in the marketplaces of ideas and in society's
spheres of influence. They are teachers, businesspersons, scientists,
doctors, pastors, lawyers, politicians, social workers, and
more. They are also fathers and mothers who are active as volunteers
with community organizations and in their school districts.
As concerned as many are about the current state of our culture,
one can only imagine what things might be like were it not for the
leavening influence of Christian people through the years.
The collective impact of Christians is
difficult to quantify or measure precisely.
But anyone who has seen from up close
how those who follow Christ "conduct
their business" in the classroom, in front
of a television camera, in the halls of
Congress, or in some other context,
knows that they are making a difference.
And many timesperhaps more often
than notwe have Christian colleges
and universities to thank.
A Clear and Focused Vision
As evidenced by the sentiments reflected
and expressed by Paul Corts, however,
much remains to be done. The challenge
to inject moral values into the veins of
our society remains a daunting one.
Fortunately, all indications are that
CCCU institutions understand the
nature of the challenge.
The mission statement of Olivet Nazarene University
Illinois, for example, states that the
school exists to provide a university-level
liberal arts education "with a Christian
purpose." It continues, "Our mission is
to provide high-quality academic instruction
for the purpose of personal development,
career and professional readiness,
and the preparation of individuals for
lives of service to God and humanity."