Dr. Joseph McRae Mellichamp is Emeritus Professor of Management Science in the Manderson Graduate School of Business at the University of Alabama and National Faculty Representative for Christian Leadership Ministries. For 25 years, Dr. Mellichamp combined successful academic pursuits with effective Christian ministry activities.
Have you ever thought about how unique you are as a university or college professor or staff member? There are only about 550,000 professors in the entire United States. (Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 2, 1996, p. 24) That’s barely two-tenths of 1 percent of the total population of the country. The total number of faculty and staff is about 2,600,000 -- less than 1 percent of the national population. You are indeed unique. And you have a unique opportunity to influence others by virtue of the respect that people in our country accord anyone affiliated with higher education. In public opinion polls ranking the most-respected occupations, college professor has always ranked near the top. As a Christian professor or staff member in the university, what kind of impact are you having on students and other faculty and staff at your own institution? What kind of impact are you having as a Christian on your institution?
As I’ve thought about these same questions, one particular Bible verse has had a profound influence on me. "And you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem; and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." Acts 1:8b In the context, Jesus was speaking to His disciples shortly before His ascension into heaven. Most Christians would agree this verse applies to all disciples of the Lord, not just to those present at the time. As I have reflected on how this command applied to me, it became apparent that the place names -- Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria -- could certainly apply to various spheres of influence, i.e., family, friends, neighborhood, community. And the university surely was one of my spheres of influence. Virtually my whole professional career has been devoted to the area of operations research; efficiency and effectiveness have been objectives of much of my professional work. Knowing intuitively that God is probably efficient and probably values effectiveness, it occurred to me that it would not be very effective for me to spend a lot of time, say 40 to 50 hours a week, in a particular place and not have any influence for Christ there. That just doesn’t make sense; it’s neither effective nor efficient. It quickly became apparent to me that Acts 1:8 has something to say about what the Lord expects me to accomplish at the university. Among other things such as teaching and research, He expects me to be a witness for Him in the university.
I have spent a great deal of time and energy over the years thinking how I as a Christian professor could have an impact for Christ on my students, my colleagues, and on the institution itself. What I discovered is that the opportunities we have as Christian professors and staff in this regard are practically endless. With a bit of creativity, one can think of dozens of things we can do to have an impact. As I have visited other institutions and talked to other professors and staff members around the world, I have been amazed at the multitude of ways individual Christian faculty and staff are impacting their institutions, their students, and their colleagues for Christ.
In fact, the problem here is not thinking of things to do: it’s thinking of things that fit one’s personality and abilities, things that one can do in the time available, things that one will feel comfortable doing, things that will attract people to the Savior. In this section, I am going to suggest a number of things that you as a Christian professor or staff member can do from a ministry perspective. You don’t have to have any help from other colleagues with these things; they can be done pretty much on your own. One or two of these are really not suggestions -- they really ought to be required. I’ll point them out as we go. The other things, though, are truly suggestions. If you see something that appeals to you that you think you would be comfortable doing, and that seems to be a good fit with your situation and circumstances, do it. Go for it!
© Copyright 1997, Joseph McRae Mellichamp
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