Dr. Otto J. Helweg, P.E.
Dean Emeritus, College of Engineering and Architecture, NDSU
U.S. address: 33 Crystal Lane, Maumelle, AR 72113
Over Seas address: PO Box 2343, Kigali, Rwand

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Kerugmatic Hints for
Christian Academicians

Dr. Otto J. Helweg

For the non-professional theologians, "kerugmatic" is the adjectival form of "kerugma" the transliteration of the Greek word, which means "proclamation." Had I wished to be less pedantic, I would merely said "Hints to witnessing for Professors"

I offer four areas which I believe all Christian professors can apply if they desire to be a witness on their campus. As Oswald Smith said, "Every person is either a missionary or a mission field." I strongly believe that the university campus is the "Jerusalem" (see Acts 1:8) for every Christian professor. Consequently, our campus is our mission field. We, of course, display our faith appropriately (and how that is done varies with professors), These areas are:

1. Class Introduction

2. After Exam Party

3. Having one's name is Easter and Christmas adds (assuming your campus places
them in the school paper; if not, contact CLM to find out how it is done)

4. Being active in the Christian Faculty Fellowship on campus.

1. Class Introduction:
I believe that at minimum, a Christian professors ought to identify themselves as Christians to each class. Most find it appropriate during the first day of the course when the professor introduces the course outline, etc. However, several have indicated that they prefer to do it at the end or during an appropriate lessons.

I believe these introductions should be well thought out and am giving mine as an example.
(Introduction of myself I give at the beginning of each class)

1.   Have class introduce themselves (if it is not too big)
    Goal upon graduation

2.   Introduce myself

3.   Witness

Many years ago, in the Paleolithic era, when I was a graduate student at UCLA, I was told that an engineer's job was to design and that the social consequences were a problem of ethics and the responsibility of the client. I felt uneasy with this but a beginning graduate student does not quickly disagree with a learned professor. Since that time, I have not only discovered that the learned professors may be wrong, but this one was completely "out of it". Attempting to shift one's ethical responsibility is a grand "cop out". Every decision you make is (consciously or unconsciously) the result of your ethical presuppositions. The ethical obligations of engineers (and, indeed, other professions) are one of the hottest topics in academia and the outside world today and you need to know what yours are.

You may not have thought of it, but you cannot go very far in establishing your ethical system without getting into Theology. And, as soon as one talks about Theology, one is open to the accusation of being biased. Now, how many of you have had professors tell you they were biased? Actually, we professors like to give the impression we are unbiased, but if you believe that, you probably also believe in the tooth fairy. Everyone, even professors, are biased. In Engineering, biases are not nearly as important as they are in political science, history, philosophy, etc., but they are important; in fact, they are crucial when it comes to ethics. We professors, actually, all of us try to be impartial, objective, and fair, but if we want to be honest, we should reveal our biases up front, for then you can be alert for them and if they disagree with yours, you can filter them out or interact with them, as you desire. What I mean by "biases" is what philosophers call a "world view". That is, what are your basic assumptions in life? Is the universe rational or not? Is there such a thing as absolute truth or is everything relative? Does God exist or not?

Therefore, in the interest of honesty, I am going to tell you my main bias (world view). In fact, the foundation to every decision I make. I am a Christian, not by birth, but by rebirth; not nominally, but existentially. Please understand, I am excited
about Vector Mechanics (or what ever) , but when this is compared with the questions of:

"What is the meaning of life?"

"Who am I?"

"Where am I going?"

(the very questions Christianity answers) the excitement about Vector Mechanics pales into insignificance.

Some would say that discussing religion (as one must, to address these questions) has no place in the University. I disagree for three reasons: first, no matter what the Supreme Court says, as long as there are exams, there will be prayer in schools; second (and more seriously), the university is a market place of ideas, eliminating one of the most influential ideas in human history subverts academic freedom, finally your perspective on life will be changed while in the university. You should be aware of that change and control it.

As I have implied, a theistic presupposition is required for a consistent ethical system; however, I will not use this, or any other class, as a platform to express my theological opinions. Nevertheless, if anyone is interested in talking about them out side of class in an open and honest way (either pro or con) I would greatly enjoy that.

If you go through your university career without wrestling with these "important questions', you may gain a degree; you may acquire technical knowledge; but you will not have received an education.

My office is always open, not only to discuss the course, but also to talk about the important questions.

2. After Exam Party
This is a more direct evangelistic effort. I tell the class on the next to last day that I will treat them to an after exam pizza party. I write the acronym "TANSTAAFL" on the chalk board and tell them (if no one knows) that it stands for, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." Consequently the pizza party will not be free. The cost they must bear is to listen to how I became a Christian.

I tell them it will only last seven or eight minutes, but if they are interested, I hope they will come. I pass around a sign-up sheet to get some idea of the count (I usually have about 80% of the class sign up). If the exam is early morning, I may have donuts, etc. instead.

If the room is free after the class, I usually have the pizza and drinks brought there. If the room is used, I try to find another room close by.

Again, my testimony is carefully thought out to clearly present the Gospel. I then pass out comment cards on which students may give their name (optional) and check whether or not they would like to talk more about obtaining a personal relationship with God.

Sometimes I invite a Campus Crusade staff worker or Christian female student to be in the class (whom I introduce) to help on follow-up. While the response is rather sparse (six to eight requesting follow-up out of a class of 100, the Christian students are uniformly blessed and encouraged. Besides, for the several that do come to know the Lord, the exercise is certainly worth it.

3. The Easter and Christmas Adds
Many campuses that have Christian Faculty and Staff fellowships place adds in the school paper on Christmas and Easter. Professionally developed adds may be obtained from CLM. They have catchy lines, such as the traditional "Wise men still seek Him." Under these adds the names of Christian professors and their departments are placed with an offer to talk with anyone interested in pursuing the topic further.

Again, the number of students who actually come into an office in response to the add who want to learn more about Christ is small to non-existent. But it is a way to "show the flag" and, again, the Christian students are greatly encouraged.

4. Christian Faculty and Staff Fellowships
If you have one on your campus, I encourage you to become active. We all have insufficient time (so we think) but it is merely a matter of priorities. If you do not have such a group, you may want to contact Christian Leadership Ministries (CLM) to get help starting one.

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