This Easter season, school papers at dozens of major universities across the U.S. will feature advertisements headlining the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thousands of professors will display their names under those headlines, publicly declaring their belief in the resurrection.
The evangelistic ad is nothing new. In fact, it's been a practice of many Christian university educators for years. However, this Easter many campuses are participating in a nation-wide campaign sponsored by Christian Leadership Ministries that will expose an estimated one million students to the claims of Christ.
Besides sponsoring evangelistic ads on campuses, faculty expect to distribute a total of more than 100,000 articles on the resurrection by author Josh McDowell, and give open lectures on the meaning of Easter.
At Easter and several other times during the year, many Christian faculty groups use evangelistic ads in school newspapers to present a Christian dialogue to their entire campus.
Why is it important for Christian faculty to identify themselves corporately? Many students, based on their educational experience, believe well-informed, intelligent, educated people cannot accept Christianity as a valid belief. A corporate expression of faith can point non-Christian students and faculty to professors who can guide them to spiritual truth.
The university experience also can have an eroding effect on the faith of Christian students. A faculty ad can encourage students who share their faith and therefore experience criticism from the secular community.
In addition, a raised awareness of the number and influence of Christian faculty on campus lends Christian faculty a sense of identity and provides a source of encouragement. It also rallies other Christian professors to take a stand for Christ.
Perhaps the most effective means for faculty to transmit a corporate expression of faith on a campus is through an evangelistic advertisement in the school newspaper.
Since the idea began at Wichita State University in the mid 1980's, faculty groups at 69 campuses around the country have sponsored more than 300 evangelistic ads with over 4,000 faculty participating. Today, most university groups that participate sponsor three to five ads a year.
Dr. Richard Stroshine, professor of agricultural engineering at Purdue University, said that he and other faculty met periodically to pray for guidance in their desire to present a positive Christian witness on campus.
"We decided an advertisement in the school newspaper was a worthwhile project that could be quickly and easily organized. We sent a sample ad to Christian friends and associates on campus with a letter inviting participation.
"Subsequently, we have sponsored ads at Easter, Christmas, and the beginning of the school year. We pray for the ads before and during the time they appear and for the witness of the people whose names appear on the ads.
"There have been at least two major benefits from the ad. It has brought Christians on campus closer together and it has served as a starting point for other organized activities."
Dr. John H. Kennedy, professor of chemistry at the University of California at Santa Barbara, said that in 1985 the Christian faculty on his campus began with an ad signed by 12 faculty, and by 1990 it had risen to over 100 participants.
"Over the years," said Kennedy, "many students have contacted faculty members participating in the proclamation. It seems especially encouraging to Christian students who sometimes think they are the only Christians on campus.
"An important side benefit has been the opportunity for Christian staff and faculty members to get better acquainted. Finally, the list of participants on the proclamation provides a basic mailing list to inform other Christian faculty and staff of planned activities."