MOSCOW-I see from the pages of WORLD that evangelicals in America are discussing the purpose of a Christian college. As one of the professors at the Russian-American Christian University (RACU) here, I can share with you our purpose in the face of adverse circumstances.
An important part of our mission is to equip students to make a spiritual and moral difference in Russia, to be courageous and faithful to Christ in the marketplace, and to bring the gospel of the kingdom to bear on every area of life in society. While many of my students understood, at least theoretically, the meaning and importance of RACU's vision, they simply could not integrate it into their theology.
It seemed that the most these students hoped for was to get a good job and through personal evangelism persuade friends and colleagues to be saved and join the church. No doubt they would all agree that we are called to be salt and light in the world, but for them that translated into little more than a strategy for personal evangelism.
I certainly do not wish to minimize the importance of that, but what disturbed me was the absence of a theological framework to nourish the hope and the conviction that these students through their callings could make a significant difference in Russian society. To show you how the students responded, I have excerpted comments from several of their required papers, written in English.
One student wrote, "I used to think that the Kingdom of God is the kingdom that we must wait for after we die and enter heaven. But in this course, I realized that God's kingdom is not only in heaven. It is already here on earth. Christians should know how to live in society and bring the light of God to this world."
Another student wrote that she has discovered the meaning and purpose of a Christian education at RACU: "Education at a Christian college is meant to 'line up with the redemptive purposes of God in the world,' to help me love the Lord our God with all my mind, and then to love my neighbor as myself in a life of service. In this way my Christian higher education may serve both as my present vocation and as a prime citizen of the Kingdom."
Here's the changed viewpoint of a third student: "I now see education as an instrument for serving and achieving the purpose of God. Now I am applying my knowledge and skill in serving in my church with teenagers. It does not matter how much money I get after graduation, the main point is my vocation in the kingdom of God."
A fourth wrote, "I thought that the devil is the main ruler here, and this made me feel that Christians are only a small group in this corrupt world. But now I know that this world still belongs to God. Of course, not every person will not accept me and love me, but it doesn't matter. I have purpose in my life."
A fifth student recounted a similar transformation of perspective:
"It seemed to me that God left the earth and He let the devil rule on it. I realized that the earth is God's earth, our world is His kingdom. Even though the devil does his work in people's hearts, this earth and these people belong to God. And He didn't leave this world but left some work for us to do. And I'll do it!"
One final comment: "I did not see myself as a part of something big. I have learned that a successful life in God's world depends on fitting our kingdom inside God's kingdom. Everyone has the responsibility for every brick that he lays in the construction of God's kingdom in the earth."
I wish it were possible to include the comments of more students who said that study at a Christian college changed their minds and enlarged their vision, giving them hope for their country and determination to make a difference in God's world as citizens of the kingdom.
-Krister Sairsingh is a professor at the Russian-American Christian University