My approach to Christian Higher Education is inspired by this quote from Howard Hendricks, “Secular education seeks to make better, more effective, more successful, more intelligent people. The Christian educator aspires to nothing less than the transformation of a believer into the image of Christ.” Every course I teach is informed by my life experience because I teach through the lens of a transcendent reality that shapes my immanent reality. This ideal is rooted in several assumption:

1) God our Creator designed the human mind for coherent thought,
2) Revelation undergirds the process of reason,
3) God offers truth while Man offers perspective,
4) The mission of the eternal shapes the practicality of our temporal work,
5) We are taught by the Holy Spirit and instructed by men and women,
6) Sanctification undergirds the application of knowledge,
7) Educating individuals take priority over educational methodologies,
8) Education is an extension of discipleship within shared community,
9) We are God’s stewards of all our physical resources, and
10) Every life is a Gospel opportunity.

I have sat in classes from well-educated professors who convey the facts pertinent to the subject, but the greatest teachers in my life have taught those facts with a keen emotional and spiritual insight. My teaching, whether on leadership, theology, ethics, or history, is modeled after the latter and I know of no other way to instruct than through the lens of whole-life integration. Educating individuals takes priority over educational methodologies so I regularly weave popular culture into the classroom through the use of rich-media experiences. The use of media help students apply theology to their daily life. I teach with passion and energy because every time I teach, I feel God is teaching me. The integration of faith and teaching is what I define as Educational Leadership. Educational leadership demands that, first and foremost, I have a vital relationship with Jesus Christ. Out of that Divine-fellowship, I engage my students as a spiritual Big Brother with concern, compassion, and a willingness to invest my life by helping each person grow in faith through academic challenge.

As I apply these goals to my ministry as a professor, I make the following observation. An effective professor takes the marrow of educational philosophy, a comprehensive curriculum, and proven methodology and builds a course to prepare students for an academic, secular and/or ministerial career. My purpose in Christian higher education is to teach the Word of God through informing the mind and transforming the heart so that each student can make progress in conforming their daily life into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 12:2). Each of these three terms is defined as follows:

  • Informing: The Scripture is our foundation for right thinking which brings mental and spiritual renewal. If you want to stand for Jesus, you must be informed!
  • Transforming: The Holy Spirit is God working in our hearts so that we can enjoy our Father’s love forever. If you want to have peace, get transformed!
  • Conforming: When we study God’s Word, we are divinely changed into the image of Jesus our Lord. If you want to live right, you must choose to conform!

I am keenly aware that we live in an age where the cumulative wisdom of the world is failing us. Education for the sake of knowledge will not solve our problems, yet students are constantly confronted with alternative theistic worldviews and antagonistic atheistic philosophies that seek to disabuse them of their Faith. The world is in need of well-informed professors, and leaders in the church, we can educate people in the ways of the world, yet ground them in the truth of Jesus Christ. The world needs to know that submitting to the Father’s will in the context of meaningful community is the only way we can experience the total pleasure of His holiness.

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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