A FEW months ago at the General Conference session in Detroit, some major changes in denominational leadership took place, the results of which are still being felt in chain reactions set up throughout the world. The successes and the failures, the accomplishments and the frustrations, which may have been experienced during the past quadrennium by the previous administration are not to be judged or debated by those who are new in positions of leadership today. They should be left to the historian to evaluate if he should have the opportunity. He will be best able to record for posterity, after additional information comes to light, the significant contribution of the past two decades in the history of our church.
What is of greater importance to those who are occupying positions of leadership in the church today is not so much the problems of the past, but more truly, the problems of the present. It is to the contemporary scene that we must relate ourselves and determine how and where, with God's help, we are going to direct this church organization toward the fulfillment of the challenge that is presented in the last chapter of Matthew.
While the church at large must be constantly aware of this, it is no less a concern of the educational program of the church. It is quite commonplace for us to speak of the medical missionary work as "the right arm of the message," but much more important to the anatomy of the church is the heart. Can there be serious doubt among any that the educational program is the pulsating organ which circulates, through the arteries of the church, the trained and educated teacher, minister, physician, and nurse? It also engages in the most successful form of evangelism this church offers in keeping our young people within the tenets of our faith. Statistics make this statement a proved one.
One Third of Working Force
Latest figures reveal that about one third of the denomination's working force is engaged in the educational endeavor, covering more than 5,000 schools from the elementary to the secondary level. How often do we hear expressions of pride in regard to this work, and yet would not a closer analysis reveal that this is based more on the quantitative than the qualitative aspects? Is it not time that some second thoughts should be given to this facet of the educational scene? Should we not drop anchor while we are giving serious consideration to our position? Would not some in-depth analyzing help us to measure the drift to determine whether or not we have veered several degrees from our planned destination? Would not a survey or study, as undertaken recently by the Roman Catholic Church, resulting in its "Catholic Schools in Action" report, give us a better picture of our own position? The result might be harsh, but would it not be better than groping about in ignorance?
Our current statistics reveal that during the past twenty years the number of colleges and secondary schools has increased from 265 to 634; our teachers from 2,140 to 7,049; and the enrollment for these levels from 27,000 to 73,912. On the elementary level the number of schools increased from about 3,000 to 4,534; teachers from 4,800 to 10,078; and enrollment from 129,000 to 294,352. And parenthetically we should add that the number of persons in the department of education was the same in 1966 as it was two decades ago. During this period our investment in church school buildings and equipment alone has jumped from about S4 million to more than S52 million. In 1965 the church had some $198 million invested in education.
"Niagara of Cash"
These statistics, I believe, are quite dramatic, and they reveal that a Niagara of cash has been poured into the school program of the church. And as stewards of God's banks, must we not ask ourselves the question, Have we gotten the most for our denominational educational dollar? Education today is big business. It is mushrooming and booming, not only in our country but throughout the world.
Some years ago our church body was highly rated in the number of young people going through college, but that fact in the light of educational pressures today is fast becoming a fact of the past. The educational horizon today is much broader than it was twenty years ago, and we are deceiving ourselves if we feel that our young people are not aware of this. Yesterday's educational program is just as inadequate as yesterday's highways. There is need for a constant assessment of our essential task and the resources that are necessary for meeting the current and future needs adequately.
The needs for today and for tomorrow call for greater changes at every level, from the kindergarten to the graduate school. It is not just problems that we must solve, but more important, we must exploit opportunities.
We must gear ourselves for higher quality in our instructional program. It is commonly understood that when education is inadequate at one level, it is difficult, if not impossible, to make the transition to the next. Capable youngsters, especially from underprivileged or disadvantaged backgrounds, too often lose their way between high school and college or between college and the graduate school, chiefly because of a lack of proper preparation.
We must learn how to better work together, not just from one eschelon to another, but perhaps more important, on a horizontal level—colleges with colleges, academies with academies, churches with churches, and so on.
We must recognize that the call from Macedonia today is a more sophisticated one. It is for teachers with Master's and Doctor's degrees. It is for accredited schools. It is for four-year colleges. Our believers overseas, too, are seeking quality education. They are not satisfied with second-rate education.
Distinction or Extinction?
We must constantly be on guard, if we are to maintain our distinctiveness, against those practices of our contemporary culture that are contrary to our basic beliefs. We must not compromise ourselves in the present moral crisis where sexual promiscuity appears to be the common denominator on all levels.
We must stress the world mission of our church in all the rungs of the educational ladder. This means a greater emphasis on foreign languages, history of non-Western civilizations, international relations, and the role of mission in our contemporary society. In response to Christ's commission to us, we need a world view for our students and a better understanding of the great forces at work in our present world.
We must recognize that fundamental in our love of God is the love of truth. In essence, this means that intelligence and brains go along with faith and religion, else we must accept what a church critic once wrote: " 'Whenever I go to church, I feel like unscrewing my head and placing it under the seat because in a religious meeting I have never any use for anything above my collar button.' "—Quoted in Christianity Today, Aug. 19, 1966, p. 3. This is certainly true if we are serious about operating two university programs.
As Richard Hammill stated in an article in the Review, October 6, 1966, page 5: "We need much charity, much understanding, and much compassion one for another. The purpose of education and the purpose of a university is to seek for truth. Particularly, as a seminary branch of the university, our task is to seek for truth through the revelations God gave through His prophets, through His Son, and through the servant of the Lord. We must search with diligence, and with confidence in one another, being certain that God's truth in these last days will triumph."
Much has been written lately about church-related schools, especially the Christian college and its ability to survive. There are even some who are asking the question, Should the church-related college survive? I am sure that in our own midst there have been some who have raised similar questions. How far are we going in education? Is there need for vertical as well as horizontal expansion? Can we afford such a program? Our consensus of opinion may be that for the future growth of the church and for the sake of our young people, our schools must continue, and if our conviction is strong in this regard, then we must be ready to support that conviction.
We must support it in the face of increasing inflationary costs, the increasing number of community and junior colleges, and the tremendous amount of Federal aid, which is more and more spoonfeeding education in the United States. Apparently there is no end in sight to this dramatic acceleration in spending. This steady downpour of funds from Government agencies is not merely to provide more education but to produce better education for the youth of the nation. Certainly the church cannot have a lesser aim for its young people.
(To be continued)