the shape of leadership

The Case for Pentecostal Higher Education

Three ways Pentecostal higher education is making a difference today

Paul R Alexander on January 11, 2021

Since the founding of the University of Paris during the 13th century, colleges and universities have been at the center of the majority of social and scientific developments in the Western world.

By the 17th century, universities in Scotland (the poorest nation in Europe at the time), became the seedbed for Enlightenment thought, much of which found its way into our own Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution.

American universities like Harvard, Yale and Princeton started as places to train ministers and subsequently became centers of influence. Most of our presidents have had the advantage of a rigorous college education. To this day, our universities are the envy of the whole world, and thousands of people flock to them from around the globe each year.

It is difficult to argue against the value of higher education to a society and nation. Admittedly, many universities seem to have surrendered careful, objective thought to a radical, secular agenda. As a result, many people of faith have a deep sense of suspicion regarding the role and place of colleges and universities.

Thankfully, not all institutions of learning have abandoned their Christian roots. Here are three ways Pentecostal higher education is making a difference today:

Christian Witness

The world we live in largely exists in an economy based on the exchange of ideas. This is true in the human sciences, formal sciences, and applied sciences. When completely secularized, this exchange of ideas creates a warped worldview, and society generally pays the price.

Rigorous thought informed by a biblical worldview helps a society function better, protects life, and creates economic systems that can sustain wealth and wellbeing.

A biblical worldview also ensures creation care, genuine compassion, and a profound commitment to fairness, justice, and care for the poor. The best place to rigorously develop a biblical worldview, from my perspective, is in the inspired and committed atmosphere of an institution that is thoroughly Pentecostal.

Future school teachers who spend hours in chapel over the course of their studies will be dedicated to their students.

Business professionals educated in a Pentecostal environment will be committed to high standards of service delivery.

Scientists who have a deeply embedded faith, an experience of the Holy Spirit’s work, and the mentorship of godly professors will unselfishly seek effective ways to enhance human existence.

We simply cannot resign the need to think deeply, understand history, and care for our planet and its multitudes to secular-minded academics serving in institutions that deny the existence of God.

Pentecostal leaders and Pentecostal academics must rise to the challenge of facilitating great thinking centers around the world. These centers are primarily our institutions of higher learning. Highly effective Pentecostal thinking centers enhance our witness to the world.

Christian Culture

Most sociologists agree institutions within a society are the primary conduits of culture. The first of these institutions is the family, but schools, churches, and places of higher learning are also important to a society and a culture. Many of the ideas that shape our culture today were discussed in our classrooms at least 30 years ago.

Highly effective Pentecostal thinking centers enhance our witness to the world.

A good test of what our society will look like by the middle of this century is to analyze the curriculum in our universities. Taking responsibility for training and educating the next generation is an antidote to the erosion of cultural values held dear by Christians.

The best place for this to occur is in institutions of higher learning that are unapologetically Pentecostal. Having Pentecostal institutions that act as a bulwark to a secular society is a luxury that might not last forever. There are already ominous signs that government support for Christian higher education is waning.

Our universities and colleges are worth fighting for. Churches across the country should feel obligated to financially support our schools. Our ministry and Bible faculties are central to the maintenance of a defendable faith and deserve prayer and ongoing support.

Sustaining our strong, confessional distinctives is everyone’s responsibility. The loss of Pentecostal institutions of higher learning would impoverish us all and deliver an insipid faith to the next generation.

Remember, institutions that are deeply connected to the Church are the primary vehicles for sustaining our belief system and passing on a vibrant faith to our children and their children.

Christian Training

Our Pentecostal roots create a consistent inclination to actively live out our faith. This is true for Pentecostal institutions of higher learning as well. Students attending our colleges and universities enjoy opportunities to combine their education with life skills and training.

Our schools provide opportunities for internships, semesters abroad, missions trips, and regular ministry. Interfaces with Assemblies of God ministries open doors for activities such as traveling to Israel and visiting ancient sites and participating in archeological digs. Service opportunities with great ministries like Convoy of Hope give students hands-on experience in relief work, rural outreach, and inner-city service.

All of our colleges and universities have Bible content built into the curriculum. There are multiple prayer initiatives, and chapel is a requirement several days every week. These experiences are just as important as the formal classroom education.

As a result, our graduates enter the workforce with greater maturity, deeply held convictions, and a vibrant morality. I constantly receive anecdotal evidence of employers preferring to hire our graduates, even when they are not the most qualified on paper.

Character often trumps skills in the workplace. Employers know our institutions provide both. It is this emphasis on combining training and education that makes a learning experience in a Pentecostal institution a great option for our students.

Our institutions offer the opportunity to belong to a global fellowship of churches, receive spiritual development, and join a network of committed alumni who can be influential in career pathways.

The connected learning communities of Pentecostal institutions provide the safest place for the development of a wholesome, biblical worldview. Simply put, the advantages of an education at a Pentecostal university or college are immense and worth celebrating.

Initiatives to form an endorsing organization within the Assemblies of God go back more than 40 years. The AG Alliance for Higher Education endorses our colleges and universities, ensuring the highest confessional standards. Faculty conferences, advocacy, and regular meetings with presidents and board chairs round out the valuable work of this vital AG ministry.

I unashamedly encourage you, our pastors and leaders, to support your AG institutions warmly and generously.

This article appears in the January–March 2021 edition of Influence magazine.

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