WHERE EDUCATION AND INSPIRATION MEET
Every college and university has a niche which differentiates it from the other 4000 accredited institutions in the USA. Pillar College of Newark became a college in 2002 when it was chartered by New Jersey to be a “two-year religious college.” Since then, Pillar has experienced much growth and recognition as a fully accredited four-year college with creative programs and a vigorous master degree. Its distinctive niche is its Christian worldview, which is foundational to its mission.
The mission statement of the college is:
Pillar College educates, inspires and equips students for excellent scholarship, service and leadership. Rooted in and committed to Christian faith and love, Pillar College fosters intellectual, spiritual and social development among its diverse student population at various instructional sites. Unpacking that statement will reveal how education and inspiration can meet.
The job of Christ-centered education is to educate, inspire and equip students. What does it mean to educate a student? Simply put, it means to teach knowledge. And, of course, there are thousands of fields of knowledge to learn, and just about as many ways to teach. In a Christ-centered college, such as Pillar, we believe that God is the source of all truth, so we can teach every subject with God in view.
Christ-centered education seeks not only to educate, but also to inspire students. You know the difference between good teachers and great teachers? Good teachers excel at teaching the topic of their expertise – their subject; great teachers teach not only their subject, but they excel in inspiring their students. They want their students to be so pumped up about what they are learning that they can’t wait to get more. To inspire is to put spirit into it. In high school, I hated English – that is, until I had Mrs. Gotwalt for English literature. From then on, English became a joy. She inspired me.
Knowledge is useless unless it lives. Just knowing a lot of facts can be like being a computer. So, how many gigabytes do you have? Data storage capacity is not enough for a human being. That’s why we seek not only to educate and inspire students, but also to equip them. The job of teachers, according to the Bible (Ephesians 4) is to equip people for lives of service. Christ-centered education not only gives the information, but how to use it for God’s glory.
Part of the mission of Pillar College is to educate students for excellent scholarship. Some years ago, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind was published, and Mark Noll began by saying that the scandal is that there is not much of an evangelical mind. In prior centuries evangelicals led the way in intellectual inquiry. Not so much today. That’s why at Pillar scholarship is a high value, modeled and encouraged by administration and faculty.
One of Pillar’s bylines is “Pursue Your Purpose.” In almost every case, we find that the purpose of our students is service to God and others. We really don’t have to motivate them to serve; we merely sharpen their tools. Although the “Millennials” and upcoming “Z” or “iGen” pursue their education through different delivery systems than many of us older people did, they are not just socially connected, they are also socially conscious, and motivated to serve.
Besides scholarship and service, leadership training is another important goal of inspirational education. Of course, the model Jesus taught was to lead as a servant. But not all servants become leaders. Those who grow deep in God’s Word and mature in their faith can become leaders regardless of their personality or gifts. Leadership is not about titles or rank; it is seeing the goal and helping others to get there. Godly leader lead with a “towel and basin,” as Jesus modeled.
When the leaders of Pillar College were hammering out our new mission statement in 2010, we said we were rooted in Christian faith. But in today’s world, many people see Christianity as an intolerant, unloving religion. Some who bear the name of Christ can be that way, but our faculty thought it was important to add the words “and love.” We all need to be rooted in Christian faith and love – as individuals, churches and colleges.
Fostering intellectual development is a key goal of any college. For generations our society has forced an artificial divorce between faith and reason. We hear ideas like we must believe our heart not our head. Because many people buy into that thinking, they live in quiet doubt about the legitimacy of their faith. While faith is not based on reason alone, it is not irrational. In fact, faith is eminently reasonable. The truth is every worldview is based on a faith assumption, even atheism.
I remember as a young man reading a book on the Holy Spirit by Watchman Nee, and I learned that spiritual development is the most important pursuit of all believers. I was heavily into athletics and had a very rigorous routine of calisthenics, or “cals,” as we called it. But what impressed me was how much more important it is to develop my spiritual muscles. That’s part of our mission at Pillar – to foster spiritual development.
Humans are social beings, and that aspect of our make-up was designed by God for our growth. The Bible places a high value on fellowship and relationships. Just look up the many “one another” passages and you’ll see what I mean. Positive and godly relationships do not come easily to us because of our self-centered nature, so fostering social development is also an important part of inspirational higher education.
God must love variety because he created so much diversity in the world. Colors, sounds, textures, elements, smells, shapes, tastes, animals, plants, minerals way too many for our minds to grasp. And personalities, looks, IQs, abilities, talents as well as ethnic, racial and cultural identities! And scripture says “God so loved the world….” And we celebrate that; part of our mission is to serve a diverse population, and at Pillar College, the so-called minorities are the majority, not just in the student body, but also among faculty and staff.
Jesus said not to hide our light under a bushel basket. So, a college that believes its mission and message are God-ordained needs to reach the most people possible. How can we best do that? By being a missional college and taking our programs to the people, rather than forcing them to come to us. So, Pillar now teaches at various instructional sites, including Newark, Somerset, Paterson, and Irvington. We have also held classes in Rahway, Red Bank, Lincoln Garden, with more sites to come. Plans are underway for South Orange, Perth Amboy, Palisades Park, and Plainfield.
So, these are the ways we seek to bring education and inspiration together. Pillar College seeks to be a pillar in our various communities in New Jersey, and we invite all who agree with this mission to join us.
Dr. David E. Schroeder
President Pillar College