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Working on a Building

Sermon - 8/26/07
David Wilson
First Christian Church, Eugene, Oregon

1 Corinthians 3: 9-11

For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.  10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.

It is good to be with you today. I think it's important that I give you a regular update on Northwest Christian College so that is my purpose today.

I know you care about higher education - I know I do; I know you care about higher education in Disciples-related colleges - I know I do - I'm at my third Disciples institution and in my 26th year of working at Disciples-related colleges; and I know you care about what's happening at Northwest Christian College, one of those Disciples colleges. And so I come to share with you something of what is happening at NCC.

It takes a strong, active Board of Trustees to make a college great; we have such a Board…we have trustees like Linda Korth and Ada Lee. I hope you will join me in thanking Linda and Ada for their service to NCC.

Are there any former trustees here today?
How about current faculty and staff?
Former faculty and staff?
Former students and graduates?
Current students?

[Note:  There were many congregation members in the above categories]

I titled my remarks today: Working on a Building; the context for our scripture reading today suggests that as Christian disciples, we are all God's fellow workers; we all have gifts and are needed in the ministry of the church; we serve in different ways but we all serve; we each have a distinctive task and we are all essential to a functioning and growing Church; it takes many working together to build the Church; one very important part of building the Church has always been building colleges; in our church heritage, higher education has always been important -- it has always been important to educate workers for the Church and to nurture and empower a well-educated laity to carry out ministry in all walks of life; and so it is higher education and NCC that is our focus today

Not all church-related colleges look equally church-related and so this is an important topic; does NCC look church-related? Does it look like we are working on a building for our Lord?

In March of 2004, when I was first introduced to the NCC community as the next president, Frank Morse presented me with a hard hat meant to symbolize our intention to grow and build. Grow and build, we are doing. It is an exciting time to be at NCC and to participate in the shaping of our future and to be working on a building.

Working on a building is the title of an old gospel song, played mainly as a bluegrass gospel song today. And it's essentially a song about serving our Lord. "I'm working on a building, I'm working on a building, I'm working on a building for my Lord, for my Lord. It's a holy ghost building, it's a holy ghost building, it's a holy ghost building for my Lord, for my Lord."

With many committed leaders dedicated to our vision, mission, and values, and bringing many gifts, we are indeed working on a building for our Lord at Northwest Christian College.

We are on the move. We are committed to being one of American's great Christian liberal arts institutions.

We have come a long way since 1895 but, yet, we try to preserve what is most important to us…even 112 years later. Purpose then: educating workers for the Church.

Today: we haven't forsaken that, and indeed the Bible is still a central part of our curriculum, but our purpose is broader as we think of preparing students for ministries in all walks of life…Bible and Christian ministry…yes, but also, teacher education, business, accounting, exercise science, mathematics, human services, psychology, counseling, communication, health care administration, and so on.

That happens in the context of our vision, mission, and values. They are as follows:

Vision:  to be a college known for its integration of excellent academic programs, a foundation in the Christian faith, and a focus on teaching leadership and ethics.

Mission:  to develop competent, ethical leaders for service in the workplace, community, Church and world

Values:  academic excellence, faith commitment, ethical leadership, character development, caring community, global engagement

This language is reflected in everything we do.

Our vision, mission, and values set the stage, then, for a liberal arts education in a faith-based, Christian context focused on preparing competent leaders of character for service to Christ and humanity.

What, in turn, do we hope will happen?

That we prepare students well, ready to go out into an increasingly complex, diverse, and interrelated world with:

  • a solid academic background
  • the ability to think critically and broadly and to communicate effectively
  • a strong foundation in character and faith
  • the ability to integrate faith with the rest of one's life (work, family, community, relationships, etc.)
  • a readiness to be responsible, global citizens with a strong service commitment
  • the ability to solve problems and think creatively
  • the ability to celebrate diversity and work effectively with others
  • the ability to be flexible and adaptable
  • the knowledge and commitment to be ethical decision-makers and competent leaders
  • a commitment to make a difference in the world, to make this world a better place in which to live - a more just, loving, peaceful, and humane world.

So with that as a backdrop and knowing that we are working on a building in which Jesus Christ is the foundation, what are some of components of that building?

Here are some building bricks I thought you'd appreciate hearing about: examples of how we are faithfully living out our V/M/V and examples of what we look like as an institution today.

1) Enrollment target of 1200

2) New name looms in our future: NCU; not altering fundamental nature of our purpose/programs; 1895 mission encompassed in new mission;

3) Expanded curriculum, new majors and programs; have added exercise science, accounting, and mathematics in the past few years and the number of program offerings will continue to expand…and, of course, with this, appropriate growth in our faculty. We have 3 categories of programs: traditional undergraduate, Professional Studies Program for working adults; graduate programs (3); English, arts, health care looming in our future

4) We offer classes in Eugene, Roseburg and Klamath Falls, we are about to launch a pilot MBA program in Hong Kong.

5) Growing Bible and Christian ministry program

6) New School of Christian Ministry

7) A commitment to a strong music program that is ministry-driven: we have a large NCC Community Choir, a NCC Chamber Ensemble; and then VIRTUE, our traveling group that visits churches on most weekends

8) Students are heavily involved in learning outside the traditional classroom; some travel and study abroad (increased emphasis on this); several students have participated in an archaeological excavation in Israel; students have traveled to Seattle to see a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit; students have participated in debate tournaments; it is important to us to have students and faculty collaborate on various research and other scholarly endeavors; all students participate in internships, including a number in church settings;

9) Master Plan: first of all, we have three new facilities in various stages of development…Pomajevich Faculty Building (completed), Center for Teaching and Learning (former Sigma Nu fraternity being remodeled), Graduate and Professional Studies building (medical office building - we are leasing bottom floor); Center for Christian Ministry and the Arts, prayer tower, residence halls, student union; border signage; trying to acquire additional properties

10) New athletic programs: to basketball and softball, we have added women's volleyball, men's and women's cross country, and men's and women's soccer; next year, we start men's and women's golf; we have joined the NAIA and the Cascade Collegiate Conference; the NAIA works with institutional members in nurturing character development in our student-athletes…respect, responsibility, integrity, leadership, sportsmanship…so we will be very involved in that program. One recent demonstration of that: our basketball teams put on a basketball clinic for elementary school students at a school in Springfield, a school where 87% of the families live below the poverty line, a school that cannot afford exciting events for the children like basketball clinics. Here's the really good part: our students decided to stay involved with the school beyond just doing that clinic.

11) New financial aid system that rewards students who have shown evidence of not only strong academic achievement but also strong faith commitment and church involvement, leadership, and strong character.

12) Following the development of our new V/M/V, we developed a statement we call: Our Commitment as a Campus Community: As a Christian institution of higher learning, we are committed to being a caring, welcoming community characterized by diversity, inclusiveness, respect for all people, and a passion for social justice. This is in addition to our nondiscrimination policy. And we are an increasingly diverse campus and one very committed to justice and respect for all people.

13) We reach out to the community in a variety of ways and build relationships: we have hosted a Global Day of Prayer on our campus; we hosted several hundred local high school and college students who slept on the NCC lawn one night in a show of support and concern for the children of Northern Uganda caught up in the consequences of a long-running war; we take our Christmas and spring concerts out to local churches; we have hosted the Lane Co. MLK, Jr. Celebration on our campus the past two years; we are represented at events like the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast, the Interfaith Breakfast (to be hosted on the NCC campus this year), NAACP events, the Asian Celebration; VIP Days and home receptions at the president's house;

14) We are heavily involved in service projects…faith is put into action in many ways: Adopt-a-family Christmas gift drive; Habitat for Humanity; assisting the Salvation Army in its holiday drive; sponsoring and serving at the Lane Co. Fair Pancake Breakfast; 20 students went to Mozambique in May for mission work in which they gave care to AIDS orphans; our students have gone to New Orleans and done hurricane cleanup work; they have traveled to Bosnia on mission work; they have gone to many places like San Francisco in addition to Eugene and Springfield and done service projects like working with the homeless; in Feb., students raised money for a project called Joy to the World: spreading joy to the world through the gift of animals. Students raised money to buy a package of animals from Heifer International to give to a family. This package includes two sheep, four goats, a heifer and two llamas. Once the family receives their gift, they will be trained on how to effectively take care of their animals so that they can benefit from having them.

15) Students have formed a number of interesting and meaningful organizations: some are academic-related like the Psychology Club and the Ministry Club; others include the Native American Student Union - that organization recently sponsored an event to improve students' inter-cultural communication especially as it might apply to those considering ministries in other cultures or planning on working on Native American Reservations.

16) The Red Tent Club (Empowering women to discover who they are in Christ and become self sufficient ethical leaders) The purpose of the Red Tent is to be a club that supports women's equality, justice, wellness, safety, and spiritual development with a variety of different activities and programs based upon the values of Northwest Christian College.

17) Our student programs department puts a big emphasis on leadership training; we have an annual Leadership Summit that even draws students from other campuses.

18) Strong student ministries program led by our campus pastor, Steve Poetzl; note, here, that we did not have a campus pastor until Steve came on board; here's how Steve puts it: Student Ministries and Spiritual Development are at the core of the Northwest Christian College experience. We believe the process of building and equipping men and women to be leaders of the future must be founded on a strong relationship with God (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Campus Ministries emphasizes developing the whole person, body, soul, and spirit. The spiritual formation is done within the following rubric:

Our Four Wheel Drive:

  • Embracing the Lord: chapel on W and F; evening chapel twice a month; small group Bible Study programs; retreats…one example is "Finding my vocation"…focused on juniors and seniors seeking God's calling in their lives
  • Embracing the Campus Community: e.g., student-athlete chaplain program
  • Embracing our City: like the Urban Plunge trip to San Francisco or the Habitat for Humanity project in Eugene
  • Embracing the Nations: e.g., the mission trips to Haiti, Bosnia, and Mozambique

Offering opportunities to grow spiritually is a central vision of Northwest Christian College as we strive to promote a faith commitment to Christ and to equip students to take that faith into the workplace, community, Church, and world.

19) We are nurturing knowledge of our college and church heritage through events like Founder's Day and the Stone-Campbell Symposium. And we nurture our church relationship through things like hosting the Disciples Regional Assembly in April of 2008 and hosting a Disciples-sponsored Anti-Racism Training event.

20)We have launched a Center for Leadership and Ethics and a Trustee Lecture Series on Leadership and Ethics.

So how can you tell we are working on a building for our Lord?

  • Our documents; our language emphasizing our Christ-centeredness
  • The centrality of the Bible in what we do and the integration of faith and learning as central
  • Preparing students to be leaders in ministries covering all walks of life; prepared to be leaders of character is service to Christ and humanity
  • Witness our growth in ways compatible with our V/M/V; School of Christian Ministry; mission work;
  • Focus on leadership development, justice, diversity - compatible with Disciples 2020 Vision
  • Christian remains our middle name even with a new name on July 1, 2008

We are making a difference in the lives of students and our institution is making a difference in our community and the world-at-large.

Our world is in need of ministers, teachers, accountants, business professionals, therapists, health care professionals, scientists, government officials, CEOs, PTA presidents, and citizens-at-large who are knowledgeable and skilled, principled and strong in character, committed in faith, and well-prepared to lead and serve.

We are fortunate that Northwest Christian continues to be a leader in producing such individuals.

The beauty of an education at NCC: the vision of our College meshing with vision the student brings for himself/herself…with the result being a transforming of that student's life in ways that student did not dream possible when entering the hallowed halls of NCC.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. We couldn't do what we do without you.

How can you help us?

  • Give us names of prospects
  • Be an advocate for us
  • Prayers
  • Financial support
  • Assistance if we come calling on you to help rally others around our cause

It takes all of us to work on a building for our Lord.


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