The other day I was at the graduation of another college. Overall it was a great experience, it being wonderful to see another group of students graduate. I was especially pleased to see a relative and some friends gaining postgraduate awards. Hats off to the hard work done by the staff and students who serve Christ in that context. This institution is doing great things for our Lord Jesus, and for that, I give thanks and praise.
The leader of the institution gave a great crisp message in which he stated how the college loves the things of God, I was stirred by this. He articulated his hope that the students would embody humble servanthood in their ministries. I wanted to shout a loud amen. I wanted to come to this college! A student then spoke, quite brilliantly to be honest. He was a great advertisement for the work this college is doing.
Later came the keynote speaker. He gave a good presentation but lost me with one of his lines, a statement to the effect that this institution is NZ’s leading theological provider. Being a faculty member of another one in the same context, this piqued my interested and those around me. In fact, knowing I work down the road in the same business, the guy beside me elbowed me in the ribs, and I almost cried out in pain (that would have gone down well at that said juncture), while family and friends all turned their eyes toward me. Not sure why. Jokes.
Anyway, it got me thinking, what makes an institution the ‘leading’ or ‘foremost’ one in a context? Is it size? Is it more students? Is it the growth rate? Is it scope, a wide diversity of people? Is it the most Phds on the faculty? Or the least? (Often PhD people are lost in the clouds. Well I am). Is it that the students are faster at their work? Fatter? The more agile? Shorter? Older? Younger? Weirder? Stronger? Is it the number of branches? Overseas partnerships? Is it how good looking the faculty and/or students are? Is it decided in a sports event? Who holds the cup at present? Is it how much praying everyone does? Or worship gatherings? Or the quality of the café, the food? In NZ we have a thing called PBRF (Performance Based Research Funding), where institutions are ranked regarding their research outputs. Is it that the college is more or less liberal? Is it a matter of race? The more people of a certain ethnicity, the better? I am being a bit flippant—but then again, it is a really interesting question.
As I pondered this question, I came up with an answer. God decides I suppose. Or does he? And how? Does he have a great ranking system as he looks down from on high—this institution or that institution ranks above that and for this reason? I doubt it. What I think he is looking for is the sort of thing the leader of the institution articulated earlier on in the celebration—God is looking for people who love him, who love the Word, who love the Church, who love the mission of God, who love serving him, and do so with a deep humility. Then, each one who works in any part of God’s great work on planet earth will be judged on the quality of his or her service. This comes at judgment day (1 Cor 4:1-5). In the meantime, we urge each other on, in humility considering others above ourselves.
In the wider world, ranking oneself is important, including in education. For example, there are all sorts of ranking lists of the universities of the world. I don’t think this is appropriate for us as we serve God. We shouldn’t talk about the leading church in a denomination, in a country, in anything. We shouldn’t talk about our institution as the best, greatest, foremost, leading, or whatever adjective we want. Rather, we should humbly all serve God with our whole beings and want the best for ourselves and others in Christ. I rejoice that the institution in view is going great. It may well be NZs leading theological provider? Praise God. Perhaps the speaker had had a word from God about that. Good for him. The truth is I think in reality, who knows? Who cares? Let God decide, if he is going to, and I don’t he will. Anyway̧, we are not competitors. We are brothers and sisters, working as God’s coworkers, used by him to educate and equip people for service today. We are on the same team. We want all such institutions to flourish all over the nation and nations. May that be so.
Anyway, it was a great day out seeing the flourishing of a sister institution. Shalom. I pray they go from strength to strength and many students pour through their doors going out to renew communities all over the world. Shalom.