The Value of Community
Emeritus, Electrical and Computer Engineering,
Texas Tech University
[March 7, 2010] —
Why should I as a Christian faculty work to develop a sense of community with other believers on campus?
My days are already full, and I get fellowship at church. Why take the time?
As I look back on my own academic career, I recall how encouraging it was in my pre-tenure years to meet for prayer and Bible study regularly with a few engineering faculty colleagues. We shared experiences and prayed for the challenges each of us was experiencing.
During my second year as an assistant professor, I had just submitted my second NSF research initiation grant proposal. My first proposal had been turned down; at that point I still had not yet received any research funding. Bill, Harry, and Penny-believing colleagues in other engineering departments-regularly prayed with me in Bill’s office.
They had each previously faced the uncertainty that I was facing at the time. Those prayer times were a great encouragement to me. I know they rejoiced along with me when that second NSF proposal was funded. Other things they prayed about for me were
the stress of fixing up my lab space on a tight budget, and obtaining some quality graduate students.
Those experiences of community with Christian colleagues greatly blessed me at a critical time in my career.
When many years later I became a senior member in our department, I sought to come alongside some younger Christian colleagues in similar ways. This inevitably took various forms, ranging from periodic conversations in their office, or in some cases inviting them to accompany me to Washington D.C. for the purpose of introducing them to various program managers at particular government research funding agencies.
Relating In Love
For much of my career I was a faculty sponsor of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship student chapter. An article in one of the their magazines pointed out that students hadn’t really been evangelized until they had also seen Christian students relating in love in a group setting. I recall thinking, if that was important for students, wouldn’t the same be true for believing faculty?
There are many challenges we face in both understanding God’s call on our lives on campus, and in living out that call daily. And all the while keeping some semblance of balance in other major areas of their lives (e.g. family and church to name two). Who else understands our workload and pressures? We need not feel alone in our struggles or our victories.
I have never regretted time spent on campus with brothers and sisters in Christ. And that great love we share may be noticed by colleagues. The university is often a relational desert. Perhaps our fellowship can be an oasis not only for us but also for colleagues in need of the matchless love of God.
(c) 2010 John Walkup