Preparing Students to Engage Culture
Every day in the news is another example of how our nation is divided. Politically, racially, religiously—many conversations stop simply because two people cannot relate to one another’s perspectives.
Point University is training its students to engage with culture, not hide from it. Instead of keeping the student body in a bubble surrounded by identical worldviews, Point faculty and staff are not only teaching students how to stand firm in their faith but also guiding them on how to communicate their faith boldly, compassionately and compellingly. Our students graduate with the intellectual, spiritual and communicative abilities that are key to healing divisions across the world.
Wye Huxford, vice president for spiritual formation, believes this type of training is imperative for future Christian leaders, “Christians can’t live in isolation from the real issues that exist in our culture. To the extent we isolate ourselves and pretend these issues don’t exist, we forfeit our opportunity to allow God to ‘unleash’ us and ‘turn the world upside down.’”
To bring this preparation to the forefront, Point held three events in October where students gathered to focus on, discuss with and learn from other students and thinkers. First, Point partnered with Q Ideas to host Q Union, a conference on engaging our divided nation. National speakers such as Christian musician Lecrae and Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias were simulcast and Point seniors Bryant Stinson, Tyler Lee and Trevor McCullough—preaching and biblical studies majors—spoke in person at the event held in West Point. Each speaker shared their perspective on controversial issues and how their faith challenges them to engage with that issue. Even with different perspectives, all conversations were centered around creating a gospel-saturated response to pressurized topics in culture.
Bryant Stinson discussed the current election cycle and why he thinks it’s important for Christians to exercise their right to vote. He asserted that a correct Christian view of the voting booth could truly impact our culture.
“Government was never made to carry hope and redemption to a lost and dying world. That’s only been given to one entity on this planet, and that’s the church,” Stinson challenged. “How can we as a body of believers not allow our pessimism about this election season outweigh the hope that we have in Christ?”
Following, Tyler Lee spoke on how Christians can interact in a healthy way on social media and be a positive influence in the cultural conversation. Lee argued that the church must understand what conversations best take place on social media and which are better discussed in face-to-face conversations. This awareness is key to public Christian witness.
“Changing perceptions about Christians starts with understanding the task of genuine dialogue,” argued Lee. “Real communication takes place when our main desire is to make others feel respected, appreciated and understood.”
Closing out the evening, Trevor McCullough spoke on the question of Christian tolerance and where Christians should draw the line. He challenged Christians to first set clear standards against habitual sinfulness within themselves and within the church, stating only then can they take the gospel to a hurting world that often views Christians as hypercritic or close-minded people.
“Only by an awareness of our own personal failures can one adequately assess and treat the spiritual wounds of others,” McCullough asserted.
In addition to Q Union, October’s chapel featured an interview with Jerome Bailey, a retired African-American policeman, about the issue of law enforcement, race and cultural tensions. President Dean Collins opened the evening reminding the audience that “we live in a world darkened by racism” and Christians should be at work to bring light to the darkness.
In the interview, Bailey shared his experience of discrimination in a predominantly white police force, facing social and political pressure in the workplace and in the community. Bailey struggled with dealing with the injustice of racism as an officer of the law.
“When I was treated that way and knew I hadn’t done anything wrong,” Bailey recounts, “God came into my heart and helped me to deal with the pain that I was going through.”
But Bailey also experienced the restoration and redemption of God’s grace and forgiveness as he saw some of his accusers later apologize for their cruel words and behavior. He believes that God can change anyone’s heart—transforming lives and teaching people to love each other.
“Point University is making a big difference in our culture and our community,” encouraged Bailey. He has personally seen how the diversity and compassion of the Point family has positively affected the surrounding community. “Things are getting better.”
Collins called students to continue to discuss the hard questions with other students who look, act and think differently and to cultivate an atmosphere of diversity and acceptance on campus.
Finally, to facilitate conversations at a more personal level, Point Adventure Groups—student small group Bible studies led by Point faculty, staff and coaches—discussed the issues raised at the last two events, giving students an opportunity to share their thoughts about these controversial topics. Group facilitators led students to think about their own roles in these controversies and how they can be a force of healing in divisions locally, nationally and globally.
“Point is unwilling to ignore the real issues of our day and time,” says Huxford. “And these gatherings were a powerful reminder that not only should Christians talk about these issues, but the gospel we believe speaks directly to these issues.”