The author of Hebrews wrote, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” (NASB, 13:7). The author of Hebrews is exhorting fellow believers to remember those spiritual leaders who are worth imitating. Following the great heroes of the faith in Hebrews chapter 11, the author here is reminding and commanding that we, who are in Christ, remember those who set a good pattern in life that we should follow. Some leaders of the faith are still alive today, yet some are walking the streets of gold, even now – they are living in and enjoying their eternal inheritance. Dr. Constable writes that “people tend to forget or to idolize their former leaders, but we should ‘remember’ them, ‘considering’ their godly teachings and examples, plus ‘the result of their conduct’ – the plenteous fruit of many lives edified” (13:7).
Those Who Have Gone Before
When I think upon my experience as an older college student, I am specifically reminded of those who have gone before me, who have instructed me, and those who are worth imitating. In fact, it is with a sincere heart I attempt to imitate those who have gone before me, remembering and considering their godly teachings and examples (Constable). Through the teachings and examples of those who instructed and taught me, I found my calling to care. My specific calling is in the field of college ministry as a student affairs professional.
I know through my hardest efforts I cannot save the world – I cannot even save one soul as much as I may try. However, I have the opportunity to preach Christ, to boast in Christ, and to show Christ’s grace on a daily basis with those students with whom I interact. Students are coming to college with an understanding of who they think they are, and that somehow or some way they will be able to save themselves in this world. Some are asking the wrong questions, turning to money, fame, and prestige to save them. However, what many of them do not realize is the things of this world will pass away (1 Cor. 7:31; 1 Jn. 2:17)! Why would we be rooted in anything else but the eternality of the Lord?
The Need for Holistic Self-Appraisal
Often, students are not rooted in the Lord and a connection needs to be made for college students to be developed holistically. In the book A Calling to Care: Nurturing College Students Toward Wholeness, Timothy Herrman states,
We [higher education professionals] are burdened by issues of finance, state and federal support, institutional and individual identity, free speech, racial and social equity, technology, curriculum, and even purpose. These are indeed difficult days in higher education, and these troubles do not just threaten the well-being of higher education, but they sometimes sap the energy, resources, and even resolve to do what is best for those whose welfare has been entrusted to us. Despite current realities and the differing perspectives held by those who work in higher education, there is one outcome of higher education upon which all educators and educational leaders surely agree: students ought to leave college stronger – intellectually, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually – than they came … to properly educate college students requires a concern for and commitment to a holistic vision of their care (14).
Some may believe our calling to care for college students is simply for the purpose to promote, facilitate, and foster student learning in the classroom. There is no doubt that is a part of the educational process. However, many institutions have neglected to see the importance of developing the whole person – not just the intellect.
In their article “Reimagining the Cocurricular: Transforming the Bubble to a Greenhouse,” Smith and Felch write
Cocurricular educators are concerned with more than a narrow range of capacities, such as the intellectual development of students. A holistic concept of student development helps students consider what their intellectual development has to do with their emotional, physical, behavioral, and other capacities…. [Additionally], cocurricular educators are more likely to focus on a wider range of different student identities. They focus not only on what it means to be a good student … but they also help students explore what it means to be a good neighbor, friend, man or woman, community member, citizen, and so on. The challenge, though, is how a university or individual student within a university can bring coherence to these capacities and identities (273).
The argument made is “cocurricular educators cannot know what students should become unless they know who they are and who they are meant to be. This identity provides a key to understanding our divinely established purpose” (281). In the midst of social pressures, worldly pressures, and peer pressures, students may forget, or may not even know, that it is the creator God who defines who they are. They need to be reminded (and ourselves at times) that first, we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27); second, we belong to the Lord (1 Jn. 4:4); and third, God has already won the battle for us and we were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20).
Who We Are in Christ
Our intrinsic value is in the work and person of Jesus Christ. If we are to recall, be reminded of, and imitate those who have gone before us, and if we are attempting to foster students’ holistic development, we must remind them of who they are in the eyes of the Lord. Smith and Felch further state that “only when cocurricular educators and students have an understanding of this story we inhabit and our identity within it can they understand the ends or purposes of their overall endeavor. We can begin this process by drawing on the biblical narrative” (281).
If holistic educators wish to be excellent mentors, examples, and models of the Christian faith, we must ourselves be imitators of Christ. May we never forget the person and work of those who have been excellent imitators of Christ. We must be reminded we are to imitate their faith, as we are called to imitate Christ (Phil. 2). May it be said of us that we let our light shine before others, so that they could see our good works and give glory to our God and Father who is in Heaven (Matt. 5:16).
While my specific calling to care may be in the field of student affairs within higher education, each one of us has a calling to care. How are you doing in imitating Christ? Are you worth imitating as you imitate Christ? Are you remembering and imitating those who have gone before you? What is your specific calling to care?
One of the last conversations I had with Mr. David Glock was about the frustration I had concerning students’ apathy toward spiritual things. To this day, a sign hangs in my office with his words that reflect the Word of God: “Stand firm. We do not labor in vain in the Lord.” Even in his old age, as he imitated Christ, he gave Godly counsel to a young man who had a calling to care. When we labor, remember those who have gone before you, imitate them, and be reminded that we do not labor in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58).
Constable, T. L. Notes on Hebrews. Retrieved from: https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/hebrews/hebrews.htm. 2019.
Herrmann, T. W. “Introduction.”In Herrmann, T. W. and K. D. Riedel, K. D. (Eds.) A Calling to Care: Nurturing College Students Toward Wholeness. (pp. 13-19). Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2018.
Smith, D. I. and S. M. Felch. “Reimagining the Cocurricular: Transforming the Bubble to a Greenhouse. In Glanzer, P. L., N. F. Alleman, and T. C. Ream. Restoring the Soul of the University: Unifying Christian Higher Education in a Fragmented Age (pp. 272-295). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2017.
John Walker is the Dean of Student Life at Central Christian College of Kansas in McPherson, KS. He is an Emmaus Bible College Alumnus (2014). He is currently a Doctoral candidate of Education in Higher Education Leadership from Missouri Baptist University, and has other degrees in Student Affairs, Biblical Studies, and Business. John is the husband of Sarah (class of 2013) and father of three beautiful children.
Dr. John Walker is the Superintendent of Central Christian School in Hutchinson, Kansas. He is a 2014 graduate of Emmaus Bible College, Cum Laude, in Biblical Studies. He has worked in education throughout his professional career, dedicating his service to private, Christian education. He successfully defended his dissertation in February 2021, obtaining his Doctor of Education in Higher Education Leadership from Missouri Baptist University. He attends Grace Bible Church in Hutchinson, KS where he resides with his wife (Sarah, EBC ‘13) and four kids.