Pillar Ten: Move to the Next Level as an Institution

He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much.  — Luke 16:10 (NASB)

Christ’s aim was not to produce a little sect, which would have been comparatively easy, but to change the entire human enterprise. — Elton Trueblood [i]

Christian universities of the modern era (particularly Protestant ones) have, for the most part, chosen to maintain small communities of academic excellence. They have achieved a great deal in this way. Wheaton and Calvin, for example, though small and heavily focused on undergraduate education, have trained large numbers of prominent citizens out of proportion to their size.

We propose to blaze a new trail by growing substantially so that we impact the culture from a broader base of students and faculty. Our decision to grow is based on both market circumstances and our desire to turn a single talent (to employ the biblical metaphor) into ten.

Consider the following: metropolitan Houston is home to over four million people and growing. One could conservatively estimate that roughly one quarter of that number are evangelicals. A much larger number would be Christians of some other kind, such as Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and others. That would mean our university has a potential constituency of stakeholders who number a million or more just in the city. Expand that number to include all of Texas and the rest of the southeast and it is truly substantial.

One reason Christian colleges and universities like HBU are not pushed far beyond their capacity with applicants and remain small is simple. They compete with state-subsidized universities that offer much lower tuition and often more diverse degree options. Even though large numbers of parents and students would likely prefer a college education at an institution that takes the faith seriously, they are intimidated by the cost, while also looking for expansive career opportunities for their children.

It is part of our vision to build a large Christian university, despite the historical tendency of Protestants toward small regional schools, and to achieve our growth by successfully making the case for investing in Christian education to donors. Our case is straightforward, and we will make it repeatedly during the next decade. People of Christian faith can make the difference for students by giving strategically to scholarship funds and by subsidizing the activities of the university.

The handful of years a student spends in the university tends to be life-changing and worldview-forming. It is during those years that young adults begin to decide who they are, whom they will marry, how they are going to vote, what their profession will be, how they will manage their money, and whether they will continue to go to church. The vast majority of Americans who end up running the government, cultural institutions, the media, and corporations have been through college. The university experience is a channel of influence through which an increasing number of young people pass. To cede those years of growth and maturation to an educational system that is resolutely secular and places very little value on Christian thinking and virtues is irresponsible and a recipe for marginalization. The Catholic Church has realized the importance of higher education and presides over a strong network of colleges and universities, though the decline of the religious character of their institutions has been noted and documented.[ii]  Christians of all stripes – evangelicals, other Protestants, and Catholics – must re-engage their historic commitments to the foundational importance of a university education that is marked by the distinctive convictions and values of historic Christianity. The church must again consider the university as part of its mission because the university is so closely tied to the future of the society.

HBU recognizes the need for a much larger investment in the Christian university. There must be more students, more faculty, more graduate programs, more graduate assistantships, more public lectures, and more academic centers. The university we have described in this vision is a national university, not the regional, master’s granting institution we have proudly been. Our size and our mission will expand over the next twelve years while we transition into the kind of comprehensive national Christian university that the great city of Houston can surely support.

For these reasons, we propose to grow. Our 2007-2008 freshman class was the largest in the university’s history. The 2008-2009 class is on pace to break that record. We anticipate that during the next several years we will continue to set new marks. Our goal simply stated is to triple the size of our student body and to hire the number of new faculty members sufficient to maintain or improve our current faculty-student ratios. Each student will have carefully considered the meaning of his or her faith spiritually, physically, and intellectually. At the same time, our campus will grow in size, in buildings, and in programs. HBU’s vision is to become a shining light in the city of Houston and to send our emissaries into the whole world of corporations, financial markets, ministries, schools, television, universities, governments, medicine, Hollywood, entertainment, law firms, and the media.

The foundation of all the efforts detailed here will be to produce graduates who have been challenged to think carefully and critically, to write and speak clearly and effectively, to demonstrate integrity in their daily lives, and to see their faith as being important both to their behavior and to their way of thinking.

Our commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ demands nothing less – and surely even more than we have imagined – than the pursuit of this Vision: The Ten Pillars: Faith and Reason in a Great City.

[i] The Incendiary Fellowship, Harper & Row, 1967.
[ii] James Tunstead Burtchaell, The Dying of the Light, Eerdmans, 1998.