“I look at the campus as its people. It’s not just buildings or structures. It’s the students, faculty, and staff who need to know Christ.” said John Foubert, an Associate Professor of College Student Development at Oklahoma State University (OSU) in Stillwater.
John moved from Virginia to Oklahoma two years ago and soon connected with a growing group of evangelical Christians on faculty. They wanted the help and resources a national organization could provide, and last September they became a faculty community with InterVarsity. “A big part of our mission is letting students and faculty know we exist and we’re active,” said John. “We want there to be a visible presence of Christian faculty alive and well on campus.”
Articulating a Vibrant Faith
When John arrived in Oklahoma, a Bible Belt state, it seemed there were Christians everywhere. “In coastal areas, you either are a Christian or you’re not. And it isn’t cool to be a Christian. Here it’s the norm,” said John. Despite a pervasive Christian culture, John found that many students and faculty still could not articulate what it meant to follow Christ as their Lord.
Now called the InterVarsity Christian Faculty Association, the fellowship provides a place for faculty to grow in and explore their faith by hosting monthly forums. Local pastors and faculty members are invited to speak on following God’s call on campus and in research. For Dale Fuqua, OSU’s Regents Professor of Educational Studies,the forums are thought-provoking, allowing opportunities for him to integrate faith with his professional role. “Sharing the joys of a life lived through Jesus Christ has encouraged many of us in an environment too often hostile to our beliefs,” said Dale.
The fellowship uses their Facebook group to make their presence known on campus and sends handwritten notes of welcome when new faculty join OSU. They plan to start a Bible study for faculty and are considering other ways to reach out with the gospel to their peers and better support their students.
“We need to be about leading people to Christ,” said John. “When you have faculty in leadership positions on campus, standing on principles of biblical truth, you can be a redeeming influence on campus.”
With Truth on Our Side
In his own work, John pursues areas of research where he can make a positive difference, such as in the prevention of sexual violence, an area where few Christian voices are heard. Some people assume that victims of sexual violence are at fault by placing themselves in risky situations, but that often is not the case. In both Christian and secular venues, John has opportunities to educate people on the causes of sexual violence, particularly the way the pornography industry perpetuates systems of violence.
“I can speak about sexual assault as a professor who has done research and as someone who has seen men in the Church destroyed by the effects of pornography,” said John. Because he is motivated by Christ’s love for the vulnerable and builds on the credibility of past research, he believes he “can be dangerous to the porn industry.”
As John and other fellowship members explore ways to honor God through their work in various fields and among their students, they hope the presence of biblical truth will prevail over postmodern thinking in the university’s culture. “My faith is the center of my world. I believe there is absolute truth. That’s in opposition to postmodern thinking, and it puts me at odds with some people in higher education who believe truth is personally intuited and all relative,” said John. “In some sense, I’m called to be at a secular campus where the battle can be engaged.”
The new community is a thriving place for Christian faculty to grow in community and in their faith. “It’s an exciting adventure to see where God will lead the fellowship,” said John.