Over the past month, I’ve been writing about how we in biblical higher education must adapt to massive shifts that are occurring in our world and yet avoid succumbing to mission drift. Thus far, I have illustrated how the shift from a Christendom to a missional cultural milieu will require us to re-construe what we mean by ministry vocation and to re-imagine our curricula while resolutely maintaining clarity about what motivates the initiation of a given curricular program, what constitutes the appropriate program content and design, and what validates the quality of our programs. As we do so, staggering shifts in demographic and sociographic realities also demand our attention. We dare not deny or downplay these shifts as a threat or even an inconvenient puzzle. We should rather acknowledge and embrace them as a God-sent blessing and boon.
An altered demographic pattern
I doubt it has escaped your notice that North America’s demographic landscape is undergoing a huge shift in ethnic/cultural/religious diversity. According to Pew Foundation research, by 2050:
- the percentage of US whites will decline from roughly two-thirds to less than 50%;
- the percentage of blacks will remain virtually the same at about 8%;
- the percentage of Asian Americans will grow from one in twenty to one in ten;
- the proportion of Hispanic/Latino people will double from about 15% to 30%, more than doubling the percentage of blacks.
In some ways, the Canadian demographic and cultural landscape is even more diverse–especially in major cities such as Toronto and Vancouver.
This presents both a spiritual and practical challenge. Practically speaking, many of our institutions are not likely to survive, much less thrive, if we fail to exercise intentionality to embrace and grow in diversity. Spiritually speaking, moreover, we have the opportunity to break out of our ethnic enclaves and grow in our experience and expression of the reconciling power of the Good News. In a multicultural society, how can it be God-honoring for our student bodies, faculty & staff, governing boards, stakeholder churches, and our association to be mono-cultural?
An altered sociographic playing field
This remap of our reality includes not only North American population proportions but also the church’s center of gravity. According to historians Andrew Walls, Lamin Sanneh and others, Christianity’s heartland is now the global south, not North America. The evangelical church of the southern hemisphere has eclipsed its counterpart in the northern hemisphere. It is larger, faster growing, more doctrinally orthodox, and more spiritually vital. That reality calls us to examine the role our biblical higher education institutions play in global gospel advance. Given the explosive growth and vitality of the global church, the spiritual erosion that plagues our homeland, and the failures and flaws of 19th and 20th century missionary endeavor, it is tempting to turn inward. To do so would not only be disobedient to the Great Commission but also deathly to our spiritual vitality. Yet, as we call and equip an emerging generation for cross-cultural gospel endeavor, we need, as a minimum, to do a better job of purging any vestige of cultural superiority and cultivating a deep desire and disposition toward intercultural collaboration.
In my next post, I’ll talk about another shift that requires our attention: from a transactional to transformational understanding of the gospel.
Fresh gleanings to fuel your leadership awareness, reflection, and conversations …
If you had any doubt the US Department of Education is serious about incentivizing innovative forms of education, doubt no more. This month, the department released guidelines for alternative Title IV student aid eligibility that bypass accreditation by a recognized agency. The good news: there will be more space for fresh innovation unencumbered by conventional accreditation standards. The bad news: the government has taken the first step in displacing peer review as the exclusive and most reliable quality assurance mechanism and instead will establish itself as a quality review agency—with the power of Title IV eligibility purse strings to back it up.
My colleague, nexleader Executive Director, Steve Moore, likes to remind me of this axiom: a sure sign of a dying institution is when they are fixed on price as the sole differentiator. Do you have a clear grasp of what differentiates your institution? Is that understanding a cornerstone of your marketing and enrollment management strategy? If not, you could learn something by reading Chris Witt’s post, Compete on Differentiators, Not on Price or Quality.