STANDING TALL AND INTEGRATION IN ALL AREAS OF LIFE
By Dr. Brian Simmons
August 17, 2023
Leaders who effectively integrate faith with life inspire us!
Hobby Lobby has become one of America’s favorite arts and crafts stores! In his book, More Than A Hobby, David Green recounted a foundational story from the early years of his business. Every year at Christmas and Easter, Hobby Lobby buys a full-page ad in newspapers nationwide. At Christmas, the story is told of the virgin birth of Jesus; and at Easter, readers are reminded that Jesus rose from the dead. David wrote that he receives many letters following these two holidays every year urging him to keep his private life separate from his business life.
In other words, he is urged to embrace a secular/sacred dichotomy and to kneel to the prevalent culture. At one point, he was so troubled that he looked up the word material in the dictionary and read the definition: “without God”! He wrote in his book that no part of his life is without God! He has chosen instead to stand tall, realizing that every aspect of his life, including Hobby Lobby, is about God!
Integration is defined as the blending of separate parts into a unified whole. Biblical integration is a bit of a misnomer because Truth is an integrated whole. God’s Word, the Holy Bible, is Truth, and Jesus Christ came to earth as the personification of Truth! The secularists of our day say there is no God and actively seek to disintegrate Truth. The Bible teaches,
“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to Him.” ~ Psalm 24:1
He is the Creator, and we are His stewards! God retains the rights of all He has created. Stewards do not live in the realm of rights. Stewards live in the realm of responsibilities.
Integration in a Christian University
As educational leaders, we must be learners as we seek Truth in various academic disciplines. Christian educators look at the theories, ideas, and principles in our fields through the lens of Scripture. Picture a textbook in my left hand fully outstretched with a Bible in my right hand between my eyes and the book. Because one of the core values of Columbia International University, where I serve as Vice President of CIU Global, is the Authority of Scripture, we look through the lens of the Word of God. We stand for principles in our textbooks that align with Truth, which ones don’t, and why.
We lead our students in discussions that emanate from our mission to educate students from a biblical worldview to impact the nations with the message of Christ!
Here is an example of this biblical integration from week two of LDR 9610 Steward Leadership in the Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership degree program offered online through the CIU Global School. I shared this personal story with my doctoral students as recorded in my book, A Call to Action:
All things, including our relationships with others, are from Him. This reminded me of a few years ago when I accepted the call to become the Association of Christian Schools International (ASCI) president.
The ACSI headquarters is in Colorado Springs, Colorado, so my family and I were preparing for a lengthy move from Indiana. My youngest daughter, Aubrey, was in downtown Indianapolis the week of our activity, spending a few final hours with friends. My phone rang a little after midnight while I was crawling into bed. It was Aubrey.
She said, “Dad, which way do I go on Interstate 70 to get home?” just as I heard a loud CRASH, and the phone went dead. I leaped out of bed, pulled on my shorts, and raced downstairs to drive downtown when the phone rang again.
It was Aubrey, and she said, “Dad, I’m okay, but your Durango….”
As I drove downtown, I thought, the Durango is God’s. We can buy another vehicle. Then the thought hit me that Aubrey is also God’s, and He has entrusted my relationship with her to me as her father for a finite period! All things, including the people we love, are from Him!
A student and I interacted online about my experience with my daughter in the discussion forum. I quoted the student who wrote,
“We are not the proprietors of our lives but stewards of God’s creation. This includes our very lives, our resources, and, notably, our relationships.”This realization while challenging, pivots our perspective. Recognizing God as the owner and Creator of all, including our loved ones, transforms our approach from ownership to stewardship. It fosters humility and nurtures a sense of responsibility and accountability. As leaders, we’re not dictators but custodians of God’s gifts, including the relationships we hold dear.”
I then posed a question. I wrote, “Why did this experience with my daughter ‘pivot your perspective’”?
A dictator is a person who has (or at least thinks they have) absolute power to make their own decisions without any external accountability. If there is no Creator, then as human beings, we would be inclined to oppose anyone who stands in the way of our power to live as we, please. We would be focused on our rights.
A steward realizes that nothing they have is their own to do with as they please! This is a fundamentally different perspective than the person who says there is no God! Here at CIU, we educate students from a biblical worldview to impact the nations with the message of Christ.
We integrate faith and learning at CIU with the hope and prayer that our students will integrate faith and life! As a Christian University, we return value to our students as we purposefully lean into who we are and why we exist (our mission) as a Christian university!
Integration of Faith and Life
Here is a familiar Bible story Dr. Scott Rodin wrote in the preface to A Call to Action.
In Daniel chapter 3, we read the familiar story of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and the fiery furnace. Most often, when this story is shared, the focus is on the miraculous rescue of the three from the blazing inferno.
As we consider our response to the challenges facing our country and world, I want to focus on a different part of the story and its impact on our decisions. To me, the most challenging part of the drama is the command from King Nebuchadnezzar for all people to “fall” on their faces and worship the idol he had created once they heard his music playing (Dan. 3:4–5). It seems there were two purposes for this. The first was to ensure that all the citizens of the land were paying homage. The second was to identify any recusants.
What might we have done if given such a choice? As our American culture continues its rapid moral decline, the values of the kingdom of God and its central messages of sin, grace, salvation, sacrifice, and obedience are standing out in the starkest contrast against a background of narcissism and human avarice—so much so that we are considered anathema to those bent on driving the Christian message from all public life.
The increasing acrimony toward the Christian message is a modern version of the king’s music, heard through the power of intimidation, social media threats, ostracization, and condemnation. When it plays, how do we respond? Do we stand firm, burned in the fire of public disapproval? Or do we bow down and let our silence save us?
I wonder if we, as evangelicals in America, are choosing a third option or at least attempting it. While it’s easy to say we will stand firm and face the flames of an increasingly hostile culture, I wonder if, too often, we try to find a middle ground.
In Daniel’s day, as the music started playing, imagine if Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had responded by bending over just enough to appear to the authorities to be bowing down to save them from the furnace while also seeming to be standing up just enough not to forsake their faith. What a sad scene!
The three would have nothing to do with such a compromise. They stood tall for all to see. They refused to be “crouching Christians”! Their faith reflected Jesus’s last command:
“Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
As followers of Jesus Christ and steward leaders, we realize no secular/sacred dichotomy exists in our life and work. It is all about Him!
So, in our vocational realms (workplaces), let’s stand tall for Christ! As Tom Nelson writes,
“Let’s close the gap between worship on Sunday and work on Monday! In our families, stand tall! In our neighborhoods and communities, stand tall! In our churches, stand tall!”
As steward leaders, let’s live out the reality that every facet of our lives belongs to God! As Creator, God retains His ownership rights for all He has created! We find meaning and purpose in life as we submit our will to His for all He has SO graciously entrusted to our care.
Standing Tall With Full Integration was reposted with permission from Christian Leadership Alliance.
Dr. Brian S. Simmons is the Vice President of CIU Global and a Professor at Columbia International University. He exists as a visionary builder to further the kingdom of God through Christian education, teaching, and influencing others.