“The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.” Proverbs 29:25 (Message Bible)
Looking back on my years in the academy, I believe many times failure to mention our faith to our students and colleagues is because of fearing the possible consequences (e.g., rejection, ridicule, persecution).
Satan uses this to keep us quiet, to keep our “lights” well hidden from those desperately needing to hear the life-saving truth. We forget the crucial second half of the verse declaring that God is our ultimate source of safety and protection if we truly lean on Him.
Starting my career at Texas Tech I was convinced the Lord wanted me to give verbal witness in my department. My chairman, though active in his church, watched me intently. Previously some in the department inappropriately “preached” to students while neglecting classroom teaching and failing to demonstrate an interest in research.
I Never Knew Any
I knew my teaching and research had to be high quality or my witness would be essentially worthless. Yet, when I looked back on my undergraduate years at Dartmouth, I was grieved that I never knew any professors who identified themselves as followers of Christ. Did I want my colleagues and students to think that I was just “a good guy?” Definitely not! I felt that remaining silent would rob God of the glory due Him for any good fruit others saw in my life.
With that in mind, I did identify myself as a follower of Christ in each class that I taught for 27 years at Texas Tech. I recall that I prayed before each of those first class day sessions – specifically asking for boldness, humility, and protection. I would tell the class I would take about five minutes to “introduce” myself, and then they could introduce themselves to their classmates. In that brief introduction (where I grew up, my colleges, my family, research interests, I included these sentences: “The big thing in my life occurred when I was in high school. I became a Christian. As important as electrical engineering is to me, my faith in Christ is even more important. If anyone wants to discuss Christianity with me outside of class, I’m available.” By God’s grace I never heard a single complaint from my chairman or students during that time.
I do know that some faculty colleagues and perhaps some of my students made comments about my being outspoken about my faith. My first chairman used to joke about me being good at “sticking my foot in my mouth,” though I may honestly have earned that moniker.
My Simple Declaration
Did my simple declaration have an impact for God’s kingdom? Probably nothing else opened more doors for witnessing as those brief declarations of my faith.
To illustrate, when I retired early to join Faculty Commons staff, the EE student honor society asked me to speak to them about what motivated me to do such a thing. This gave another opportunity to talk about my faith and what I hoped God would do in using me to encourage Christian faculty in subsequent years.
Have I found repeatedly that Proverbs 29:25 is true? Absolutely! Should we expect raised eyebrows and occasional criticism from some who learn we’re believers? Without a doubt. But should that keep us silent about the greatest thing that’s ever happened to us?
© 2010 John Walkup
Emeritus, Electrical Engineering
Texas Tech University
Faculty Commons Staff