Dr. Parrott, president of the college, reflects on why Belhaven has adopted “Our Standard is Christ” as its new identifier.
“Everyone uses standards, even if their expectations are low, arbitrary, or self-serving. What is missing in our society are standards that require people and institutions to live up to the highest benchmarks of quality and integrity. In this time of misplaced standards, it is crucial to be reminded what standards do and why our standard is Christ.”For 125 years, we have been identifying ourselves as a Christian college, so why is that label no longer enough?
Back at Belhaven’s founding, or even 50 years ago, we were identified as a Christian College, and in those days, that was all the identification we needed. In that era, to be known as a Christian College made it clear to our constituency that all the faculty and staff were Christians who believed the Bible, were committed to Jesus, and taught and lived accordingly. No other descriptor was necessary.
But today, to be called a Christian college is generic to some, confusing to others, and misunderstood by many. Colleges that call themselves Christian represent a wide spectrum from the ultra conservative to the ultra liberal, and that identifier is inadequate to help our friends understand how faith is the foundation for all we do at Belhaven.
Many Christ-centered schools call themselves “evangelical.” So why don’t we just use that term as our identifier?
At Belhaven, we sometimes call ourselves an evangelical school, but the media has distorted that word for many, and even among the 110 schools of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities there is still wide diversity within that spectrum.
We have those I call, “pray before class” colleges. They hire Christian faculty and staff, have Christian behavioral standards, and they do pray at the start of every class-period. But they don’t teach much differently from what students would find at a secular university.
Moving along the spectrum, there is a large group of institutions that have a commitment to the integration of faith and learning, and like seasoning a soup, they flavor their instruction in and out of the classroom with Christian thought, although they do not have a comprehensive academic program that prepares students with a Christ-centered worldview.
But then there are a small handful of schools that have gone back to the source, to create curriculum, teach, coach, support, and advise from a solid biblical framework. I’m thankful that Belhaven is a leader among this group.
So to call ourselves a Christian college, and to lump us in with schools that range from those at the liberal end of the spectrum to those at the legalistic end, is about as adequate as calling Walt Disney World an amusement park. It is one, but the Disney people don’t want to be identified in that limited way, nor be pooled together with others in that category.
“Our Standard is Christ” is now on the letterhead for the College. Is this primarily a marketing slogan?
“Our Standard is Christ” is a wonderful way to describe Belhaven College; because Christ is the only standard we want for our students and the faculty and staff. This phrase identifies who we are, and whose we are, but it is not a marketing slogan—
it is a commitment.
Yes, it may be used in marketing, but its purpose is to define Belhaven College, not make us memorable. Tag lines are cute for marketing, but what we are talking about with this identifier goes to the very core of our mission and to the heart of our personal relationship with Christ.
Putting it on our web site, in our materials, and on advertisements is the public commitment of our inward desire. And like announcing to all your friends you’re going on a diet, there is nothing like making it public to help hold ourselves accountable internally.
What other “standards” were considered as the campus and board set this new identifier?
When you boil it all down, there is no other standard for us as a College, or for us as individual followers of Christ. Jesus set the standard for how we are to live with others, grapple with ideas, understand the world, love and forgive, set personal goals, and focus on what matters in life. Any other standard for Belhaven would be secondary to this high calling for every Christian.
In moving through this discussion about what standards are important to us, you have to ask the question: what other standards could there be? Any other standard we might consider is insignificant in comparison to “Our Standard is Christ.”
• Our Standard is the accrediting Associations
• Our Standard is XYZ University, Only More Christian
• Our Standard is Being Better Than We Were Last Year
• Our Standard is Gaining in Prestige
• Our Standard is US News and World Report National Rankings
No, the only standard that matters is Christ.
How do you answer those who believe Belhaven cannot be as strong academically if we are going to have a clear Christian focus?
I believe it is just to the contrary! Because Christ is our Standard, we have no option other than to be academically strong.
If strength is equated only to serving the top tier of IQ students coming out of high schools, we surely wouldn’t fit in that category – and wouldn’t want to. To me, academic strength is helping every student understand that he or she is uniquely created by God, and then help each discover their unique God given gifts, and push to achieve the Lord’s best for their life.
We have lots of students who can stand up in any national academic competition and other students who are doing their best to get “C’s.” But God doesn’t call any of us to live lives of failure. So if we can teach students to use all the gifts God has given them, do what He calls us to do, and not settle for anything less than a life of meaning and purpose – I’d call that excellence.
But it takes an exceptional faculty to teach with this Christ-centered understanding of quality. In the world of higher education that has eliminated Truth from teaching, holiness from living, and grace from relationships; we need to never waiver from our standard of excellence.
How can Belhaven College measure up to Christ?
That is the key question if this identifier drives to the core of Belhaven and is not simply a slogan for us. It is a challenging question to ask: how can we be like Jesus, since He was fully God on earth? Yes, He was, but He was also fully human. And focusing on those human traits that were God-filled, we have a clear picture of the standard Christ sets for us.
I’ve looked at it from many angles and with many insightful people, and it all comes down to this standard Jesus set for us: He spent time building His inner strength, so that outwardly, He could reveal the nature of God through what He did.
Everything Jesus did with others reflected the nature of God – from the work He did alongside Joseph as a carpenter’s apprentice – to preaching the Sermon on the Mount. From conversation over a meal, to struggling with fatigue from the business of a day, to the way He developed relationships – it was all about showing others the nature and love of God.
Every outward action in the life of Jesus grew from an inward spiritual strength, and so, for Him and for us, we can’t focus on the outcome without linking it to the indwelling of God in our heart, soul, and mind.
That is the key to a Belhaven education – helping students build God honoring inner character – so they can use their gifts to be people of quality and Christian service in their profession, community, and family – living lives that see, love, and understand the world as God designed it to be.
Specifically, how do you, faculty, staff, coaches and others lead Belhaven College when “Our Standard
We follow the pattern of Jesus. And if you look at how he lived his daily life – in the ordinary stuff we all do – I believe there are five characteristics that give us a standard to follow. Each one starts with an inward strength that results in an outward lifestyle pattern from Jesus.
In a nutshell, let me share the five principles I’ve found to be helpful in making Christ my standard. I’ve written about this in a book I have coming out next fall.
1. Jesus was Prayerful, so He could Live Genuinely
2. Jesus was Compassionate, so He could Love Unconditionally
3. Jesus was Humble, so He could Mentor Deeply
4. Jesus was Confident, so He could Assure Availability
5. Jesus was Focused, so He could Work Purposefully
Our world promotes career advancement, money, and influence as the standards by which we should be measured, so if Christ is the standard, what replaces that?
The world’s standards are wealth and power for selfish desires, while Jesus calls us to serve our world, not to be served by it. So it is not simply the choice of a vocation that is the standard of commitment to Christ, but rather the motivations behind our “success” that God is measuring.
Jesus understood the importance of his followers being salt and light in the marketplace. He called his disciples straight out of successful business careers. His teaching attracted huge crowds and influenced the culture at every level.
But the difference is this: Jesus lived in this world just as we do, but his focus was toward another place, not this one. He had a perspective that allowed him to understand what the new heaven and new earth would be, and so His priorities were eternal, not earthly.
He had been with God and would return there, so He had the assurance of something that takes lots more trust on our part to grasp. Jesus worked on this earth completely focused toward heaven, because He knew it was as genuine as the ground he walked in Galilee. Having that same earthly/eternal perspective leads us to the “abundant life” Christ taught us to seek.
If you had to sum it all up in an “15 second elevator speech” how would you describe this new standard for Belhaven College?
Jesus prayed, taught, mentored, and loved in ways that connected eternal life with earthly life. He made every day count, but He understood the ultimate goals and purpose of life.
That same Christ-centered worldview is what we want Belhaven graduates to treasure as they head into “the world of careers, ideas, and human relationships,” as our mission statement articulates.
Our Standard is Christ. There is no higher standard we could set as a College – and only with God’s help will Belhaven’s faculty and staff help our students achieve God’s best for their lives.