“Understanding the Challenges, Embracing His Excellence” August 26, 2016 –

Thank you so much for your kindness. That I stand here before you today convinces me as much as many other things He has done in my life, that God indeed has a sense of humor. That He should allow me to stand at all convinces me all the more of His mercy and grace. And that He should bring us all together for such a time as this convinces me yet again that His sovereign design and His purpose shall stand. Because of Him we can stand fearless in the face of any challenge.

Thank you all for being here. You are all distinguished guests, and your generosity in sharing these moments with us is a great kindness.

Thank you, Dr’s Chipchase and Clark – you have been faithful Presidents of Calvary. You finished well, and I am thankful for your willingness to now serve as Presidents Emeritus.

Your service, tenacity, and diligence have made this next chapter in Calvary’s history possible. I praise God for you both, and I thank you for your examples and for your friendship.

Cone Inaugural Address Calvary UniversityThank you to those who labor with me as staff and faculty at Calvary. Thank you for welcoming my family and me during these past eight months, thank you for your commitment to excellence, for your agility, and for your willingness to soar. It is one of the great honors of my life to be able to serve with you here.

Thank you, students of Calvary for your willingness to study, to learn, to grow, and to walk with our Lord. I pray that this chapter in Calvary’s history is an exciting and encouraging one for you. Our desire is to honor God by serving you well. Hold us accountable, and hold us in your prayers.

Thank you to the Board of Trustees for your sustained godly leadership of Calvary. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to serve at Calvary. I shall hope that people will not think poorly of you for this one lapse in your judgment.

Thank you for investing this confidence in me, for your continuing support, and for your friendship. I reaffirm that I accept the appointment to serve God by serving you, and as God gives me breath I shall strive to be faithful in the task you have set before me.

Before we consider the future, lets take a moment to look back. Our first glance back does not take us far at all. Dr. Clark, will you join me at the podium?

I so appreciated spending the time working side by side with Dr. Clark, getting to know him. It was obvious how much he has invested in Calvary, and how beloved he and DeLoris truly are. We never want to miss an opportunity to say thank you, and to honor our Lord’s servants.

The leadership of our Learning Center – that you founded –recommended a meaningful way we could show our gratitude to you Dr. Clark, and honor your service to Calvary. So we want you to know that we no longer have a Learning Center, now we have the Clark Academic Center. Thank you, Dr. Clark for your diligence and faithfulness. We love you and appreciate you.

Now we take another look back, this time we go back a bit further. Thanks to our good friend, Harry Waterhouse, we have a record from December 1950, when Dr. Walter Wilson recounted the founding of what is now called Calvary University. Wilson stated his desire to build a “truth-teaching Bible school that would supply well-taught men and women for the great harvest field.”[i] That sounds remarkably like the longstanding mission of Calvary University – “to prepare Christians to live and serve in the church and in the world according to a Biblical worldview.” On what Wilson described as a “beautiful day” on January 20th, 1932, twenty men and women met, and as Wilson put it, “preliminary steps were taken, and a fund was started…”[ii] Eight months later, classes began with seven full-time day students.

As we near Calvary’s eighty-fifth birthday, we have observed that through many chapters and many changes God has brought Calvary to this moment in history. These days are like none that we have seen before. They present remarkable challenges and great opportunities to demonstrate His excellence. There are three challenges worthy of our brief consideration today, and three areas where we must take bold action if we would be faithful with the moment before us.

First, there is a steady cultural shift away from the Bible as God’s authoritative word. In just the past few years, the number of those who believe the Bible to be simply a collection of stories or advice has virtually doubled (from 10% to 19%).[iii] Two thirds of that group are age 48 or younger. 87% of that group does not typically attend church. Additionally, Millennials are 50% less likely to have read the Bible than older adults. The Barna Group concludes that, “Given the increase in Millennials who don’t believe the Bible is sacred and the decrease in Bible awareness among Millennials, Bible skepticism will likely continue to rise in the next five years.”[iv]

Some might conclude from these statistics that if Calvary University is to remain relevant in an increasingly secular culture it must ultimately abandon the Bible, or at least feature it less prominently. As God gives us breath, we will not draw such a conclusion. We commit to showing with excellence from our staff, faculty and graduates that God’s word is as relevant as it has ever been, and that the Bible provides everything needed for equipping and adequacy.

The Bible is a required textbook in every course at Calvary. The Biblical worldview undergirds every course at Calvary. The men and women who teach at Calvary have committed to faithfully preparing every student in every class with the Biblical foundations for every field of study. God’s word is and will always remain at the center of relevance, and Calvary University’s primary concern is that it be rightly positioned with God and the word He has so graciously given.

Not only are we focused on handling the Bible well and teaching it accurately, but we are committed to doing and being what His word asks of us. I believe it was D.L. Moody who once said, “The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.” Paul put it even more succinctly in 1 Timothy 1:5 – a verse that is quoted in the Calvary University seal: “…the goal of our instruction is love.”

A second great challenge of our times is the rapid increase in government regulation and the accompanying pressure to drift from our mission. On Calvary’s eighty-fifth birthday a new President of the United States will take office and new policies for higher education will begin to emerge. Those policies will likely include greater subsidies for public colleges and universities, designed to greatly reduce and even eliminate student tuition costs.

At first hearing that sounds very appealing. But the consequence of increased government participation means increased government regulation and ultimately decreased choice for students. With decreased choice comes decreased competition, and with decreased competition comes decreased quality. As the United States adopts an increasingly socialized model for higher education, private education becomes more and more difficult to sustain. Consider this five-year-old diagnosis from The Center for International Higher Education, regarding one European context,

“Expansion of the private sector seems to be over. Private higher education is desperately looking for survival strategies in the face of declining demographics…

The shrinking private sector will be aggressively turning to politicians to get increased access to state-subsidies. They will focus on getting bigger shares of public funding…”[v]

Calvary University will not pursue increased access to state subsidies and public funding. Instead we will work to build private funding and to become more independent, so that we can maintain our Biblical emphasis and our commitment to excellence in educating the whole person.

shovel_and_dirt_555_370_all_5We also recognize the need to provide quality education at manageable costs so that our graduates are not burdened by excessive student debt. We are committed to leading the higher education sector, as we work toward the ultimate goal of removing the need for student debt altogether for Calvary University graduates.

We will combine decreased tuition rates starting next year with increased community partnerships and a newly refined Study Work Program to lower student costs and build broad support for Calvary’s growing in-house financial aid program.

We need your help in this, and if you have ever considered supporting Calvary financially, today is the day.

A third great challenge we face is in understanding the needs of the current and next generations of students and how to meet those needs. Statistics published even in the last few days tell us that only 38% of students taking the ACT test are prepared for the academic rigors of college.[vi] These numbers have declined and continue along that trajectory. Fewer and fewer students are ready, but they still all need someone to invest in their futures.

Strauss and Howe refer to the Millennial generation as “the Next Great Generation.”[vii] While critiques of millennials are not hard to find, there are some remarkable positives: they are innovators, they have an entrepreneurial spirit, they value authenticity, they are willing to lead, they value communication (even if they reject old methods and standards), and they are energized when inspired. Now, we are painting with a broad brush here, but these attributes are fairly obvious, I think. We must see these men and women how God sees them, and we must love and serve them in a way that is reflective of His character and His design.

We have an opportunity and an obligation to pour into this generation all that God has given us – in every field of study, with excellence. Calvary’s mission is simply a discipleship mission, and we have to be willing to understand that the students of today and tomorrow will be different from those of yesterday, even as we understand that the discipleship mandate knows no generational bounds.

In practical terms this means we are committed to providing courses and programs that will help prepare students for every level – from dual enrollment at the high school level to doctorate level expertise in post-graduate programs. We are committed to understanding those whom God has entrusted to us, to ensuring that we are communicating and teaching effectively, and to undergirding every class in every discipline with the Biblical worldview.

During this chapter in Calvary’s history, it is my prayer that Calvary be known for having overcome these three challenges by remaining firmly Biblical in every way, by becoming largely privately funded and even self sufficient, so that outside pressures don’t impact the content and quality of a Calvary University education, and by seeking to truly understand our students and serve and love them in such a way as to fulfill our mission to “prepare Christians to live and serve in the church and in the world according to a Biblical worldview.”

Ultimately, we long for His glory and His honor, and I believe if we are simply faithful together in fulfilling the moment-by-moment tasks He has set before us, that desired outcome is assured.

This next chapter for Calvary will not be about its President, or any other individual. Surely we know by now that no individual ever accomplishes anything alone. No, this chapter will be about the amazing things God does with regular people who are available to be excellent for Him.

I like to think about Paul’s exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 4:1, “Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.”

Men and women of Calvary University, together, and as He provides, we shall excel still more.



[i] Harry S. Waterhouse III, The Making of a Warrior (Kansas City, MO, 2007), 3.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] The Barna Group, “The State of the Bible: 6 Trends for 2014” at https://www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/664-the-state-of-the-bible-6-trends-for-2014#.V7xDQpMrLeQ, April 8, 2015.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Marek Kwiek, “The Future of Higher Education in Central Europe: Changing Political and Demographic Dynamics” at https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/the_world_view/the_future_of_private_higher_education_in_central_europe_changing_political_and_demographic_dynamics, March 21, 2011.

[vi] Nick Anderson, “ACT scores show a smaller share of students are ‘college-ready’,” the Washington Post, at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/08/24/act-scores-show-a-smaller-share-of-students-are-college-ready/, 8/24/2016.

[vii] William Strauss and Neil Howe, Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation (New York: Vintage, 2000).