More Than a Matter of Percentage

By Mark A. Taylor

Please notice one new bit of information in this year’s Christian college summary—and tell us what you think about it!

We’re speaking of the column headed “% Restoration Movement.” We asked the schools who contribute to this report, “What percentage of your student body has roots in Stone-Campbell congregations typically referred to as the Restoration Movement?” All of them except two, who don’t track this information, gave us a figure.

What are we to conclude from the wide range of percentages reported?

• The percentage of Restoration Movement students enrolling in these schools is not, in itself, either good or bad. In many cases it is only natural that a high-quality college or university would attract students from outside the Christian churches and churches of Christ surrounding it. This is a compliment to the quality of the institution and an opportunity for the school to serve its community.

But we might wonder how the school’s support base feels about this. Does a school depend on Restoration Movement members for most of its income? Do those donors understand what the school is accomplishing with students (sometimes many students) from a diversity of religious backgrounds?

• Christian churches are increasingly open to influence from and association with believers in other groups. The percentages on our chart reflect what’s already happening in the churches.

This can be seen as bad (“the Restoration Movement is losing its identity”) or good (“the Restoration Movement is extending its influence”). The percentage alone doesn’t tell us which is more accurate.

• It would be interesting to see how many students from Restoration churches are presently enrolled in general evangelical Christian liberal arts schools. What would we conclude if, say, Biola or Taylor University had a percentage of such students as high as the lowest figure (7.5 percent) reported among “our” schools?

• Most of this boils down to a question of mission. Do we believe all this year’s 3,000 or so new graduates from these schools will become workers in Christian churches or churches of Christ? These percentages make such a conclusion doubtful if not impossible. But is producing workers for Restoration churches the only mission that would justify the existence of these schools?

The purpose of including this statistic is the same as that for reporting any of the others: to start a discussion. Every CHRISTIAN STANDARD reader interested in Christian higher education should care about the schools reporting in this issue—and demonstrate that concern by talking with the schools about their goals and progress and challenges. We hope this issue can lend substance to the conversation.

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