I am asked this question from time to time. It is a legitimate question, since most of the preachers in the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ are educated in our Christian colleges or universities, and all of us are supported by the churches. Sometimes, however, the question is prompted by misinformation, even by misrepresentation. I cannot answer for the emphasis placed on preaching elsewhere, but I do know about the attention given to it at Johnson University in Florida and in Tennessee.
Preaching is a major academic program on both campuses.
In the fall semester of the 2013-14 school year, 40% of the male students were enrolled in one of the preaching programs on the Tennessee campus (not including 15% of them in youth ministry and missions); 11% of the males on the Florida campus were in one of the preaching programs (not including 14% of them in youth ministry and missions). A professor of ministry has been added to the Florida campus faculty and appointed assistant dean of the School of Congregational Ministry. Changes in the Florida curriculum will place a stronger emphasis on preaching.
Both campuses have scholarship funds designated for preaching students and promote the increase of those funds.
The relatively new Bob Russell Preaching Center in the middle of the Johnson University campus in Tennessee is testimony to the ongoing commitment of the University to preaching.
Required chapels on both campuses are mainly worship services with preaching being a major part of the service. Good preachers serve as models for the students in these chapel services.
The dean of the School of Congregational Ministry is conducting Preach Workshops all over the eastern part of the country. They are designed for those who are exploring the call to preaching, those considering a career change into preaching, those who desire a refresher in preaching fundamentals, and those seeking help in preparing biblical lessons. These workshops are also targeted for central Florida and Johnson University Florida.
Preaching ministers who are alumni of both campuses serve in pulpits all over the nation and around the world. The senior ministers of 40 of the 205 Christian churches in Florida are alumni of Johnson University Florida. In all, 117 of Johnson University Florida alumni serve in some full-time ministry position in the Christian churches in Florida. In addition, a large number of alumni of Johnson University Tennessee are full-time ministers in Florida.
In the face of these results the University confronts a culture that runs counter to the recruitment and education of preachers. How many high school guidance counselors will “guide” students into the preaching ministry? Instead, many will be asked, sometimes by family and friends, “With your intelligence, ability, and personality, why would you consider preaching for a career?” Even in most churches, recruiting for the preaching ministry is not a priority, as it was in many fifty years ago. Moreover, fifty years ago, many churches would call a preaching minister just graduated from college. Few will do so now. So, we give many young prospective ministers youth ministry preparation so they can serve effectively until a preaching opportunity opens.
I have given my entire adult life to the education of people for Christian service. The truth of the matter is that we give far more time, effort, and money to the recruitment and education of both men and women to serve the Lord in whatever field to which He calls them, including preaching, than most of those who take “pot shots” at us with little concern for the unfortunate influence their often misrepresentations have on the uninformed.
Now, while we are recruiting and educating preachers, we are also preparing Bible translators, missionary evangelists and church planters, youth ministers, worship ministers, children’s ministers, Christian school teachers, Christian counselors, leaders for Christian nonprofit agencies, and Christian media specialists. The fastest growing programs on the Tennessee campus (percentage wise in the last few years) are the intercultural studies (missions) programs with concentrations in Islamic studies, Chinese studies, Latino studies, teaching English as a second language, etc. The dean of the School of Intercultural Studies has recently been on the Florida campus meeting with the intercultural studies professor and some Christian Latino leaders to explore ways to expand the University’s outreach to the Latin community. Osceola County is 60% Latino.
Some people have drawn the erroneous conclusion that Johnson is now a secular university and that academic programs, other than preaching and a few others, are secular programs. That is simply not true. The mission of Johnson University is “to educate students for Christian ministries and other strategic vocations framed by the Great Commission in order to extend the Kingdom of God among all nations.” No secular university ever had that for a mission. All programs at Johnson University are aimed at equipping missionary ambassadors for Christ.
Graduates from both campuses are literally impacting the world for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only God knows the full extent of their service. The late B. D. Phillips Sr. used to say that he supported Johnson Bible College, now Johnson University, because it had an influence that was all out of proportion to its size. In my opinion that statement is as true as it has ever been. These graduates, the present students who are following them, and the University that provides their education are worthy of support.