By David Eubanks, Johnson University President (1969–2007) and JUFL Chief Operating Officer (2013–2015)
In February 2013, shortly after Johnson University’s Board of Trustees favorably accepted the request of Florida Christian College’s board to bring FCC into Johnson University, Margaret and I were asked to come out of retirement and help bring about this reality on the Florida campus. We stayed there two and a half years, living on campus in a married student apartment among the students and some of the staff, greatly enjoying and benefiting from their fellowship. We soon became closely involved with the service of the devoted and capable people who worked there, some of whom had given themselves tirelessly and unreservedly for decades to the ongoing development of the institution since its inception as Central Florida Bible College.
In the course of our time there, I travelled throughout most of Florida, preaching in more than 80 churches and visiting alumni and friends. Margaret quaintly called these Sundays away our “enjoyable day trips,” although some of them were revivals or weekend appointments. My mission was to thank these churches and individuals for their goodwill and support, to assure them of the integrity of our efforts to restore Johnson University Florida to essential financial stability and to grow the enrollment, to ask them for their financial support so vital to the success of our efforts, and to assure them of our commitment to continue serving the Florida churches.
Some FCC friends I had known for years, even decades, some from previous preaching engagements in the state and others from their attendance at Senior Saints in Smokies on the Tennessee campus. We grew to love and appreciate these stakeholders who had played such a vital role in sustaining FCC for years, in many cases from its beginning. Two of them, now both widows, come to my mind as I write these lines. Both of them, with their husbands, were among the individuals and churches that helped found CFBB and have supported it generously down through FCC and JUFL to the present time, continuing even after their husbands died. We have visited them several times, even after leaving our work there, and admire, love, and appreciate them so much. They both created scholarship endowments at JUFL to help needy students receive an education to serve the Lord more effectively. They, like us, are deeply disappointed that our long-term goals for JUFL have not been realized, but they appreciate and value the tireless work that has been done by so many people on both campuses to achieve those goals. They both assure me they will continue to support Johnson, giving to enlarge those funds so that even more students can pursue their education to serve the Lord.
The positive reality is that the multiplied millions of dollars that have been expended, added to the thousands of hours given by administrators, faculty, and staff on both campuses, have not been in vain. According to Romans 8:28, God works in all things for the good of those who love and serve him, and he has surely been working through JUFL. The legacy of Florida Christian College was extended for eleven more years, three hundred students have graduated, and hundreds more have attended for some years without completing degrees. Only God knows what those students are doing or will do to extend God’s kingdom and glorify his name.
We are earnestly and prayerfully asking JUFL churches, alumni, and friends to continue their support of Johnson University, like the two women I mentioned earlier. Johnson is the oldest college/university of its kind (founded in 1893) among Christian churches/churches of Christ, requiring a Bible & Theology major of all bachelor’s degree students and giving major emphasis to educating students for preaching and other congregational ministries and world missions as well as counseling, education, nursing, and other vocations.
It is not without note that during the last two or three decades a substantial number of our colleges and a much larger number of other private colleges throughout the nation have closed. We live in a culture where it has become increasingly difficult to recruit students for Christian service. Schools like Johnson do not receive the state funding for operational expenses and building construction that is so vital to public universities and community colleges with whom we are competing for students.
If all of our colleges were forced to close due to substantial financial deficits and a declining enrollment, as will happen to Johnson University Florida at the end of June, where will ministers and missionaries be educated? Is not a university like Johnson, whose mission is “to educate students for Christian ministries and other strategic vocations framed by the Great Commission in order to extend the kingdom of God to all nations” worthy of support?