Many Christian students I know would love to tell their non-Christian professors about their faith. Motivations range from exasperation (because the teacher takes pot-shots at the Christian faith) to genuine compassion (because the education process tends to unite teacher and student).
Our modern world and education system can produce people who are brilliant in a particular field and completely ignorant of spiritual matters. In fact, some secularists disdain faith of any kind, seeing it as an inferior worldview that harms societies.
But what’s an 18-22 year old undergraduate to do when intimidated by someone older, seemingly wiser, and more educated?
Here are three suggestions about how to witness to a professor:
1. Pray. While this may seem obvious, prayer for professors gets more lip service than actual practice. After arriving (on time!) to your class, just before your professor begins, pray that God would bless him or her, that truth would be honored in the classroom, and that the task of learning would bring glory to God. Pray for God to draw your professor to Himself and that personal struggles (in family, professional matters, or elsewhere) would be used by God to show your professor his or her need for a savior.
2. Perform. Academically, that is. If you want to show a professor that your faith is worth considering, you should model an approach to learning that reflects your belief that God gave us minds to learn. You can think of this academic performance as a way to “become all things to all people” (see 1 Corinthians 9:22). (Professors live in the world of academia. If you want to relate to them, you should value their world). Or you can think of it as just “doing your work heartily, as unto the Lord” (see Colossians 3:23). With either motivation, write your papers with excellence, pay attention and join in the discussion in class (stop texting or updating your Facebook page on your laptop), and refrain from critiquing ideas until you make sure you understand them. Beware the possibility of becoming a fool who, “finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2).
3. Proclaim. Tell your professor the good news of the gospel in ways that reflect a thoughtful approach to reality. Don’t do this in your papers or in front of the entire class. Make this a private conversation, laced with concern and intellectual rigor. If you choose to give the professor an evangelistic book (C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity or Tim Keller’s The Reason for God would be my two suggestions), make sure you’ve read the book first and can discuss it, if your professor so desires.
This is just a start of an important discussion. I hope to offer more suggestions in future blogs. Students witnessing to professors is a good idea – one God has used to lead several academicians to saving faith. But it needs to be done appropriately and wisely.
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Randy Newman has been with the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1980 and currently serves with Faculty Commons, their ministry to university professors. He ministers on campuses and elsewhere in our nation's capital to students, professors and policy shapers. He is an honors graduate from Temple University and has a Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he is also engaged in doctoral studies. Randy is a Jewish Believer in Jesus and is the former editor of The Messiah-On-Campus Bulletin. He is the author of numerous articles and the books Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did and Corner Conversations: Engaging Dialogues about God and Life, both published by Kregel Publications, and Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well, forthcoming from Crossway.
To find out more, visit his blog, Integration Points.