Living in the Agora

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Todd J. Williams, Ph.D.[dropcap3]W[/dropcap3]e have been working to communicate what a biblical university is all about and what we mean by “Walk a Different Path.” Over the years, as I have talked to alumni and friends of the school, I am reminded of the importance of sharing openly and often that the vision of ministry at PBU is broad and comprehensive, that the biblical notion of vocation and calling is not limited to full-time Christian work, and that our alumni roles represent nearly every profession imaginable. It is important that people know our mission statement does not limit vocational options and that no matter what work a person does for a living, if PBU’s core commitments resonate with them, there is room here. It is important for people to also know that we are preparing students for life and work. As I talk with our students, I am convinced that while many students are trying to figure out what kind of work they will do professionally, they are all fully capable of realizing that their lives are not their own and that whatever they set their hands to is to be done with excellence, as unto the Lord and in His service. The idea that the Christian life is to be lived, not only at church or in the home but at work as well, is something we are striving to instill in our students.

I was reminded again of how much a part of PBU this idea is when I recently visited with Nancy Charles-Parker, an alumna from the Class of 1970. She was here during Homecoming Week to share her testimony in Chapel. Nancy is a former Foreign Service Officer for the United States Department of State. She shared with the students how God used her in His service while she worked in the service of our nation. Her stories and her sincerity were an encouragement and inspiration to the students, alumni, and everyone in attendance. She spoke of a broader vision of vocation and ministry for which she says PBU prepared her well. She is now retired from government service but actively engaged in global missions. As we sat and talked, Nancy told me how encouraged she was by the students and the ongoing work at PBU, and made a comment that really captures the mission and vision of the University and more importantly the Christian life: with a clarity that comes from experience and conviction she told me how important it has become to her to know that we are called to be full-time Christians wherever God calls us to serve.

I believe this message of seeing everything we do as service to Christ resonates with Christians – of every age.

This was the theme of our third annual Worldview Conference which took place the last weekend in October. The title for the conference was Life in the Agora: Christians at the intersection of commerce, politics, and society. Two friends of the University who have experience being in positions of significant influence in the financial and political arenas of society joined me as keynote speakers. Bob Doll of BlackRock Inc., who spoke to our students in chapel and business classes last year, returned to PBU and relayed his experiences regarding the challenges of serving Christ while working in the financial sector. Arne Christenson, the Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at American Express and former Chief of Staff to Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, delivered a commencement address at PBU in 2009. In his session at the conference, Arne shared the dynamics of working in politics as a Christian. These two men know very well the importance of working in the world while not being of it. They know what it takes to be professionally excellent and spiritually faithful in all they do. They share the conviction that they serve Christ in their respective vocations and spoke plainly and profoundly to our students and guests. We need to hear their voices and learn from them.

Dr. Williams at 2010 Homecoming
Dr. Williams interacts with PBU Alumni at Homecoming in October.

I believe this message of seeing everything we do as service to Christ resonates with Christians – of every age. I talk to grads from years past, our own students, and our friends like Arne and Bob. I talk to young people who know very little about PBU and who we are, but who find encouragement in what we are about. Earlier this fall, I had the opportunity to teach a biblical worldview class to a group of students in the Ministry Apprentice Program at Miracle Mountain Ranch in Spring Creek, Pennsylvania. We talked quite a bit about the essential elements of a biblical worldview, but what really struck the students was the idea that a worldview is more than a set of answers: it is an approach to life. Their interaction with this issue was instructive. They want a view of the Christian life that takes seriously the act of living in this world both well and wisely. They want more than a set of rules to live by. They want an approach to life that is authentic and biblical. They want to be called to walk with both eyes open, aware of how they can shape this world, while honestly evaluating how it is shaping them. This is a very encouraging thing. If the church, the body of Christ, can grasp this, we will find ourselves being in this world and not of it effectively – at home, at church, and at work.

[framed_box]Todd J. Williams, Ph.D., has been the President of Philadelphia Biblical University since January 2008. He served as faculty and an administrator from 1996 to 2001, and then returned as Provost in 2005. He can be reached by emailing Also, interact with Dr. Williams at PBU’s blogsite: