What The Lord of the Rings can teach Christian leaders in higher education (and elsewhere).
I have the privilege of serving as an English professor at Houston Baptist University (HBU) under the inspired Christian leadership of Robert Sloan. As president of HBU, Sloan has made it his vision and his goal to conform all that we do and all that we are to the simple but profound confession: Jesus is Lord. The Lordship of Christ is not just a catchy slogan for us; it undergirds every facet of our teaching, scholarship, administration, student affairs, finances, and community life.
Wheaton College, located in a suburb of Chicago, is privileged to be led by a man who shares this integrated vision for Christian higher education: Philip Ryken, former senior pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Ryken has brought to his presidency not only top-notch scholarship—he has a degree from Oxford and has written or edited over 40 books—but the heart of a pastor, the mind of a philosopher, and the soul of a poet. Like Sloan, Ryken views his calling as working on multiple levels: guide, intercessor, shepherd, encourager, advocate, judge, and leader.
But where can men like Sloan and Ryken find resources to equip them to fulfill such a multifaceted calling? Our age certainly has no lack of self-help and leadership books, but they are not enough. College president-as-CEO is not sufficient for one who would lead as a disciple of Christ and who would thus embody the messianic roles of prophet, priest, and king.
Prophetic Discernment and Priestly Presence
Serendipitously for Ryken, his university houses the Marion E. Wade Center, which boasts the best collection of C. S. Lewis’s letters and papers in the world and one of the best for Lewis’s friend and fellow Inkling, J. R. R. Tolkien. Though Ryken could …