Nine years ago, when reporting for duty to serve as the new editor of the Presbyterian Outlook, I carried ulterior motives in my shirt pocket.
As a Calvinist I’m not naïve to the ulterior motives that complicate the most honorable actions in all persons’ lives, so in my attempt to strive for personal integrity and honesty, I tried to name what my ‘other’ motives might be.
The honorable goals were obvious: to steward a news and ministry resource magazine in order to help Presbyterian Christians better to serve our Lord with energy, intelligence, imagination and love.
But I knew I would push some agendas, so I decided to list them.
- To promote a church unity that leaves room for legitimate differences in mission visions and ideological convictions;
- To foster denominational discernment by giving voice to thoughtful advocates of varying positions, whether I agree with them or not;
- To lift up and support the valiant but often disregarded or even maligned pastors and commissioned lay pastors — especially those serving in small and rural churches;
- To give greater visibility and support to the great work of Christian educators;
- To try to draw churches and colleges closer together in an era when they are drifting apart.
That final motive soon translated into specific strategies:
- Change the “higher education” issue into a “PC(USA)-related college and universities catalogue” for distribution to high school students to encourage them to consider attending our schools;
- Urge our colleges and universities to post ads in the magazine to catch prospective students’ attention;
- Editorially urge the churches to temper their criticisms of and raise support of academes, many in whom are genuine Christians;
- Editorially urge the academy to re-engage the thoughtful folks in the pews, many of whom are profoundly intelligent;
- Launch and present an annual Presbyterian Outlook Church-College Partnership Award to be given to the graduating senior at a PC(USA) school who writes what a judging panel determines is the best essay on “How my education at a PC(USA)-related college has prepared me for significant service and leadership.”
I had high hopes for that last strategy, namely, that:
- By having a major institution of the church offer a $1,000 prize and the promise of publication attached, dozens of students at a pivotal time in their lives might stop to ponder and better appreciate how their education has generated major convergences of head and heart, of faith and science, of holiness and worldliness (in the best sense of that word), of individual ambition and community service, of humility and leadership;
- Chaplains, professors and advisors would prod their students and even themselves to look beyond the immediate to the ultimate, beyond career preparation to personal discipleship;
- At least two students (the winner plus at least one runner-up) would get published — very likely for the first time – in a national publication, which they will never forget to have been on their own faith (a great form of “confirmation”);
- Further, the Outlook’s name would be introduced to a generation of whom most had never heard of it — but by planting it in mind, may draw them to a future relationship with it;
- Folks in our Presbyterian churches who take a few minutes to read those essays in our pages would inevitably feel encouraged, even inspired, by such great essays.
Those were my hopes for the partnership award. And it has panned out just as I’d plotted. Indeed, that strategy has proven to be the pièce de résistance.
So yeah, this project has been one overflowing with ulterior motives. I sure hope the Lord doesn’t judge me too harshly.