The Heart of the Student/President Relationship
By Lucas Roebuck
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
From the Editor
The job of a college president is often relational. The president maintains critical relationships with faculty, staff, alumni, donors and various community leaders. But the relationships that speak the most to the heart of a college president is his or her relationships with students.
Perhaps the best window into the relationship between Chip Pollard and JBU students comes in the form of a soon-to-be-released book, “May It Always Be True” (Abilene Christian University Press, 224 pages), a collection of Chip’s chapel sermons.
I recently got my hands on an advanced manuscript. The book is a personal, vulnerable and challenging look at many aspects of Christian life that has a surprisingly broad appeal for sermons targeted toward college students. Each chapter is introduced with a scripture reference, and reads like an accessible devotional complemented with life application. On topics from spiritual doubt to human sexuality, Dr. Pollard offers personal transparency and scriptural insights.
For example, in one chapter, he explores his own doubts. “Belief in Christ truly is an all or nothing proposition, and time and time again in my periods of doubt, God has given me faith to choose Christ as all. Times of doubt had made my faith more vital and all-encompassing,” he shares with students.
The book is divided into five sections. The first are sermons Dr. Pollard has given at the start of the school year that “challenge students to think first about who we should be as community, trying to draw them out of their own individual hopes and fears.” In the second section Dr. Pollard uses scripture to help students answer the question “Who am I?” in the context of Christ.
“As followers of Jesus Christ, we begin to answer the question of ‘Who am I?’ by recognizing that we are first the beloved children of the living God, a recognition as relevant to the 19-year-old getting a new piercing as to the 79-year-old in the retirement home,” he writes.
The third section is a collection of Advent sermons, and shows Pollard’s love and reverence for the season celebrating Christ’s Incarnation. The fourth section contains sermons given during second semester. The fifth is a series of Baccalaureate reflections, in which Dr. Pollard offers fond farewell and final advice about living as a follower of Jesus Christ after university.
The title “May It Always Be True” is derived from Dr. Pollard’s prayerful refrain at the end of each chapel service. “‘May it always be true of us at JBU’ is the prayer that I use to end nearly every chapel address. It is a reminder to me and others at the university that we should remain faithful to our commitment to Christ.”
One endorsement of the book I thought was particularly relevant to the JBU community came from evangelical leader Franklin Graham.
“Chip has clearly focused mind, heart and soul on a biblical truth: Faith in God produces wisdom,” Graham said of the book. “May it always be true that hearts will be encouraged to read about the greatest of all knowledge—the Gospel message—being proclaimed to college students who will make an impact for Christ.”
The unexpected heroine of the book is Carey Pollard, Dr. Pollard’s wife, who repeatedly shows up in his sermons – sometimes as life model, sometimes as encourager, sometimes as plot device. The book paints a loving portrait of Carey, from her courtship with Dr. Pollard to the sacrifices a family makes to accommodate the never-ending demands of being a university president. Readers will come away from the book with the clear impression that Carey is equally invested in Dr. Pollard’s calling to keep JBU Christ-focused.
The book will be available soon from a variety of outlets, but JBU alumni can also get the book through the university.
Steve Onnen, the director of the JBU Scholarship Fund, recently announced that all proceeds Dr. Pollard earns from the sale of the book will be donated to the Fund, which provides much needed scholarships for financially struggling students. Because of this, the JBU Scholarship Fund is offering the book this year as their incentive gift for those who contribute $25 or more this year. For more information, you can call Steve at (479) 524-7429 or you can visit the JBU online giving site at jbu.edu/give.
While “May It Always Be True” originated from student-focused sermons, the book covers Christian truths in a manner that will encourage any believer.
– Lucas Roebuck is director of university communications and editor of the Brown Bulletin.