While I was the Coalition for Christian Outreach’s Jubilee conference a couple of weekends ago, I had the chance to sit down with a few very interesting people and interview them for the blog. One of these was Derek Melleby, the Director of the College Transition Initiative for the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. With Donald Opitz, Derek wrote The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness. Derek and I discussed the impact that his book has had, his work in helping students transition to college, and the important roles of parents and faculty play in the lives of students.
In the coming days, I’ll be posting interviews with Dallas Baptist professor David Naugle, ESN member and Johns Hopkins MD/PhD student Jimmy Lin, and editor/writer/teacher Alissa Wilkinson.
Mike Hickerson: First of all, I want to just thank you for the book that you and Donald Opitz wrote, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness. We recommend it a lot to the students in ESN. What results have you seen coming out of that book? How have you seen students being affected by it, or other ideas being spun off out of the book?
Derek Melleby: That’s a good question. On one level, there were other books like it that say similar things, and we didn’t think that we were writing a new kind of book. I think of Engaging God’s World [by Cornelius Plantinga], or The Fabric of Faithfulness [by Steven Garber]. There are really helpful books that say very similar things, but we thought what was needed was a book for what I call the 85 percent. Some of those books about being faithful in academics, or world view, or integration of faith and learning seem to be written on a level for people who are already in that game, or already engaged in that way. What we hoped to do with the Outrageous Idea was to reach the average reader, the students who maybe hadn’t even thought about it before, to share that God does care about academics, that your learning matters to God.
Being faithful to Christ means little things, like paying attention in class, doing your work with integrity, and caring about the things you’re learning. I had a student who didn’t realize that I was the co-author of the book, but just saw the book on the book table. She picked it up, showed it to a friend of hers, and said, â€œThis book saved my life!â€ Now, I know that’s a little exaggerated, and she was that kind of person, it seemed. But she said, â€œYou know, I take so many classes, and they just seem boring to me, or I just do the least amount of work to get the best grade that I can get. This book reminded me to take it more seriously. Sometimes, I’ll be sitting in a class, and I’ll think, ‘Why do we have to learn this? How will I ever use this in the real world?’ And the Outrageous Idea made me stop and say, ‘No, I’m here for a reason; God has me here to learn these things for a reason.'” So, it helped her to take learning more seriously.
Mike: In ESN, we’re trying to get students to think about becoming a professor. That’s a great point about the 85 percent. There’s sometimes an assumption that students are going to try their hardest “just because.” I’ve even known a professor who said he was a C student as an undergrad, and then something clicked for him after he graduated. He went back and got a Masters, then got a PhD. Now he’s a professor, and even started a whole department at his new university. Whereas when he was an undergrad, no one would have ever thought he could do that, or even finish college.
Derek: That’s the kind of thing I mean. It’s part of my own story. I was a part of a good college ministry, but I was living this compartmentalized life, and not realizing it. I had a really good campus ministry, where we were asking really good questions about the Bible, about theology, even about the integration of faith and culture to some degree, and then I had my classroom experience, where I was asking separate kinds of questions in there. I studied political science, so I was thinking about politics and government, and the nature of man, and what it all meant for how we go about doing politics. For whatever reason, unless you’re intentional about it, you never bring those two worlds together. I’m doing discipleship and evangelism on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and then I’m going to class. One person said, â€œWorship and scholarship are like two ships passing in the night.â€ What we hoped is this little book can just invite students to bring those two worlds together.
Mike: Is there anything that you would add to the book if you were rewriting it today, or if you had a second edition coming out? [Read more…] about Derek Melleby: Academic Faithfulness