Life is a constantly flowing stream of decisions about what, why and how. This is true for each of us as individuals, and it is also true for organizations.
We make most such decisions automatically. What do I need to do? Why do I need to do it? Why does it matter? Usually the why is so obvious or intuitive that we do not consciously think about it. But why we do something matters. It connects us to our motivation for acting and releases the energy and the willpower to do it. Highly effective people think more about why than most people. Motivation really does matter for high performance.
Those who study such things suggest that the “because” that answers the first why normally leads to another why, and that one to yet another why, often to the sixth or seventh why, until there is no reasonable next why to answer. I spend my days full of what and how questions. But often why something matters and how much it matters also needs to be explicit, and not just implicit.
In my life, the deepest answers to why often come at night. Partly because that is commonly my time for prayer and reflection. But also because evenings often include conversations with people who need to understand why their donation or their prayer or their volunteer time matters to God’s work at Fresno Pacific. And evenings are when I get to attend student events. Last Tuesday night was full of wonderful examples of why Fresno Pacific matters.
I led the final prayer for the Alpha Chi induction ceremony for new members in this hundred-year-old national academic honor society. The Alpha Chi chapter at FPU is rated among the top 5 percent nationally, and the program that evening included reports of five FPU students who had been invited to present papers at the recent national convention in Louisville, KY. The topics ranged widely, from “Armenian and Turkish Reconciliation” and “Self Interest–The Foundation of Economic Prosperity,” to an analysis of CS Lewis’ view of women and “A Biomechanical Analysis of the Competitive Front Dive.”
The student who wrote the paper on diving was one of several Alpha Chi members who left early because they had to run across campus to participate in Flight Night in the Special Events Center, where more than 300 student-athletes and their coaches were being honored for their outstanding achievements during this current school year. I joined them in time to personally celebrate the fact that a large percentage of winners of Dean’s, Presidents, Paragon, Alpha Chi and other awards in the University Scholars Program are also high-performing NCAA Division II athletes. The swimming and diving program was honored as the Sunbird Team of the Year. Both the men’s and women’s teams finished in the top 10 at the NCAA national championships, and they had the highest team GPA. The men’s basketball team won the community service award.
Then I hustled back to the McDonald Hall Atrium where Alpha Chi and other honor students were performing as part of the Jazz Band, one of the many year-end instrumental and choral music concerts. Wednesday night will be the bell choir, Pacific Bronze; Thursday night is the Student Missions Banquet for student teams doing mission trips this summer; Friday night features four instrumental chamber ensembles; and that next Sunday through the following Saturday offers a student music concert every night, in McDonald Hall or Butler Church. And then there are theater and student art exhibits and chapel.
In all these settings students speak of their joys and their plans, of how God is working in their lives, of how the professors and staff have taught and served them. Then, for those who are finishing their studies, comes the spring commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 6, at 10:00 a.m., in Selland Arena, where 440 graduates from the university and seminary and more than 5,000 guests will hear Barry Black, D. Min., Ph.D., chaplain of the United States Senate. This will be the official commissioning for their lives of leading and following as servants and stewards in the greatness of God’s kingdom. Those changed lives are the ultimate answer to why Fresno Pacific matters and why it is and must be a truly great Christian university.