Following Jesus’ Call in an “Unlikely” Time

Following Jesus’ Call in an “Unlikely” Time

It was one year ago that the Board of Trustees gathered at our Visalia campus. Something called the coronavirus remained a vague threat. At that meeting the board watched a documentary entitled Unlikely which explored the inequities of opportunity in higher education. Our journey this past year has only aggravated the inequities described in that film as globally our social, economic and political connections with one another have been under enormous pressure. We must each ask ourselves what distinguishes us as Christians, individually and as an institution committed to higher learning in the midst of it all.

The mission of the church remains what it always has been. Jesus’ singular call through the Gospels is to “follow me.” In The Cost of Discipleship Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls the Christian life one of “costly grace.” That is to say, following Jesus means to give up the comforts of self-reliance and self-satisfaction, what Bonhoeffer calls “cheap grace,” and instead, with one’s eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, live in obedience to his call. We must not just remember who we are but whom we follow.

To the Christian then, “Engaging the Cultures,” as the FPU slogan puts it, takes on a meaning at the center of our faith. The Christian “walk” is just that. If we are not walking in obedience we are not breathing life into our faith. This not only frames the board’s discussions but serves to motivate, encourage and energize us all in our work.

One other item on our February 2020 agenda was a briefing on legislation then pending that would affect Christian higher education. This last weekend we again spent a significant amount of our time considering the state of affairs both in Congress and in the California Legislature. As a member of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities FPU has in that legislative affairs staff, and our own Donald Norman, a wonderful resource to draw upon to build relationships with legislators and to ensure that our voices are heard in the legislative process. Public policies that may sound appealing on one level often fail to account for the needs of institutions such as ours. We observe many proposals advance that affect how we carry out our mission and may pressure our ability to walk familiar paths as we seek to follow Jesus’ call. Federal and state support for students requires our vigilant defense.

Yet we also took time to celebrate some blessings through the last year. The construction of our new Warkentine Culture and Arts Center has begun and is fully funded. We continue to invite gifts for furnishings and other enhancements. Student populations vary but are within a stable range. Sports are happening on campus. And, thanks to the heroic efforts of everyone, our budget is balanced.

I am proud to say that Fresno Pacific has touched a significant number of students from the Central Valley who emerge from various disadvantaged circumstances. They are, to borrow the term from our film of last year, “unlikely.” And what we do, we do out of sense of obedience to Jesus’ call. Please join the board in praying for Fresno Pacific, for our students and for who God calls them to be; for our faculty and staff who have carried the burdens of our mission in these times; for our president, Dr. Joe, the members of the cabinet and all with leadership responsibilities; and for the church at large for which Fresno Pacific is a ministry.


Joshua Wilson, J.D.

Chair, Fresno Pacific University Board of Trustees