Evangel University: A vine of divine planting
By Scott Harrup
The dozer had no trouble with the wooden framework, but the concrete
floor and supports were a bigger challenge. Its diesel engine strained
and the blade hit cement again. Another ghostly structure from Evangel
Universitys past was crumbling to make way for a new building.
Students walking nearby stopped to watch. When their grandparents were
young adults this was home to OReilly Army Hospital, which treated
44,000 soldiers between 1941 and 1952. In 1955, a major portion of the
land was made available to the Assemblies of God. That fall, Evangel
held classes for the first time.
It was a new direction for the Assemblies of God, which had promoted
Christian education throughout its history and sponsored Bible colleges
and institutes across the country. Evangel was the first Pentecostal
liberal arts college chartered in America.
"I never want to take for granted what I believe so strongly," says
President Robert Spence. "Evangel is a vine of divine planting; it is
not the creation of a person or a committee or even a movement. It is
an instrument that God himself brought into being."
Evangel has pursued a mission distinct from its sister education centers.
Here, students can prepare for ministry in churches or on the mission
field. But they can also pursue training for numerous careers at the
highest proficiency levels. More than 80 majors from biology
to criminal justice to special education offer Evangel students
the tools they need in order to serve as Christian professionals.
That flexibility of purpose is reflected in every class. Students discuss
with Professor Milt Krans the role of tradition during a Pastoral Ministry
lecture. How does a pastor lead his or her congregation in Communion,
for example? Students describe very different church traditions, all
enacting the same expression of worship.
"Whether youre going to have some alternative methods of having
Communion," Krans tells them, "or whether youre going to follow
tradition, you need to practice wisdom."
For Brendan and Lisa Gallagher, recently married and about to graduate,
Krans semester of instruction has become another piece in the
mosaic of their ministry preparation.
"Sometimes our traditions get in the way of letting the Lord use us
in any way He chooses," Brendan says.
"We look forward to a lot of opportunities to work with unchurched
youth," Lisa says.
Krans class is in one of the few remaining OReilly structures.
Across campus in the new academic building, one of four new buildings
on campus in the past four years, students file into a brightly lit
lecture hall for Dr. Elizabeth Fletchers Senior Marketing Seminar.
No Bibles, but plenty of practical biblical instruction in navigating
the secular business world.
"Giving a tip acknowledges that someone has given you excellent service,"
Fletcher says, discussing an upcoming trip when students will interact
with waiters, bellhops and other hotel personnel. "I dont want
us misrepresenting Evangel or misrepresenting Christ."
"I knew Evangel had a very strong business program," says Melissa Mequet
after class. "My major is business education, so part of that is working
with high school students. I think one of the most beneficial things
is being an example to them and including in the class moral issues
where you can."
Stephanie Patterson, early childhood and elementary education major,
agrees. While sharing the gospel is not possible in a public classroom,
living the gospel is. "My education classes were centered around Christ
and how to teach and how to love the kids through Christs eyes,"
Evangel students come from around the world to pursue their education,
and minister internationally as a vital part of their college experience.
"Im Filipino," says Maureen Daco. "I worked at the admissions
office for a couple of years and I know the admissions team has a heart
to expand the minority population here." A psychology major, Daco plans
to pursue a career in marriage, family and child counseling.
"Weve had a continuing growth over the last couple of years in
missions emphasis," says Campus Pastor Dwight Colbaugh. "Assemblies
of God Foreign Missions invited a team of our students to go to Bosnia
with faculty. Another team was sent to Thailand. We have a lot of students
who want to come in and be non-traditional missionaries."
Dr. Eliezer Oyola, a 25-year veteran at the university, has integrated
the missions fervor of his students with their curriculum. After studying
medieval pilgrimages with his Spanish class, he put together a summer
trek following a traditional pilgrimage 800 miles across Spain and France.
"I told the students to be sensitive because there would be people
doing the pilgrimage for religious reasons," Oyola says. "They would
be looking for answers, and we had the answer. We met a lot of people
from Britain, France, Italy, Portugal and many parts of the world. We
had many opportunities to share the gospel."
As students become tools of the gospels transforming power, they
see their own lives changed as well.
"Evangel has made me go beyond what I had ever thought about things
theologically," says Jessie Kuhns. She is a senior biblical studies
major who has led numbers of student outreaches. "Its forced me
to really look and examine what I believe and integrate that with my
John Dorlon says the university has made him the person he is. "I want
to go into ministry as a childrens pastor," he says. The choice
seems incongruous with the size of an offensive lineman on a Crusader
football scholarship. But his voice is gentle and warm. "Evangel helps
temper your faith, like tempered steel, so when youre challenged
in the real world with why you believe what you believe, youre
able to stand and prove and back up what you say."
As seniors look back on four years of Evangels shaping of their
lives, they reaffirm that the experiment the Assemblies of God undertook
nearly 50 years ago has been abundantly successful.
"Ive just really enjoyed my education here," says graduating
senior James Hayes. "Theres a focus on having Spirit-filled Christians
out in the world. Ill be going into the marketplace. Others will
be going into the classroom. Everybody is going into full-time ministry.
Well all be doing full-time ministry; well just be out in
For more than 27 years, President Spence has watched the university
blossom, building on nearly half a century of prayer and sacrifice by
"We are seeing remarkable things done on this campus today that are
possible because of an innumerable, unnamed, unknown host of people
who have prayed, who have given, who have supported the ministry of
Evangel for these 46 years," he says. "And we are eternally grateful
for Gods blessings at this time."
Scott Harrup is an associate editor of the Pentecostal