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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Connections: William H. Jeynes

Christianity and Academics

William H. Jeynes preaches 125 times a year, about half the time at AG churches, but he also has become a respected expert speaking and writing about Christian and family values in the academic realm.

Jeynes, 52, is professor of education at California State University-Long Beach, and he is a nonresident scholar at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He has written 70 academic articles and eight books on a wide range of issues, including the nation’s Christian heritage, the need to return prayer and character education to public schools and the effects of family factors on youth. He has become one of the nation’s leading researchers on religion and education.

An AG minister, Jeynes continues to hold missionary and evangelistic services under the banner of God’s Love Ministries, which he started in 1978. At recent meetings in South Korea, 3,700 people made salvation decisions.

Jeynes met his wife, Hyelee, in a prayer line after he spoke at Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, in 1985. They live in Huntington Beach, Calif., and have three sons: Isaiah, 19; Elisha, 17; and Luke, 14. Jeynes recently spoke with News Editor John W. Kennedy, whom he met while conducting evangelistic services at an Iowa church in 1987.

evangel: Why did you become a teacher and researcher after fulfilling a call to ministry?

We preached a lot, averaging 275 services a year in 47 states and 20 countries. But I came to the conclusion that, while ministers definitely make an impact, so do public schools. Rather than making key advances among the youth, the body of Christ at best was neutralizing the effects of public school. Public schools influence our kids five days a week. Those kids are attending church, at most, three times a week. So the Lord laid it on my heart to go into a two-pronged ministry, both in churches and the academic sphere.

evangel: That required you to go back to school for advanced degrees.

It’s difficult for Christians to gain an audience among secularists unless they are well credentialed. We prayed for the Lord to open doors for me to attend Harvard, which by many is considered the country’s best school. By God’s grace alone I graduated first in my class. Then I received a full scholarship from the University of Chicago for my doctorate.

evangel: What type of research do you conduct?

I undertake quantitative research on Christian and family values. I want to demonstrate that knowing Christ and living by Christian principles changes lives. I examine nationwide data sets — such as a government study of 25,000 randomly selected students on behavior, habits and opinions. I also statistically combine studies on a topic to obtain a summary of the existing body of literature. For example, I’ve found that Christian students are more likely to do well in school academically and less likely to engage in premarital sex or to use cocaine. Since my research is based on government studies, it is less liable to the accusation of religious bias.

evangel: You encourage Christians to be fully involved in church and fully engaged in culture.

We need to realize the country’s intellectual environment affects the culture, even the spiritual direction of the country. Many ministers in our nation’s early history were also academics. The first universities — Harvard, Princeton, Yale, William & Mary — were established to train ministers. The 18th-century minister and theologian Jonathan Edwards was president of Princeton. Christians need to be entering the academic sphere if we are to regain our position as leaders of our culture.

evangel: How can a person gain and keep credibility in a public academic setting while being a vocal Christian?
JEYNES: We must come across as loving and kind, and not give the world ammunition through which they can attack us. It’s also important to work with colleagues where we have agreement, even if only temporarily.

If we are to see revival come to this country, we need to have a major impact on the cultural and academic spheres. To do this we need to broaden our definition of ministry. For too long we’ve thought of ministry in terms of being a pastor, missionary or evangelist. A lot of people are much more open to the gospel than we perceive. Many atheists don’t have respect for Christians who don’t share their faith. If we truly believe they are going to hell, then we should want to care enough to share our beliefs about God.

evangel: How can Christians share their faith practically?
JEYNES: There was a time when Christians actually were discouraged from becoming politicians, lawyers or doctors. We’re paying the price now. We need to be a witness for Christ wherever we are: A 55-year-old clerk at Wal-Mart can still make a difference praying for customers. We can share our faith pragmatically by seeking to have the maximum impact wherever God has planted us.

evangel: You’ve worked to return the Bible to public school in literature courses.

For the most part, we’ve gone district by district in a grassroots movement. We believe that getting the Bible and character education back into the schools is the key to turning this nation around. The Bible as literature is now being taught as a yearlong high school course in 290 school districts in 43 states. This doesn’t include after-school initiatives.

For decades, Christians have overlooked the 1963 Supreme Court decision in Abingdon School District v. Schempp. That decision states there is nothing that prohibits the teaching of the Bible in public schools as long as it is done objectively and is part of a secular curriculum.

I encourage people to speak at school board meetings, talk to the principal, and write to the governor and legislators on the state level. There is a huge difference in what can be done during school hours and in an after-school program. There is a lot of flexibility after school to minister to children in a dynamic way.

evangel: Why are two-parent families the best environment in which to raise kids?

Children need love and a sense of security, and they are much more likely to have that in a two-parent family. When kids are in a family of faith with Mom and Dad, there is more likely to be love and a sense of purpose.

evangel: You’ve made great strides in the academic world. Why do you continue to conduct evangelistic services?
Seeing people come to Christ and draw closer to Him is still my primary calling. I am a minister who is also an academic. I would be foolish to walk away from a ministry where many people are being touched.


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