From Harvard to Heritage

One of the important stops on our journey to Heritage College and Seminary took place at Harvard. Several years back, our family visited Harvard University while we were in Boston. I’d never been to the campus before and didn’t expect to be so impacted by something I saw.

Here’s the story of “The Writing on the Wall”

Coming to serve at Heritage is the fulfillment of a long-term calling, but making the decision to come took months of prayer, conversation and counsel. In 
the midst of the deliberations, our family spent a weekend in Boston for our daughter’s graduation. After walking through the historic downtown, we took the train over to Harvard.

Established in 1636 by Puritan leaders, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. I had never visited Harvard before and wanted to visit its historic grounds. As we came to the main entrance on Massachusetts Avenue, we paused to read a large plaque embedded on the red brick walls at the main gate. The plaque contains the words of the school’s founding fathers; it gives their original mission for Harvard:

After God had carried us safe to New England, and we had built our houses, provided necessaries for our Iivelihood, reared convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the Civil Government: One of the next things we longed for, and looked after was to advance learning, and perpetuate it to posterity, dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.wall

Reading these words left me feeling stunned, perhaps a bit like Belshazzar felt when he saw the writing appear on his palace walls (Daniel 5:5-6). I was struck by the foresight of the Puritan leaders who founded Harvard. They realized
the necessity of establishing a “Pastors’ College” to ensure the churches would have a continual supply of equipped pastors and leaders. They understood the mortality of their present leaders. They felt the urgency of developing future leaders. They dreaded the thought of leaving the churches in the hands of ill- equipped ministers “when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.”

I have not been able to get the “writing on the wall” out of my mind. I have a similar sense of urgency for training future spiritual leaders. Cancer has reminded me of my own mortality. I know the day is coming when I (and our “present ministers”) will lie in the dust. I dread what will happen to our churches, and the overall mission of reaching a lost world, if we fail to equip men and women to provide spiritual leadership in the coming years.

Several years ago, while I was still pastoring at the Met, I heard a sobering projection. Some denominational leaders estimate that within fifteen years, the number of qualified pastoral candidates will be dwarfed by the number of churches looking for pastoral leadership.

There is a growing need for godly, equipped spiritual leaders. And that’s just to maintain the churches we presently have. It doesn’t take into account the great need for church planting in Canada. According to Impact Canada, no single city or province in Canada has a greater percentage of churched people than a decade ago. When it comes to planting to new churches in Canada, we are not even keeping pace with the population growth.

Add to that the need for missionaries to take the gospel to the least-reached places in our world. The Joshua Project estimates that there are still almost 4,000 unreached people groups in our world. To put it another way, over 40% of the world’s population is virtually unreached.

Harvard is no longer focused on fulfilling the vision of its founders. Its mission has changed over the years. But the need for schools to carry on the vision of raising up qualified spiritual leaders for the Church and global missions is as pressing now as it has ever been.

At Heritage we have a clear vision and understanding of our mission: “Heritage College and Seminary exists to glorify God by partnering with churches in providing a biblically-based education, equipping people for life and ministry in the church and in the world.”

Our mission is not just posted on our walls, it’s written on our hearts.

This mission of training servants for Christ’s church was also written deeply on the heart of a man who impacted his entire country through his preaching and by starting a “Pastors’ College.” I’ll tell you some of his story in the next chapter.

IMG_0571This post is from the new booklet Heritage has recently produced entitled, A Priceless Heritage: A Personal Story, A Valuable School. The booklet tells some of the story of God’s leading us to serve at Heritage. It also explains Heritage’s valuable mission of training spiritual leaders to serve Christ’s church and His mission. If you’d like a copy of the booklet, you can request a copy by emailing my assistant Deanne Antoine (dantoine@heritage-theo.edu).

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