Preface to Harding's Strategic Plan
We are, at our core, a Christian university. The character, example, and concerns of Jesus Christ are the standards that shape us and chart the course for our future. Because of this, an all-encompassing love for God and a corresponding love for people are at the heart of who we are.
As we look toward the future, we are committed to retaining the Christian identity of Harding University. Realizing that there is a powerful, almost overwhelming tendency for Christian institutions to drift toward secularism, we intentionally recommit ourselves to the distinctive practices that have always been central to Harding’s Christian character: required Bible classes, daily chapel, and a lofty code of behavior for the administration, faculty, and students.
For many years our mission statement has affirmed that Harding University integrates and celebrates “faith, learning and living.” This statement acknowledges that the Christian worldview is at the core of every academic discipline and every extracurricular activity on campus. Every professor who stands in front of a class, every coach who stands in front of a team, and every director who stands in front of a cast or a music group is to speak and lead as a man or woman of God. They are to confess, both in words and actions, that God created the world, that He redeems us through the blood of His Son Jesus, that He fills his children with His Holy Spirit, and that He calls us to be holy as He is holy. Such core themes will continue to be emphasized in chapel services, in faculty meetings and throughout the university.
The Gospel of John states that “the Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, NIV). Grace and truth were perfectly blended in Jesus. He spoke truth, but always in a gracious way. He extended his hand in grace, but never betrayed the truth in doing so. However, Christians constantly struggle to demonstrate that same sacred balance. Gracious people are easily tempted to compromise truth, and truth-seeking people often communicate ungraciousness. Recognizing this challenge, we are determined to be a people who are “full of grace and truth,” sacrificing neither in the pursuit of both. Cheap grace and harsh truth are two extremes we will seek to avoid. Our hope is that when people think of Harding University they will think of both grace and truth.
Another important aspect of our institutional identity is our belief in the Bible as the fully inspired and authoritative word of God. We hold it to be “God-breathed” and the basis of our teaching and life. The Bible is central to our goal of spiritual transformation in the life of everyone at Harding. Consequently, it is our goal that all graduating seniors leave our university with a greater level of confidence in Scripture than they had when they first arrived on campus.
Harding University has always been a leader in world missions. Nearly one-third of the missionaries who have gone out from the Churches of Christ have graduated from Harding. We believe that at this critical point in history it is important that we renew our commitment to participate fully in the mission of God, both at home and abroad. While the pluralism of our postmodern culture denies the need to preach the gospel, we continue to believe that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ and that Christians are to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19, NIV).
Harding has always been deeply connected with the Churches of Christ, and we reaffirm this connection as we move into the future. In keeping with this commitment, we will continue to hire active members of the Churches of Christ as faculty and administrators. Though we live in a time of significant confusion over our brotherhood’s identity, we are determined that Harding University will become captive to neither a rigid legalism on the Right nor a formless liberalism on the Left. “With gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:16, NIV) we continue to affirm such distinctive convictions of the mainstream Churches of Christ as baptism for the remission of sins, a cappella music in worship, and male spiritual leadership in congregations.
While we maintain our close ties with the Churches of Christ, we also make clear that Harding opens her arms to all. Those who do not share all of our convictions are always welcome, and we will work hard to see that they are always treated with kindness, fairness and respect.
Finally, we present this strategic plan with a heart of humility, realizing that God alone is sovereign. While we can survey, discuss, dream and plan, God controls the future. So, as we present our vision for the future of Harding University, we offer it to God with the words of our Lord Jesus: “Father…not (our) will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42, NIV).