by Dr. Mike Rakes, Evangel University President
To become a nationally known, Spirit-driven university, defined by our world-class scholarship, transformational and personal growth, and spiritual formation, Evangel University embraces the holistic plan to grow in our on-campus undergraduate offerings, as well as in our anointing and professional competence in every discipline.
Evangel University operates with the understanding that there is no one type of Spirit-driven university but diverse expressions of the Holy Spirit, and that our challenge is to reach higher and live purposeful lives with a missional focus.
I am an ordained minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ and a leader and scholar in higher education. My deepest desire is to see God’s love experienced in every people group and nation around the planet through our graduates. I want to be seasoned by my suffering and personal experiences with the Holy Spirit. I am fully committed to doing good for God and setting up the next generation with virtue and valor.
We can see more clearly now that God’s Good News will spread much faster if we use all branches of knowledge available. My dream for Evangel University is to deepen our impact on residential students and expand our reach into an online platform. By these means, we can better serve the growth of the Spirit-driven Christian and be equipped for an ever-changing marketplace.
Where it finds lodging, God’s love is always given in the same proportion to a broken and wounded soul. Looking at EU’s more than 55,000 alumni around the world, we can see what God has done in the past and believe that it is only a prelude to what God is going to do looking forward. Evangel University can impact the trajectory of these difficult times by holding to our founding principles as the first Pentecostal university in America, established in 1955.
We cannot sit on the sidelines while culture attempts to relegate God and the study of God and the experience of God to Sundays alone. This university is a massive part of what a loving God is doing. We are called to rescue, equip, and deploy Spirit-driven leaders into every vocation in the world.
Light and darkness will never be compatible in the same room because where there is light, darkness is driven away – this we have all seen with our own eyes. The Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit, is here in action, continually delivering God’s communicative intent.
My newborn grandson will be getting his driver’s license and preparing to drive to EU in 2040. To dream and think of 2040 makes me very optimistic for the Church of Jesus Christ because who knows where science, research of all kinds, and the Holy Spirit will take us in the years ahead?
A spirit-driven university must be a community of scholars, both young and old, working together to serve God and teach through all of the branches of knowledge with the underpinnings of a biblical worldview.
The Spirit-driven university is very relevant to our current students, who can glean from the spirituality of its leaders and history and gain wisdom and a global perspective through the Evangel University family. Students will build virtue, internal strength and valor, and courage for a vocation of professional competence, through the inspiration and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit was concerned about the whole world in Acts 2, and we also should be concerned about the same. The Spirit-driven university must emphasize the centrality of God’s Word to us as revealed in the Bible and not use it as simply an add-on to what we are doing.
As new discourses of knowledge emerge, a Spirit-driven liberal arts university passes through theological reflection and enters into an active dialogue with our Bible and Theology Department. Each discipline of thought has its autonomy and God’s truth, but our Bible and Theology Department focuses on the fact that God seeks us, and therefore, we should be about the business of seeking God too.
Evangel University can rise to national prominence in the charismatic and Pentecostal world by performing a vital function of robust academic thought, not abandoning the core values that gave birth to our institution. Evangel University is a comprehensive living witness to the wholeness and Trinitarian approach to the reality that all truth is God’s truth. There is a sacredness in understanding that truth in all forms was in the heart of God at the beginning.
Evangel University is about continually moving learners toward a profound perception of God’s invitation to join Him and His work worldwide. Universities that have arbitrarily eliminated any talk of the Holy Spirit’s presence in one’s life have already decided to negate His activity. How can we negate the tacit knowledge in our hearts that the Spirit lives within us?
Universities that downplay or deny the activity of the Holy Spirit have, in some cases, pledged their allegiance to agnosticism or humanism, where they are always putting humanity and thoughts in the center rather than God, His Word, and His Spirit.
Every university professor at Evangel is wholly and spiritually alive and present within his or her chosen discipline. They shine like lights and do not hide their light under a textbook. They teach from a place of confidence and belief in an unchanging and loving God. And all of this is energized by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is higher education at work inside the student experience at EU.
Each professor is individually nuanced and diverse according to his or her journey, family of origin, and weekly attachment to their local church. They are mystically formed and speak collectively to this generation with one voice that testifies to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
EU testifies to the global realities of a loving God who gives us truth through both human and divine sources, following the example of the incarnated Christ. Knowledge is our calling, and we cannot and must not reach for less than this, but by the Spirit’s help become continually transformed. God-birthed institutions like EU can serve the Church and empower young women and men for His work.
Evangel University must renew its identity, particular function, and greater purpose. Spirit-driven universities are the containers of God’s presence on earth. We have a heart to serve students who are arriving from various places on the spectrum of spirituality in the Church.
All Christian universities rely on John 1, that we would be full of God’s truth, but in all our pursuit and intellectual efforts, let us not abandon humanity’s great need for God’s grace too.
One of the greatest thrills that comes from being a new president at Evangel University is the opportunity to present the story of the university to many people across the country. I can be frank with you, admitting I feel honored to share about one of God’s greatest miracles in the Assemblies of God. Speaking about Evangel is like speaking about one’s own family. No matter how good you are with words or what theme you develop, there’s always a sense of not getting it quite right.
Evangel University had a dramatic birth and spurt of growth that really did parallel the growth of our movement in the early years. The first Pentecostal university in the United States began with army barracks all those years ago and now presides over $100 million of land, buildings, and vision. But the most important part of EU is not its grounds or buildings, but the sole secret is a vibrant, spiritual campus, devoted to the activity of the Holy Spirit in the earth. It’s the Spirit behind all of these things that gives Evangel its true stature and makes it great.
Although I’m unable to express to you the full story of Evangel University with all of the supernatural things that happened along the way, I must try and communicate to you how important the Holy Spirit has been both in founding and sustaining us and now taking us into a bold new future. We take in young people every semester and help equip them to participate in the marketplace by embedding virtue and valor and a professional competence in their chosen vocation. At Evangel, our specific task is to spiritually form and shape the mind and heart of every student in his or her quest to know God and live out His truth in the world through a chosen vocation.
We want students to learn to think biblically, communicate their thoughts effectively, and operate with discernment in all facets of life. We know education alone is not enough; the spiritual transformation of the human heart is necessary, and it is what we provide here at EU. Students learn to keep a schedule, live under authority of the syllabus, meet deadlines, and develop professional skills that will carry them into the world, allowing them to pivot no matter how many times their careers call for innovation and change. They are immersed in an environment that is continually prayed over and cultivated under God’s full favor.
There are many graduates of our university working throughout the world. They are incredibly intelligent, exuding excellence in all that they do. At EU, students learn professional competence, leading to effectiveness in the workplace. Graduates of Evangel University also raise great families and become valuable church members and leaders. Evangel is like a large tree with many branches of knowledge, and it should not surprise any of us that out on every branch of knowledge there are incredible truths about a loving and caring God who is involved in every aspect of our lives.
At Evangel, we don’t have only traditions of the Holy Spirit; we have the Holy Spirit Himself who carries us in the same vein that He carried our forefathers. Graduates become people of great virtue, display courage and valor, and show strong, responsible leadership in their professional lives as they seek to make a difference wherever they go. This is the heartbeat and the spirit of Evangel University.