December - January 2023
Lighting the Darkness
Eighty Years of Faith & Learning at Welch College
By Greg Ketteman
Winter concludes the ancient, God-ordained cycle of seasons. Hot, dry late summer days signal the end of the growing season before falling leaves set the stage for winter’s final act. Beginning in late August, the Welch College year runs counter to this cycle. As nature’s growing season comes to an end, the campus comes to life with new and returning students as a God-ordained cycle of faith and learning repeats for the 80th year at Welch College.
Throughout its existence, a counter-intuitive, counter-cultural cycle of faith and learning has miraculously continued at Welch College. During times of uncertainty, instability, and opposition, God has made a way for the cycle of faith and learning to transpire at the college He called into existence to educate leaders to serve Christ, His Church, and His world through biblical thought and life.
This cycle of faith and learning at Welch began with the vision of men like John L. Welch who, in the wake of the Great Depression, led the newly-formed National Association to establish Free Will Baptist Bible College. In 1942, as the nation suffered through the turmoil and sacrifice of World War II, first college president L. C. Johnson and eight students set the cycle in motion. College presidents L. R. Ennis, Charles A. Thigpen, C. Thomas Malone, and current President Matt Pinson committed themselves to continuing the annual cycle of faith and learning.
The cycle of faith and learning continued against backdrops of wars in Korea and Vietnam and the unprecedented political upheaval symbolized by Watergate. God continued to call young men and women to education as Christian leaders during the Gulf War and after 9-11. God preserved the cycle through wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Great Recession of 2008, and during the epic challenge of a global pandemic.
This new cycle of faith and learning at Welch College is no less a miracle than at any other time in the college’s 80-year history. The counter-intuitive, counter-cultural cycle continues in the face of challenges and opposition to historic, biblical Christianity not experienced in American history, and on a trajectory to rival challenges faced by the early Christian church and the Christian martyrs.
President Matt Pinson recently remarked, “As Welch College remains true to her charter, anchored in biblical truth and principle, God’s light here will shine even brighter in a darkening world.”
Yes! God delights in displaying His power in counter-intuitive, counter-cultural ways. In Isaiah 43:19, God said, “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”
Just as God lovingly provides His creation with new life each spring, each year at Welch College He reminds us of His life-giving, redemptive purpose for humanity. As the cycle of faith and learning is repeated in this 80th year, may God once again do a new thing.
About the Author: Dr. Greg Ketteman is vice president for strategic initiatives, graduate dean of education, and education professor at Welch College.