“A Work Worth Saving” featured article from Johnson Magazine
David Peters, J.D. Associate Professor Johnson University Florida
My relationship with Florida Christian College began in 1990 soon after I moved from Canada to Florida and began attending Port St. Lucie Christian Church. I began to appreciate Jesus’ teaching that “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35 NASB). I was struck by the reality that I was a minister, that I had a ministry to fulfill, and that only in the fulfillment of that ministry would there ever be any peace or life. For reasons unknown to me, an anonymous benefactor offered to pay my tuition for one year of study at FCC. I accepted the offer even though I believed my past stigmatized me and even though I doubted that I would ever serve a church in a paid capacity. However, I knew FCC trained people for ministry, and I believed that I could learn much about serving or ministering more fruitfully even if my ministry were not in a church-based vocation.
During my time at Florida Christian College I was blessed with gifts that continue to be a part of His transforming work in my life through a community totally dedicated to serving Christ, dependent upon and determined to be wholly submissive to his Word. “Strong in the Scriptures” was a commitment shared by faculty and absorbed by students. The faculty imparted to the students a deep love of the Word, the church, and the lost and helped students understand the world through the prism of God’s Word. As a result of my study at FCC, I felt equipped to serve and to live with integrity before God.
Along with many other students, faculty, administration, and supporters, I have had the privilege of seeing and experiencing the good fruits of the work of Florida Christian College from its beginning until the present. The development of Christian servants who are strong in the Scriptures and ready to lead the church has continued unabated, and these fruits, in truth, have only seemed to grow richer as our most recent students have demonstrated an understanding of the wide-ranging consequences of the Gospel. These students are as refined, zealous, and biblical as any of us who have gone before them. FCC graduates serve in churches, non-profit organizations, colleges, government, and businesses throughout the world. I proudly share a wonderful heritage with my fellow Florida Christian College alumni.
Given all of the good fruit we know the College to be bearing and given our proud heritage, most of us associated with Florida Christian College could not conceive that anything could seriously threaten the College’s ability to train people for kingdom service. However, a mounting debt did begin to threaten the work. In fact, by January 2012 a nation-wide economic downturn led to diminished giving to the College while, at the same time, the College had been making investments in both programs and facilities intended to drive the enrollment upward. When these initiatives did not deliver the expected results and the debt continued to grow, the FCC family knew it needed significant financial assistance to continue its mission—it needed a solid partner to help move it forward. That assistance came from the administration and trustees of Johnson University.
FCC felt crushed when in December 2012, SACS, its regional accrediting association, removed the College’s accreditation. This decision by SACS was based solely on the College’s financial situation. The College appealed SACS’ decision because the board and administration believed it was a wrong decision and because they wanted to preserve accreditation for students as long as possible. This appeal gave FCC until February 2013 to convince SACS with as much evidence as possible that the financial situation had been rectified. It also left us at the College knowing that several million dollars needed to be raised in a very short time frame; raising this amount of capital in this amount of time would be unheard of in the history of the Christian churches.
The Florida Christian College Board, for which I was the general counsel, reached out to Johnson University because we needed to find our assistance from those who believe in the work of FCC and from those who had the financial means to deliver the College from the impending calamity. In reaching out, our sole assumption was that the work of FCC was a work worth saving. We knew, in principle, that Johnson University values many of the same things we do, with the same depth of conviction: the centrality and authority of the inspired Scriptures for all of life, faith, and practice; vocational ministry training; adherence to the principles of the Restoration Movement. We knew that we were in agreement in most doctrinal matters, and we had confidence that where there was disagreement, what united us would be powerful enough to help us faithfully navigate those differences. We were confident that in dealing with Johnson we would be able to live faithfully with that enduring conviction of the Restoration Movement: “In essentials, unity; in non- essentials, liberty; in all things, love.” What became clear to us very quickly was that Johnson knew, understood, and valued Florida Christian College. In explaining their interest in working with us, they recited our history with almost as much pride as we did; in fact, they recognized the fruits of FCC and commended us for them. Their board, administration, faculty, staff, students, and supporters alike made it clear over and over again and in as many ways as possible that the great work that God was doing at FCC would be perpetuated. There was unilateral excitement on the Johnson campus about what God could do through our combined institutions. The strengths of Johnson combined with the strengths of FCC stirred our collective sanctified imagination.
While we looked for those who believed in the work and mission of Florida Christian College to step up and to help, Johnson University made that step. We remain humbled and thankful that they did and that “they” are now “we.” Together now, we will keep our eyes on the God who could have judged FCC’s work to be over, but who, instead, in his grace and wisdom, delivered us from our calamity to a position of strength we have never previously known. This is the amazing grace of God. His deliverance gives us great hope and confidence that the best days for the work of Johnson University and Florida Christian College, now merged into one institution, remain ahead of us. In the words of our beloved FCC alma mater, together we sing, “Come then, brothers, let us speed on, building up the walls of Zion, for the labor time is not long to reach all the world.”
David Peters, J.D., is associate professor of philosophy and apologetics at Johnson University Florida where he teaches Christian evidences, ethics, applied ethics, and modern and postmodern philosophy. He is a proud alumnus of the Florida Christian College Class of 1996, having received his B.A. in Bible and Ministry, with emphases in Preaching and Counseling. He holds an M.A. in Theology from Lincoln Christian Seminary, and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Florida’s College of Law (2004).
David grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and came to the United States in the early 1990s. He has served with various Christian church and non-instrumental church of Christ congregations as small groups minister, discipleship minister, and preacher. David’s ministry experience includes serving as a member of the priesthood of all believers in settings as varied as auto parts warehouses, law firms, and mission trips to Cambodia.
David and his wife Anastasia have three children: Jedidiah, Alannah, and Zeke. They are eager supporters of the work of International Justice Mission and Rapha House.