CIU and the Zwemer Center

Posted on October 10, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Down Home in Mississippi

Columbia International University in South Carolina has been quietly making a kingdom impact for 80 years. Originally founded as Columbia Biblical College and Seminary, more than a thousand students are currently enrolled in the various undergraduate, graduate and seminary courses with a passion for living out the schoolʼs theme, “To know Christ and make Him known.”I have been serving on the board of trustees for CIU for ten years; it has been a blessing to see this institution leading students to a deeper spiritual walk and then sending them out to the nations. I had the privilege of speaking at the spring commencement this year; of the 356 graduates, 40% were headed overseas to the mission field, 30% were going into mission assignments and church planting in the U.S. and the remaining 30% were committed to living out their faith and witness in marketplace ministries. Bobbye and I were on campus last week. In addition to meeting and planning with staff and participating in the board meeting, I had the privilege of teaching a seminary mission class.

In mission circles CIU is known to have the foremost curriculum in Muslim studies and is one of the few evangelical institutions that actually offers a degree in this field through the College of Inter-cultural Studies. Several years ago CIU acquired the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies which had been founded in 1979 at the U.S. Center for World Missions in Pasadena, CA. Named for Samuel Zwemer, former missionary in North Africa, the Center advocates understanding and building relationships with Muslims in order for the gospel to be shared with sensitivity and integrity.

In addition to serving as an umbrella for academic studies, the Zwemer Center facilitates research, fosters dialogues and provides seminars and training events for mission agencies and churches. Since 2004 Dr. Warren Larson, one of the foremost scholars and respected authorities on Muslim-Christian relations has been director of the Center. He has announced his retirement, and I have been asked to serve as the new Director of the Center (just something else to do in retirement). Larson will continue to serve as Scholar-in-Residence, and with the help of Assistant Director, Trevor Castor, this role will not require me to live in Columbia.

I am looking forward to using the influence and network of relationships accrued over the years to enhance the profile of the Center beyond the academic to areas of practicaltraining for missionary candidates and practitioners. High on the agenda is creating training modules for local churches to understand and relate to Muslims moving into their communities.

Having served in Indonesia, with the largest Muslim population in the world, I have personally identified with the challenge of reaching this segment of the world. When barriers fell to Christian witness in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the latter years of the 20th century, we recognized the one remaining formidable barrier to global evangelization was the Muslim world. But in the last decade that barrier is beginning to crumble with disillusionment toward Muslim radicals and the recent “Arab Spring” in which a younger generation in Northern Africa and the Middle East is demanding new freedoms.

When Jesus sent us to disciple the nations, it included those that remain in bondage to Islamic traditions. We know that they, too, will be represented among every tribe, language and nation gathered with the redeemed around the throne of God. God knows how they will be reached, but it remains for us to seek the mind of God and walk faithfully with Him so that we might have the privilege of introducing Muslims to the King of kings and Lord of lords!

Don’t miss the Rankin Connecting post on Wednesday this week on the challenge to churches to Embrace the Nations. Last Friday’s Devotional Reflections on Why Go? will be available all week to be replaced by new devotional thoughts on Acts 20:24.

One Comment on “CIU and the Zwemer Center”

  1. Bettie Rose Addleton

    Hu and I will be in Columbia (Nov.3-5) for Homecoming and his 60th class reunion. We are hoping this might be one of the times when you are on campus. We’d love to see you both. Bettie

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