Welcome to Wheaton’s new mission statement. On the recommendation of a task force that included faculty, staff, student, and alumni representatives, the trustees have refreshed our short declaration of what we believe to be our God-given calling as a Christ-centered college.
The revision process began two years ago as the campus community responded to “The President’s Green Paper on the Mission, Context, and Direction of Wheaton College.” While respondents generally were supportive of the mission statement we have been using since the early 1980s, as explained and defended in the paper, they also raised some good questions, such as:
- Could we be more explicit about our commitment to Christ and His Kingdom?
- Should we say something about our liberal arts identity and/or our graduate programs?
- In saying that we wanted to develop “whole Christians,” were we sensitive enough to the reality of human brokenness?
- What exactly is an “effective” Christian?
In response, the trustees appointed a task force to review and possibly revise our mission statement in consultation with the wider college community. The fruit of their labors is a modest revision that renews Wheaton’s commitment to Christ-centered liberal arts education and clarifies the service we hope to offer in the kingdom of God.
The new mission statement begins with two active verbs: serve and advance. The first verb positions us in submission to Jesus Christ. While it is true that God has often called Wheaton to lead, our primary calling is to serve—specifically, to serve Jesus Christ as our Creator, Savior, and Lord.
Our vision for service is as wide as God’s work in the world. So the new mission statement includes familiar words from our motto: His Kingdom. Strictly speaking, God advances his own kingdom. But he gives us such a surprisingly important role in establishing his dominion that it seems appropriate to say that we are part of its progress.
Wheaton College advances the kingdom of Jesus Christ through a particular kind of education. We affirm our ongoing commitment to the best traditions of liberal education at a time when many liberal arts colleges are in decline and many students overlook the uniquely valuable preparation that such an education provides for life and work. We also affirm that the distinctive contribution of our graduate school is essential to our mission.
The closing verbs of the new mission statement echo and clarify wording from the old one: build the church and benefit society. The old mission statement made it our aim to “improve” society. The task force determined that the word benefit is more biblical and perhaps more modest. Whether or not our graduates improve society (often they do), we want to bless people outside as well as inside the church.
The last word of the new mission statement—worldwide—looks beyond Wheaton’s campus to encompass the needs of a world that is wounded by sin and hoping for redemption. By the grace of God, we hope to see our graduates making a difference for Jesus Christ all over the globe.
Eventually Wheaton’s mission statement will need to be revised again. Some future generation will ask its own good questions about the phrasing they inherit from us. They will add what we have left out or suggest new wording to replace the old.
My hope and prayer is that when that day comes, Wheaton will still be faithful to its God-given mission—a mission that goes back to 1860 and was always intended to last until Jesus comes again to establish his kingdom forever.