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Private grant funds new biblical academy

Oklahoma Christian University received a $175,000 grant to create a high school theology academy.

The Lilly Foundation, the organization that gave the grant, wanted high school youth academies to address two things: to encourage youth to think about the vocation of ministry and to equip youth to face the challenges in society in the 21st century,” Director of Center for Global Missions and Director of the Restore Program Ben Langford said.

According to its website, Lilly Endowment, Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937.

Langford said the academy program is called Restore because of the Church of Christ restoration history and will focus on three themes: “Restoring Humanity,” “Restoring Believers” and “Restoring Creation.”

“We are starting a three-year cycle where students will come in and they will spend a week here at the academy,” Langford said. “The model is largely based off the Honors Summer Academy but this is not an Honors program. We will have our Bible faculty and we will bring in speakers. There will be a huge emphasis on spiritual formation and disciplines during that week.”

High school students are able to come to the academy after their sophomore year and continue until they go to college.

“I think the Restore program is a great opportunity for high school students to enrich their spiritual lives,” sophomore Lily Olivas said. “I think there could be more done when it comes to our youth. I think mission trips are great but, usually people only get to go once or do not have the time or money to go. I can see this program allowing the youth to be truly involved with working for God’s kingdom.”

Students also have the opportunity to be introduced to the Oklahoma Christian Bible professors and what to expect from the university through the program.

“The benefits for potential students will be an earlier introduction into in-depth biblical and theological studies, the earlier building of relationships with the great Oklahoma Christian professors and an earlier understanding of what it will look like for them to live as Christ within the vocations of their choice,” senior Travis Frost said.

Charles Rix, interim dean of Oklahoma Christian’s College of Biblical Studies, will lead Restore with Langford. Doug Peters, associate professor of Bible and Baugh Chair of Preaching, and theological librarian Chris Rosser are also involved in helping plan and reach Restore’s goals.

“We have a fantastic faculty at OC who are at the top of their fields in Biblical studies, theology and ministry and who also continually serve in churches in the area and around the globe,” Langford said. “Through their experience at Restore, I hope students will grow closer to God and be formed into his image, will gain a sense of vocation for ministry, and will be prepared to face the challenges of ministry and will be prepared to face challenges of ministry and our world in the 21st century.”

According to Langford, students will be challenged to think about the world in a Christ-like mindset and have the support of Oklahoma Christian professors as they develop their opinions.

“I wish this had been offered when I was in high school,” Frost said. “It is important to be challenged spiritually and Restore sounds like a program that will allow for an environment in which the hard questions of life and faith can be safely asked. This is something that is unfortunately not the case within the average youth group class setting.”

Through classroom and hands-on learning, students will learn about their own spirituality and be able to be productive for life outside of college, Langford said.

“I hope that we can begin preparing the next generation of ministers to respond to and address the most challenging issues of our time with the liberating and life-giving power of the gospel,” Langford said.

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