By Kathryn McDonald
This semester Cedarville welcomed Dr. Nathan Harris to two jobs. He is an assistant professor in the School of Biblical and Theological Studies and the senior director of Annual Giving in Advancement. It’s a unique role that allows him to divide his time between teaching and overseeing the stewardship of annual donations to Cedarville’s funds.
“My expectations of joy have been exceeded,” Harris said of his first three months.
For the last five-and-a-half years, Harris and his family lived and served in Kansas City, Missouri, where he completed his seminary training at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. While studying, he also served in a similar advancement role.
Harris said that, about two years ago, God began calling him toward a ministry to college students as a professor, in addition to his role in encouraging, giving and stewarding. It seemed like an impossible dream until the door opened at Cedarville for him to serve both as a professor and a member of the Advancement team.
“It’s been a wonderful transition and time for me to really serve in both of the things I feel the Lord has called me to do,” Harris said. “Though my wife and I were praying about what could be next and where the Lord could be leading us, we never thought an opportunity to do this, to do exactly what I want to do, would be there.”
Harris has a unique perspective on the role that he plays on campus. As he interacts with donors, he reminds himself daily of his calling.
“I am constantly reminded of the Lord has called me to uniquely invite donors to participate in the vision and mission that the Lord is doing at Cedarville,” Harris said. “I feel very passionate about telling donors the Cedarville story and sharing with them how are we uniquely positioned to aid students in standing upon the Word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ but also integrate their faith in learning.”
Harris explained that for Christians, giving is rooted in the gospel. “We give because we have received,” he said. “Gospel generosity is the life of a Christian.”
Through the gospel, we see a reorientation of our desires to be generous with our resources for the glory of God. Radical generosity is a gift of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. Our knowledge as believers of God’s sufficiency produces contentment which allows us to be bold in doing many things for the one who meets all our needs.
Though Harris’ ministry is engaged in stewarding the financial gifts of donors, the radical generosity that should characterize a believer extends beyond finances to time and talents as well. Good stewardship opens opportunities for God’s people to serve the King and his kingdom.
“Everything we have is because the Lord has given it to us,” Harris said. “So, we are stewarding the Lord’s resources. How can we steward those well and make kingdom impact?
How can we take our resources – whether that’s time, talent or treasure – and honor the King and impact the kingdom with those things?”
Harris’ friend since 2015, Dr. Ronni Kurtz, commented on how he has seen gospel generosity take shape in Harris’ life.
“Nathan’s vision for generosity is helpful because it’s more kingdom focused,” Kurtz said. “It’s not just generosity – it’s a generosity that wants to make a significant kingdom impact.”
The impact Harris desires to make for the kingdom also extends to the classroom, where he aims to use his platform to teach his students how their faith can impact their vocation. Not all students are at Cedarville to study the Bible, but that shouldn’t stop them from seeking to know, love and serve Jesus, both now and later as they pursue careers to the glory of God. Harris hopes that the knowledge students gain in their training here at Cedarville will inform their love, which will in turn drive their service.
Kurtz commented on how he has seen the study of God’s Word generate love and excitement in Harris’ life.
“Nathan wrote his dissertation on something most folks would find rather mundane, which is conjunctions in the book of Hebrews,” Kurtz said. “However, his study of conjunctions animates him and his love of God’s Word is contagious. When he gets to talking about Hebrews, he gets excited.”
Harris also hopes that the content of his courses will make its way into the practical moments of everyday living. He wants his students to walk away from his classes with the ability to answer the question, “How does what I am studying impact the way that I am knowing, loving and serving the Lord?”
“While we may be talking about lofty theological themes, Christology, the Trinity, ecclesiology, I want them to be able to say, ‘So what? Why does this matter? How does this impact my life? And how can I share these theological truths with people so that they can know, love and serve Jesus?’” Harris said.
Over the years, Harris said one of the biggest lessons that keeps coming back to him is the nature of God’s goodness. He explained that God isn’t just good but also loving and merciful.
“The more I study the Bible, the more and more I realize just how true that statement is and how good the Lord is for his people,” Harris said. “And oftentimes we don’t see to its fullest extent in and through suffering how good the Lord is. I am regularly awestruck in that.”
The truth of God’s goodness works its way into every corner of Harris’ life. He said that the lessons he learns about God, people and himself generally cycle. Realizing that God is good propels him to understand his need for grace. As his awareness of his own needs grows, his awareness of the needs of others also grows. For Harris, this drives him toward an understanding of the value of relationships and opportunities to pour into other people – family, friends and strangers. Every interaction is an opportunity to encourage others with these truths.
“I would say the thing that has impacted me the most, preparing me to do my current role both in admin and academics, has been living in community of other believers,” he said.
At seminary, Harris said that, although classes were a rich opportunity for growth, it wasn’t necessarily in the classrooms and seminars where he learned the most.
“It was being at the lunch table every single day and having deep conversations,” he said. “It was having coffee in the mornings. It was meeting with professors and talking through life in ministry and discipleship. That community and fellowship has shaped me in ways that I don’t think I would have ever realized.”
For students who are looking to pursue opportunities to teach one day, Harris shares an exhortation.
“I tell students all the time that regardless of whether you want to pursue higher education, do your best to not make an academic exercise void of spiritual impact,” he said. “So, don’t pursue biblical and theological studies without the desire for God to work in your life in those studies.”
Studying the Bible should shape all of us, not just our minds but also our hearts and souls as well. Harris encourages students to not just “read your Bible because you have to for a class but read your Bible so that you are refreshed by it.”
Harris said that his biggest prayer for his ministry to students is that he could reach beyond the classroom. His hope is for students to believe they are cared for as whole people when they sit under his teaching. He wants his students to know their spiritual, physical and mental health matters to him because it matters to God. As students leave his classes, he hopes that his reflection of Christ’s love encourages them to love and cherish the savior more.
When asked what passage of Scripture most characterizes Harris’ ministry, Kurtz pointed to the collection of “one anothers” throughout the New Testament.
“Nathan is just so caring,” Kurtz said. “He cares for other people. He loves other people.”
Whether it is bearing one another’s burden, remaining devoted to one another or building up one another, Harris demonstrates what it means to live well with one another.
Harris is quickly earning a reputation as a man who is concerned with loving the Lord and encouraging others to do the same.
Kathryn McDonald is a junior Psychology major and a Campus News writer for Cedars. When she’s not at her desk studying, you can probably catch her in the library writing a letter to a friend, reading her favorite American poetry or drinking coffee from her favorite mug.