Dr. Joseph McRae Mellichamp is Emeritus Professor of Management Science in the Manderson Graduate School of Business at the University of Alabama and National Faculty Representative for Christian Leadership Ministries. For 25 years, Dr. Mellichamp combined successful academic pursuits with effective Christian ministry activities.
John Myers received his B.S. degree in journalism from Auburn University. He is a member of the staff of Christian Leadership Ministries where he is the editor for The Real Issue and is responsible for a number of other publications. He and his wife have two children and live in the Dallas area.
In talking with other successful professors who were committed to sharing with their students, Rae realized "what an impact I, as a Christian professor, could have on my students. I realized I really had an obligation to let people on campus know where I stood.
"The first times I attempted to share my faith with students . . . I was a basket-case. But in all the years I've shared in the classroom, I've never had any face-to-face negative feedback, but I did get a tremendous amount of positive feedback. I had students with tears in their eyes thank me for the encouragement my testimony had been to them.
"People need to keep in mind that we're not trying to win converts," Mellichamp continued, "we're just trying to communicate that there are professors who are Christians. If a student hears that, it will stick with them for the rest of their lives. And every time a nonChristian professor starts to put down Christianity, they'll think `but wait a minute, Mellichamp is a Christian.'"
By 1975, Rae had a group of Christian professors meeting consistently to pray and work at bringing the gospel to the campus. The group, under Rae's leadership, held evangelistic events for faculty and students. Also, the group sponsored evangelistic ads in the school newspaper.
One pioneering idea the group developed was a "meet your professor" seminar in conjunction with freshmen orientation. At the seminar, the Christian faculty each presented a one minute testimony and invited students to get involved in one of the student Christian organizations.
The most successful venture for Mellichamp personally was a lecture he created entitled "How to Get Better Grades and Have More Fun," based on the book of the same name by Steve Douglass. In addition to explaining to students how to develop good study habits, the lecture included Mellichamp's Christian testimony.
Students benefited so much from the content of the lecture that Mellichamp was sought after to speak in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and other secular students functions. Over time, he related the gospel to over 3,000 students at his university.
So why does Mellichamp want to leave his teaching life for full-time ministry with CLM?
"I've accomplished what I wanted to," he said. "The faculty fellowship is in good hands--ministry will continue on campus. I came to a point in my professional life where I could do everything without trusting God. We wanted to be . . . where we could trust God for bigger things."
Mellichamp will use his experience as he travels the country to encourage and motivate professors to use their position as an opportunity for ministry. He has developed a lecture for Christian faculty entitled The Christian Professor in the Secular University which explains how faculty can view their campus as a mission field.
"Most Christians view their place of ministry as being in the church," Rae explained. "God expects us to have an impact in our work situation . . . for professors that includes students and colleagues."