Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Church vs. Campus Ministries 2.0

I will attempt to answer a question posed in response to the first posting of this series. Please forgive me if I have overstated or oversimplified anything and I mean only to comment on what I currently am seeing in relation to this subject.

Question: "What is the biblical role of the church in reaching collegiate students?"

Answer: The definition of what a church is has been hazed over by ministries all over the world seeking to be relevant, but not really answer with the God-given response found in the Scriptures. Acts 2:42-47 is a good starting place and has much to say about what the multi-generational body of Christ looks like in coming together, listening to the Word of God taught, sharing all things, and praising God for all things done through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Obviously, meeting in houses is not the rule in determining whether or not a body of believers is a church. In some cultures and contexts where persecution happens or when even a lack of resources occurs this becomes permissable and even encouraged in order to not neglect meeting together as Hebrews 10:25 states, "as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." This is where many will say, "Can't ten college students who meet together every Tuesday night for Bible study be considered a church? They share things, they pray for each other, they hold each other accountable, and they teach the word. What's the big deal?!" Every New Testament instance of a body of believers or a congregation meeting together provides no contextual proof for peoples of just the same age group or generation. The multi-generational church is to meet together continuously in hopes of maturing into the likeness of Christ and for the building up of the body. How can a group of 19-year olds mature in Christ when all that is influencing them is themselves and not older men and women? Titus ran into the same issues as Paul challenged him (Titus 2) that older women needed to pour into younger women in discipleship because Titus was not in a position to do so or ever will be.

What this means then in regards to reaching the campus is that the local church needs to put Christ on display through the biblical framework laid out in the New Testament in being the church to the culture they are trying to reach. More often then not in most secular universities, getting on campus is very difficult and proves sometimes impossible for the private schools as well. The reason we have campus ministries today is because local churches abandoned ship and walked away from the culture and decided to start supporting agencies instead of their own people to go outside the camp and to do the work God has ordained them to do.

In light of all of this then, local churches that work through campus ministries to reach college students seems to be the best way currently for accessible purposes alone. But, this should not be so ultimately. Local churches cannot sit back and let agencies or para-church ministries do the work they were called to do. All local churches are going to have different focuses, aims, and goals, but each one near a college campus must have a missional purpose in reaching students for Christ and maturing them in Christ. This is their biblical role and when a campus ministry proves antithetical towards those goals, continue to pray that God would open a door for your local church to declare the mystery of Christ through another means.

Question: "What is the biblical role of campus ministries in reaching collegiate students?

Answer: The role itself is defined simply as being an extension of the local church or gateway, but not a replacement. A replacement for what? A replacement for what was discussed above. It is not the role of the campus ministry to administer the Lord's Supper or Baptism. These are reserved for who? You got it! The local church. This has gotten me now thinking about the difference between a "para-church ministry" and a "para-local church ministry". The difference between the two lies I believe in whether or not a ministry truly treasures and values the local church the way it should be for Great Commission purposes or if it hinders the local church from accomplishing its evangelistic goals or even pushes the church aside as if it isn't equipped and competent as a campus ministry to do relevant ministerial work. I would define a para-local church ministry as the former and a para-church ministry as the latter.

At Baptist Campus Ministry where we serve we have to think deeply about what our role is as a para-local church ministry and I think it is to make disciples of those who do and don't know about the Gospel and to mobilize them towards the Bride of Christ and to mobilize them towards reaching the unreached peoples of the world, all through the support of the local church. Many campus ministries would strongly agree with what I said in theory, but in practicality it doesn't work for them. There may be some viable reasons why it doesn't work for them practically from not having a biblical local church base to pull from all the way to not having churches who even care about collegiate ministry. But, there are also some who choose to not even care and to disregard what I've said in practicality because they view the biblical local church as an option to their ministry versus being a grid by which they filter their campus ministry through.

This is a paradigm shift. It doesn't happen overnight. It is an arduous process that takes dedication and patience in moving towards the eternal ends of reaching the world (college campuses) with the Gospel through the God-ordained means of the local church. If campus ministries don't take on this paradigm shift and move with it, they will continue to feed students with an apathetic attitude towards local church membership, involvement, and multi-generational discipleship. After college what is left? It won't be Baptist Campus Ministry, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, Campus Crusade, Campus Outreach, etc. It will be the local church made up of the multi-generational body of Christ.

I believe this can happen through even BCM as we exist and strive to be a para-local church ministry commissioned and supported through the local church to minister to the university public sector here in Chapel Hill.

Soli Deo gloria!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Living in Other Countries

Our friends the Omondis live in Africa. You have to read their latest post on their blog. This is continuing our series of living in other countries. Look for more to come!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Living in Other Countries

This is too funny not to pass along! These "pushers" are hired by the Japanese government to push as many people as possible in to the subway. Could you imagine?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Church vs. Campus Ministries

The title should not surprise many as this is the likely case between many churches and campus ministries. I (Steven) was recently interviewed about the greatest challenges facing churches seeking to effectively minister to college students today. Here was my very brief response.

a. Disconnect between Churches and Para-church ministries.

There is huge disconnect between local churches and Para-church ministries built on what I would call “territorialism”. This would best typify what hinders the work of local churches to being active on the collegiate campus. This also hinders the work of Para-church ministries as more and more are finding it harder to minister within their context in “not being the church”, but doing the functions of a local church without the proper resources. The only way to reconcile the differences is for both to know their biblical role in reaching college students with the Gospel. The role of the local church is to be the church and the role of the campus ministry is to be the extension of the local church as defined in the Scriptures. I’ve seen through my experiences on both sides that both have trouble giving ground where ground needs to given and to work in the complimentary role God has graced each with. Scholar Dr. J.P. Moreland said the three most influential pieces defining our culture are the Media, Hollywood, and the Universities. If we can reach the students of the Universities we can reach the other facets of our culture. Partnership between the local church and Para-church ministries on campuses can be done and so there is hope for this, but it takes humility and work on both sides.

b. A lack of understanding of what college students actually face.

We can all say with honesty that college life fifteen years ago was totally different from thirty years ago as well as even fifty years ago. Today college life is changing as our culture progresses and for the church to be deficient in understanding the collegiate culture is dangerous. For it will result in a lack of understanding of what college students actually face in their academic and social lives, but also ineffectiveness in reaching them with the Gospel. In order to truly pursue people in general we must understand them and ask questions as to what makes them emboldens them today and not twenty years ago. At each campus today almost 30% of all college students are on anti-depressant drugs; up from 6% twenty years ago and almost 35% are attempting or are addicted to illegal substances. These are recent stats that should alarm any such person, but is the church up to date on these cultural trends that are affecting college students or is the church just finally discovering them? The church must take a more proactive role in clearly knowing how to reason through the Scriptures with Atheists, Agnostics, and other major World Religions in hopes of pointing as many college students to Jesus as possible, but also digging deep into their lives for relevance. This has been a challenge for churches in the past, but is clearly one in which the church can repent of being passive and start following Christ in obedience in knowing the collegiate culture students live in.

c. Failure to properly give college students a Global Vision for reaching unreached peoples.

One thing churches in general fail to do is give college students and singles before they graduate a Global perspective of reaching peoples who have never heard the message of the Gospel. It is the role of the local church to equip all its members of the Body of Christ to go and tell the Gospel to every tribe, tongue, and nation the saving message of Jesus Christ. Most college students when they graduate are single, ambitious, passionate, and looking to make a difference in the world. What a more perfect opportunity and season in a college student’s life, but to go and spend two or three years in a place where the Gospel has never been! Mobilizing college students to go and live a short season of their life in a hard place is a difficult thing for churches to do as they are competing with the world’s offerings of high paying salaries, lucrative careers in research, and the goals of living a life of ease and comfort. Granted, these things are all nice in the context of knowing they come from God and He is the one who richly supplies. But, they should never become the end goal in life, as they should always be the means by which to fulfill the Great Commission through the local church. It is the mandate of the church to equip primarily for this task however challenging it may be, but it can be done by the grace of God.

More on this to come later.