18 May 2005

Universities and the Christian Faith

I've been in the Holy Ministry since 1981 and have served a number of different congregations in different settings. With all the love and respect given to all the congregations I've served, it was the 9 years I spent as a Campus Pastorat the University of Northern Iowa (Go, Panthers!) that I enjoyed the best. As state universities goes, it is a small campus with some 13K students.
Reading the various weblogs, online articles and so on, one gets the impression that universities are the source of all the evil in the world. The authors give the strong impression that the campus is a nest of anti-Christian plots. They are plotting to destroy the faith and to impose a godless worldview. Yes, the typical university is an artifical environment, filled with enthusiastic and idealistic young adults. I was both a "townie" and a part of the university community, so I know that the concerns of the university community are not the concerns of the "townies." There are times when the local community doesn't get along with the campus, times when the university community indulges in riots, drunkness and debauchery. But that is not what a campus is all about.
The campus is also a place of growth, a place where young people struggle with the questions of life, where they need campus workers, campus pastors and people who care for them very much. The students need adults who can understand their lives and a willing to struggle with the students as they deal with the hard questions.
My campus congregation was a "gown-town" church whose ministry was to the campus. Our small congregation knew the importance of its ministry and loved the students. Our district -- that's the regional church in my denomination -- generously supported us. They knew the need and was willing to financially support us. The congregation and the district knew the ministry challenges and the opportunities to work with students and to bring them the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is why it is so important that we put resources -- that means money and people -- onto the campuses of our nation. Looking at it from a missiological approach the typical campus has to be seen as a group of people who are 70% unchurched. To put it in more technical terms, a campus is a people group that is 70% without Christ. It is a mistake to see the campus as a place of evil and debauchery. The campus is a place to be reached with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The campus is a cross-cultural ministry, just as cross-cultural as a village in Africa or a city in China is a cross-cultural ministry.
Read Acts 17 to see how Paul shared the Good News of Jesus Christ with a pagan community (Athens) .

Acts 17:17 GW He held discussions in the synagogue with Jews and converts to
Judaism. He also held discussions every day in the public square with anyone who
happened to be there.

This is the model we can use to reach the campus. It takes time to reach the students, it takes time to be where they are and to talk with them. Sure, there are lots of weird stuff happening on your local campus. But it is a place where God is also at work! I hope that you are a part of the fun. Doc Steve
p.s. Please pray that I can get back into serving students. Even with my illness I would love to be back on campus. This is the fire in my belly. SME


At 8:03 PM, Anonymous Alan said...

Indeed! Campus ministry is VITAL to the well-being of students on campuses today. Thanks to a bunch of committed Christians in my dorm during my freshman year of college, I told them of the cold reception I got from the church of the denomination I grew up in (the campus grew up around the church and they resented the intrusion of the campus into their world). They invited me to come to the church they attended (the campus ministry!). The campus pastor there welcomed me. That Sunday (and for that matter, EVERY SUNDAY) he proclaimed God's Word clearly--the very stuff I had read in my Bible growing up, but never heard talked about in church. I decided right away that I had found a church to call home. Another one of those Christian friends from the dorm went through adult instruction with me at the campus chapel. Together we were confirmed in our faith on Good Friday. It was a very GOOD Friday :-)

God worked through that campus pastor and those Christians in the dorm to solidly anchor my life in Christ the Crucified. Through that campus ministry, God also gifted me with Christian roommates, a “Proverbs 31” wife, and my dearest and closest lifelong friends. A lot of time has come and gone since then. During those years, I was a missionary doing Bible translation & literacy in Africa, a parish pastor, and a campus pastor cleverly disguised as a research scientist in a medical school (as much a mission field as Africa!). Looking back on those diverse times, I know God used the years I worked “under cover” in campus ministry to impact the lives of many of those who are now physicians (as well as many of those who taught them!).

Eight years ago, when God called my wife home to Him, one of my former Christian roommates and the friend I was confirmed with dropped everything and came to my wife’s funeral. I pray that God might someday use me to be that kind of friend to someone whenever they may also need such a friend...

PastorAl (or now DoctorAl, ABD)


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