Dispatches from Campus Ministries: Sharing the Gospel

So, while I could probably write a whole book about this topic, I intend to keep this post short, sweet and simple because at the end of the day , the issue of sharing the gospel/missiology does simplify rather easily.

If you’ve been involved with campus ministries during your college years for even a minute, you would be familiar with the zeal and passion that engenders these campus ministries when it comes to “reaching our campus for Christ”.  As a young, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed freshman involved in Cru ( when it was still called “Campus Crusade for Christ”…bleh..), I was taught the importance of having “spiritual conversations” with friends(relational evangelism) and “walking strangers through” the gospel with these vague pamphlets with interpretive figures and drawings to get them to think about spiritual matters/ God. Since I was a freshman , we were constantly pressed at the weekly large-group meetings to be having these conversations with friends/strangers, to be deciphering their world view and pointing them to Christ through words and wisdom. We were told that their eternal destiny may hinge on our willingness to share. In the on-campus International Cult Church of Christ para-church ministry, called “EPIC: Everyday People Imitating Cults Christ”, I have heard that their “bible studies” are sometimes really just sessions of acting out skits and anticipated situations for students to talk to students about God and the gospel.

You get the gist. Inherent with many college campus ministries is this calculated (and oddly imperialistic, often) notion of having “spiritual conversations” and evangelizing the campus through placing such a strong precedence of simply making sure students/friends know the gospel + convincing them that it is true ( and let’s not get into how problematic their interpretation of “the gospel” sometimes is..). When I was more involved with Cru, I remember feeling an immense pressure ( and I was not the only one) to have these forced, contrived (“spiritual”) conversations concerning the gospel with my friends or other strangers that I knew did not identify as Christians. The two main issues with this approach, that I have come to realize are: 1) This posits a morally/politically exempt and often naive student evangelical circle against a theoretically corrupt public student circle – this dynamic is problematic because a) it reduces the willingness ( and believe me it does) for honest dialogue between Christian/non-Christian student dialogue  because it tends to foster this self-righteous attitude as though we are somehow exempt from the same forces of life as everyone else and b) we’re led to believe that strangers/friends will be unable to pick up on our motives.. so in our naivety we treat them as though they’re naive.. ( kinda reminds me of colonialism..) But most of all 2) These calculated methods of engaging the campus for Christ places a greater precedence on telling people about Jesus , as opposed to BECOMING like Jesus. It prevents us from loving them as fully as we’re called to (ya know, that whole neighborly love thing?)

Christ said “Whoever says he hates his brother but does loves me, does not TRULY love me” (immense paraphrasing), but what he definitely did NOT say is “whoever does not have contrived spiritual conversations with friends but says he loves me dot not truly love me”….we need to rearrange our priorities. Of course, this has implications for even beyond/after college ministries. What I’ve found is that when place a greater precedence on being conformed to Christ’s image through the HolySspirit (calling the weak , poor , and dispossessed blessed and caring for the least of these), this makes more of an impact for Christ and opportunity for dialogue than a planned, forced conversation about Jesus. The gospel is supposed to actually be good news to the world ( imagine that), and so maybe if we allowed that to inform how we lived our lives and people saw that, more students would be drawn to campus ministries.

0 thoughts on “Dispatches from Campus Ministries: Sharing the Gospel

  1. Lady Jaye

    I love this post. Recently I tried arguing this (rather badly) with someone who told me he listens to John MacArthur and other ‘white Jesus’ preachers because they have useful ideas for evangelizing to Muslims. The model used by Cru (and so many of our churches and by us) puts the emphasis on speaking the word instead of allowing ourselves to be transformed by the word and so watch Christ draw all men to himself.

    Apparently the justification for this is found in Ezekiel – “son of man I have made you a watchman….I expect you to tell te wicked to repent…” And Romans “faith comes by hearing and by hearing the Word of God.”

    Reply
    1. h00die_R (Rod)

      The Ezekiel reference is interesting. I would ask those modeling Ezekiel, okay, if we have the same mission as Ezekiel the Individual, chosen prophet, why aren’t you eating bread made from cow-dung? Why not any of the other sign-acts he was told? Just sayin’ !!

      Reply
  2. Ryan Robinson

    Wish I had seen this earlier on in my time with Campus for Christ (as it’s called in Canada) in university. When I joined in my first year, there were about 150 people for the average weekly worship night and probably 80 were involved in DG’s (Discipleship Groups). About 50% of the DGs were training in random evangelism. The weekly worship had variations on two sermons – spiritual multiplication (evangelism) and Spirit-filled living which was always kept appropriately vague. The retreats were almost entirely random evangelism training.

    I was on board at first, but the heavy-handed approach constantly judging our own for how well they were doing on this one practice eventually pushed me out. I wasn’t the only one. The numbers dropped to about 30 people still involved with them by the end of my second year and from my understanding they did eventually scale back their legalistic approach, many still doing it but not making it the one true test of faith.

    Reply
    1. Harry

      Thanks Ryan! I’m glad you liked my post and can relate to it – heavy-handed is the perfect way to describe it along with the pressure which leads us to judge one another!

      Reply
  3. Lady Jaye

    Going off of Ryan’s post, I went to a small, predominately white ostensibly Quaker but really liberal and anti-religion college.

    Our Christian fellowship (run by campus ministries- inter varsity) was mostly white and got whiter. I noticed that many black Christians left after a few meetings or didn’t last the year. Talking with them revealed they didn’t feel comfortable with the fellowship/theology/philosophy. Campus ministries really aren’t inclusive for people of color/non-American Christians. We need a more inclusive theology/philosophy/fellowship. r.

    Reply
  4. Heather Caliri

    Oh, this is so true of my experience in Crusade (before it was Cru). Thank you for so clearly articulating what bothered me. The evangelism model was all about making people assent to right beliefs, giving intellectual assent primary place, without focusing on the harder issues of actually loving people.

    Reply
    1. Harry

      Heather,
      I am so glad I was able to capture how you felt! It’s so affirming and helpful for me to know that there are others out there who felt this way, especially considering no one was brave enough within my own ministry on campus (one of the consequences of this approach to evangelism)

      Arguing people into submission became more important than loving people

      Reply

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