Tag Archives: college ministry

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.

Dispatches from Campus Ministries: Anti-Black Racism & Cru

 

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So recently, I’ve been catching wind of various cult-like tendencies of Cru – in terms of theological assimilation- this is especially problematic and hypocritical considering their aim to be an INTERDENOMINATIONAL campus ministry. You wouldn’t know of their (apparently forsaken) goal from their wholesale endorsements of their “holy” trinity – Piper, Platt, and (insert any number of young , reformed Calvinistas)

Cru, in all its attempts to function like theological gate-keepers, ends up having rather terrifying implications for race. What one will find in looking at the type of Christians that Cru draws – they tend to have this passionate, missional (uggh), relentless zeal to reach the lost and spread the gospel according to John Calvin. If you aren’t already that way upon entry to the ministry, then prepare to be whipped into theological shape! They tend to have this really youthful, politically naive spirit about them. Well, imagine a black student trying to join a theoretically interdenominational campus ministry. The leadership at CRU teaches that in the black community [and for other communities of Color], the Christian faith is more likely to be a religion that is “handed down” from generation to generation- it’s more like an inheritance or an ethno-religious community- part of their cultural heritage. This is may seem  especially true given the history of black churches in America ( and I know this being a part of the community and some facts and figures) and its heroic legacy and connotations it has in the black community and even the U.S. at large.[1] Now contrast this with the fresh, young, “on the verge of something new” , “being missional”, atmosphere that tends to engender Cru.

The narrative of Cru members tends to be one that ignores the institutional outcomes of Cru as a ministry or even the historical context of Christianity and instead would like to think that what they’re doing is somehow outside of history, politics, etc. and instead they’re commissioned by God to spread the gospel throughout the campus. This of course does not allow much room for  historic black American churches. While Cru-ites have a zeal not only on campus but globally ( Spring Break trips to the Dominican Repub, etc.) , the black churches are more focused on saving the black community and its burdens. But to the mostly white Cru, this looks like a lack of zeal and passion/focus for “the things of God”.

Many people in Cru ( at least the Blue Ridge region) tend to be more or less recent converts to Christianity who likely grew up in the church all their lives and so it did not mean anything to them . They’ll next tell you, in their testimonies, that they had what is essentially an existential crisis with the meaning of Christianity and its use to society and the purpose of church. So their “salvation experience” tends to be these really individualistic, “I prayed the sinner’s prayer and Jesus saved me from hell” sort of stories and so their resolve is to do the same for other people – spread this message of escaping hell fire. They behave as if they’re on to something new and revolutionary and even “radical!” (hint David Platt) and it essentially can be reduced to spiritual hedonism – again, contrast this to the historic black American church.

Additionally, I must note that in all my four years in Cru ( I stopped attending around last semester, but I still attend men’s bible studies every now and then), in all of the authors we’ve read and church pastors we’ve invited to come speak, not ONE has been black. And there is not at ALL a shortage of black churches in the Asheville area. Cru doesn’t realize how their problematic approach to theological assimilation is not only hypocritical but ends up being anti-black given the nature of the black church in America.

Additionally, a friend of mine at Cru notified me that they are launching a ministry (requiring more money and resources/staff) for the specific purpose of drawing black people- I think it’s called something like “Impact” or some similar type name…. It would be a whole branch dedicated to black student ministry – talk about separate but equal!  The fact that you aren’t drawing black students in is telling in and of itself. Have they ever stopped to think that the fact that they aren’t drawing in the number of black students that they want into the MAIN Cru ministry is indicative of a shortcoming in their approach to ministry – instead of spending all this effort to making this ludicrous extra black student ministry? 

Have you worked in a campus ministry setting and experienced racism? Are parachurch organizations located at colleges and universities speaking out against institutional racism at their schools? Are these groups working towards racial reconciliation? 

[1] EDITOR’S NOTE:  The false racist mythology that the religious habits of people of color are remnants of things passed down rather than a “genuine” conversionist form of Christianity is part of the colonial legacy that is Orientalism. People of Color are categorized as *naturally religious* and therefore more like to be submissive in a national economy.  When white evangelicalism teaches that Christianities from African-American, Asian- and Pacific American American, and First Nations contexts are not “real” Christianities, that is part of the White Supremacist gaze. It is one of the major reasons why racism blocks good evangelical organizations like the Gospel Coalition from recognizing that religious revival is going on in the North East, particularly Boston.

Dispatches from Campus Ministries: White evangelicalism and Minstrelsy

Video Linked

^ Hot off the presses of Blue Ridge Cru Assembly everyone!

That’s right, this episode of incredibly problematic PWI Christian campus ministries features a topic that is on the heart of many mainly white females that compose the group – RELATIONSHIPS! I won’t go into detail how ridiculous it is that many of them have this “genie-in-a-bottle” theology of God just granting them their prince charming in mind to be happily ever after. Suffice it to say that for many, it’s like a full time job.

The issue I am pointing out the way that this video I posted is being used. I have a feeling that my own campus ministry isn’t the only instance. This video is deeply disturbing to me because it’s so representative of what white evangelical ,complimentarian, neo-reformed folks tend to say about the matter. It’s as if the message is sanitized, universalized, etc. because they’re using a black man dressed in urban clothing with rhythmic speech patterns to relay the message. It’s their way at saying ” see? Even he’s saying it, so it’s not just for old white folks!”
What this man says is no different than what the likes of John Piper or David Plat would say – matter of fact, if I dug deep enough, I wouldn’t be surprised if I found that he got his “inspiration” from them. In my four years being involved in Cru ministry ( to a much lesser extent now, though), I can attest that this has been the biggest issue I’ve had. I can’t tell how many times I’ve walked into the Cru large group to be greeted by Lecrae or Trip Lee. The use of black bodies to relay a message for the sake of making neo-reformed white-saturated theology seem more accessible. Black guys ( and it’s really only been men- and why is THAT!?) can be reformed rappers making “holy hip-hop” and make these cute little videos about pursuing a girl , but we rarely see these same black men as the brains behind the theology. They’re used… much like in black face. They’re confined to that role, while white male neo-calvinists theologians cook up the concepts. Essentially: 

Black lingo is harmless but black thoughts.contributions to theology ..let’s leave that to white men.