Monday, January 22, 2007

Model 1: Local Church Only.

1) Local church only. In this model there is no place for the para-church. Here each local church is responsible for their own ministry & outreach to students. Perhaps this would be closest to the article previously quoted from CSM in the UK.

The advantages of this model are obvious.
a) There is no confusion of responsibilities - it all falls under the authority & teaching of a local church... at least on paper. No difficult relationship between local church and parachurch need be navigated. There is just the local church.
b) This in turn means that the danger of placing unnecessary burdens upon immature Christians is all but eliminated, or at least overseen in exactly the same way as leadership in any other ministry of the local church. There is no necessity for student leadership in this model at all, but there is also the possibility of student leadership with appropriate oversight, if that be deemed wise by the local church.
c) The local church is clearly affirmed and edified by this model.
d) It appears more biblical, because we don't clearly see parachurch organisations in the bible (for arguments to the contrary see pp 16-19)

a) The very nature of the interconnected relationships within a campus of Christians in different churches means that it is natural and commendable that people will have Christ-Centred relationships with their brothers & sisters who attend different local churches.
b) Should they never work together in gospel partnership with those brothers and sisters? should they not ever put on evangelistic events? Should they not, for example hold an evangelistic bible study in one of their rooms on Campus that members of First Baptist, Second Presbyterian & St. Someone's Anglican & Covenant Grace reformed charistmatic church all invite friends to because they all live in the same building. This would have several obvious benefits.Might not this gospel partnership aid the witness to the gospel, as the Non-Christian gets to see that evangelical Anglicans, Charismatics, Presbyterians & Baptists are all holding out to them the Same gospel. What if this sort of thing takes off around the University. Would it be wrong for them to get together to pray for one another & share ideas? Should they not draw up some sort of doctrinal basis & even constitution to make it clear who it would be wise to be in gospel partnership with and who it wouldn't? But then you have a parachurch, and the relationship between the parachurch and the local church once again needs to be navigated.
c) If I as a pastor of one local church get to know students who are members of another local church I am not going to refuse to have a relationship with them just because they come from another local church. I will not refuse to speak into their lives. I will, therefore, to some extent disciple them (though, in regards to the local church, if they are attending another evangelical church, I will disciple them towards a more healthy involvement in their local church, not mine.) I don't think that this undermines their church, though it does raise exactly the same questions of accountibility etc. that are raised by an organised parachurch.
d) In the bible we also don't see several different churches from different denominations within a single city. The way in which such churches relate to each other must be negotiated & we can't expect clear precident from Scripture as to how this must be done.

So, in summary, on paper this model appears to avoid the pitfalls of trying to work out the relationship between church and parachurch. In reality it will create the same problems, but with the added danger of assuming that the problems don't exist. As long as this danger is not naively ignored, I am sure that this model could work well. Local churches will just need to give wise council to their students as to how to parnter informally with other Christians.


Gareth said...

I think you missed something else bigger, that the Local Church only model is unable to do on campus: missions.

Each year at Nottingham University, the Christian Union, puts on a mission week. A week of high profile events, with a couple of speakers from around the country. This is an event which galvanises all the Christian students here into one slick machine for the week. If the parachurch Christian Union did not exist, then the mission week could not occur on campus nor other high profile events like it. Local churches cannot host evangelistic lunch time talks in the heart of campus, the Christian Union can, for example.

I would also say, that when church ministry is restricted to just the local church, you will have a greater division among the Christian students. This is only natural because students from different churches are less likely to come into as much contact with each other as they would with the CU in existence. I'm not saying that the students would all divide into their church groups and never see other Christians, but that such beneficial mixing from different backgrounds would be reduced.

In theory I like the idea of local church only, I just don't think it would work as well as the current model in practice.

Mike Gilbart-Smith said...

Again, I think that a missionary arm of a local church could register itself as a student organisation.

Gareth said...

How would that work then?

Gareth said...

This point about the Local Church only model, was made in the comments section of one my recent posts:

"In Leicester where I am, there are a small number of churches with active student ministries. Some of them are great friends of the CU, some run their own student programmes with little reference to the CU. If the CU was gone from campus, I think there would be probably be just three churches with suffiencient resources/finance to be independently at work on the campus. I would fear that students who would come to Leicester under this circunstance would only be likely go to one of these three churches citing their need to fellowship with other students; and not go to any other smaller/less central churches.

With the CU in action on campus, consisting of students who go to perhaps 10 of the local churches, I think that the students benefit from the range of local churches, and the local churches benefit from the fresh blood of students"

Mike Gilbart-Smith said...


Yes, I agree with the added opportunities of shared resources and unified witness