Wednesday, January 31, 2007
In my quiet time this morning I was reading Psalm 27.
Verse 4 reads
"One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in thr house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to enquire in his temple."
What is that one thing that we must seek after?
She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
There are many advantages of this model.
a) It is easier for the organisations to be recognised on Campus. Often University authorities give special privileges (free rooms etc.) to student societies in a way in which they don't to organisations that are not comprised entirely of students.
b) The student led nature of the organisation can give great opportunities for young people to have significant ministry opportunities. I benefitted hugely from opportunities to lead a bible study & evangelistic groups as an undergraduate.
c) There is the possibility of local churches partnering with & discipling the students who have leadership positions within the ministry, thus allowing oversight for each leader from his/her local church, and thus fostering also partnership between different local gospel churches.
There are, however, some challenges.
a) The accusation of assuming the role of a church is not intrinsic to this model, though it is a temptation that must be carefully avoided.
b) As the organisation is officially student led, there could be the danger of accountability being an optional extra rather than a necessary implication of the model. This could be extremely damaging.
c) My experience of these CU's is that their effectiveness is dependent upon
(i) the maturity and motivation of the student leaders in any given year.
(ii) the responsibility of the local churches to disciple those leaders. This often means that when this model doesn't work in a healthy way, the responsibility can be placed fairly & squarely not on the model itself, but on the local churches that abdicate their responsibility to disciple their members. This can, however also be exacerbated when staff workers don't encourage the local church as the primary context for discipleship, and see it as primarily their responsibility to disciple students, particularly leaders.
While I have no objection to staff workers discipling students, I would encourage them to disciple them within the context of the local church they both attend, or if they attend different churches, to disciple them towards healthy membership in a gospel preaching local church.
Monday, January 22, 2007
The advantages of this would be.
a) A clearly developed strategy can be multiplied nationwide independent of the strength of resources & leadership in the local churches.
b) The staff led approach bypasses the 'problems' of student leadership.
The Challeges of the model would include
a) The organisation in itself could end up ignoring the local church, or even seeing the local church as competition for students' time.
b) This might be the model that would need to be most careful to ensure that students are being disciples towards healthy church membership.
c) This might also have the most temptation for staff workers themselves not to be active accountible members of a local church. For staff workers who are the leaders of a parachurch organisation where evangelism & discipleship is happening outside of the context of the local church, this could end up holding out a model of discipleship that is individualistic rather than corporate.
Having said this, I do not think that this model automatically undermines the local church. You could have staff workers who themselves are great models of local church membership & involvement & who are encouraging students to be healthy church members themselves. So long as this ministry considers itself servants & partners to the local church & not an alternative to it, there is no reason why it couldn't be healthy.
I had the privilege of meeting with a team of Campus Outreach workers recently. One of my church's supported workers works with Campus Outreach (though we have/have had supported workers with Campus Crusade, IVF, IFES as well).
Quite apart from the particular structure that they advocated, I deeply appreciated their commitment to and passion for evangelism of students, but also to the local church.
The advantages of the model that they have include:
a) Clear accountibility of the leadership to a local church.
b) Ease of encouraging students who are being discipled into a local church.
c) the advantages of a national organisation in terms of resources, expertese (e.g. the organisation could provide wisdom on how to liaise with university officials as to how to have legit status on Campus)
d) An ethos that multiplies ministries nationwide and beyond - those who benefit from Campus Outreach may go and serve students on another campus.
The challenges I see for this model include.
a) having a close tie to a particular local church to which the staff workers are accountible raises the question of dual accountibility. There is accountibility to the local church, but also to the national organisation.
b) It would have most of the same problems as the 'Local church only' model in terms of united witness. I assume if the partner church is First baptist, they won't usually have one of the pastors of Second Presbyterian speaking at the main meeting.
c) It may cause problems of conscience for some of the staff workers. They might be convinced presbyterians, but the partner church is a baptist church. would they be obligated to go against their conscience over baptism?
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 http://www.uccf.org.uk/resources/articles/Ecclesiology.pdf 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.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
I should say up front that I think there is no one structural model that will guarantee a ministry that is both effective in reaching students with the gospel and edifying rather than undermining the unique ministry of the local church.
I will here outline several (though not an exhaustive list) models, and lay out potential benefits & challenges of each model. I am yet to be convinced that any of these models are apriori unbiblical. What I would love to see is campus ministries that are aware of sinful tendencies to place inappropriate burdens on the shoulders of immature Christians, and of undermining the unique ministry of the local church.
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. http://www.churchstudentministries.org/
2) National organisation, local church leadership. Each "franchise" of a parachurch is responsible to one particular local church. Thus, the staff workers in that "franchise" will be entirely accountible to the eldership of that one local church. This would be the model of Campus Outreach here in the USA. http://www.campusoutreach.org
3) Self-contained Parachurch. The 'leadership' of the Campus ministry is comprised of full time workers whose accountibility is within that parachurch organisation on a regional and national level. This would be the Campus Crusade Model. http://www.ccci.org/
4) Student Leadership. The full time workers in the parachurch organisation have a similar structure to Campus Crusade, but constitutionally each Campus ministry is in fact student lead. The staff workers therefore function as advisors rather than calling all the shots. The student leaders would receive counsel from them, but might also have advice & discipleship from their local churches. This would be the model of UCCF in the UK and IVF in the USA. http://www.uccf.org.uk/ http://www.intervarsity.org/
5) Gospel Partnership of several local churches. This is the model that we have adopted here in Washington DC not actually for our campus ministry, but for an evangelistic ministry that we have started to reach people in the workplace with the gospel. www.lunchtimetalks.org I know of several places where this model is used of workers in primary & secondary education, but don't know of this model being adopted anywhere for ministry to College Students.
Next, I shall blog on the strengths and weaknesses of each model.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
1) Steve Tibbert from New Frontiers (a charismatic & reformed denomination in the UK, rather like Sovereign Grace in the USA) writes in "What's Wrong with the Para-Church" http://www.newfrontiers.xtn.org/magazine/Volume2Issue14/article_index.php?id=400 :
My concern is to do with so called para-church organisations – mission-focused organisations disconnected from church life. I honestly believe that these organisations are set up with a desire to reach people for Christ, but while in the short/mid-term they see real evangelistic fruit, in the end they create a context where the local church feels little responsibility for mission...
University Christian Unions can be another example of such a separation. A close friend of mine enjoyed the CU at university but got disconnected from local church life, so that when university finished she was no longer involved in regular Sunday worship and for a number of months she stopped attending church...
Steve is not saying that there is no place for the parachurch (after all, his church is affiliated to or uses the resources of New Frontiers, Evangelical Alliance & Alpha). His complaint is more nuanced.
I am aware that such organisations as Wycliffe Bible Translators or Missionary Aviation Fellowship do specialist work that a local church cannot do; my concern is more with para-church organisations taking over the responsibilities of the local church. We must work to restore the church to its God-given purpose.
2) Similar concerns are shared by another grouping that the article quotes, though a slightly different analysis is given. The quotation is from someone from Church Student Ministries www.churchstudentministries.org/ (though no citation is given, and I have been unable to find the article online)
This argues quite the opposite, that a CU is a church. The problem is that a CU is simply ‘church done badly’. One proponent of this position puts it like this:
- UCCF states ‘Our strategy is to grow a witnessing community of students on each campus.’ … By any Biblical definition that I can come up with ‘A witnessing community’ that is seeking to share the gospel and build up believers is a church. Therefore CU’s (sic) in their present form are on campus, student orientated churches.’ So, he asks, ‘what will be the difference between the two churches that we are asking students to attend?’ (That is, the CU-church and the local church.) First, he says, ‘Churches provide more mature leadership.’ Here he quotes 1 Timothy 3:2 (‘the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, selfcontrolled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…’) to conclude: ‘These are the characteristics that we would be looking for if we were appointing someone to church leadership. These are the criteria that are been (sic) sought in CU presidents. To the suggestion that CUs don’t have elders he responds: ‘my whole point is that we ask students to fulfil the role of elders without the qualifications of elders.’ He says: I hope that folk at UCCF would see that while most would agree in principle with the Priority of the local church the present structure and activities of a CU as set out by UCCF make that practically impossible to achieve. Pragmatically the message given is, be involved in everything at CU, and Oh yes do go to church on Sunday to meet some old people. (Slight parody perhaps!)"
To correct that, he hopes to see ‘A Bible teaching local church committed to student
work in every university or college town and city in partnership with a Christian Union
that ran evangelistic meetings… The CU becomes the mission arm of the local
Actually, the positions of both the New Frontiers and the Church Student Ministires articles are very similar. Both agree that the CUs are doing what should be done by the local church. The NFI article is saying that they are doing so without being a church, but end up weakening the church. The CSM article is saying that they are effectively being very unhelthy churches.
As my previous post makes clear I am confident that CUs are not churches, though I understand what the CSM article is getting at. If they are not a church, why do we so often treat them like a church? Why do we have men (& women) aged 20/21 being given teaching and leadership responsibilities with the influence and responsibility equal to that of elders in a local church, when we would not consider them to be qualified for eldership in the local church?
So, we have 2 issues that need answering.
1) How can one have a parachurch on campus that doesn't weaken the local church.
2) How can one have student leadership on campus that doesn't have the responsibilities of elders without their qualifications.
In a later post, we will see how Mike Reeves from UCCF answers.
Monday, January 15, 2007
The article is published on the UCCF (Universities & Colleges Christian Fellowship - the British sister to Inter Varsity here). I understand it to be written by Mike Reeves, though I have heard this from a friend - it is officially anonymous.
It lays out the spectrum of approaches to church / parachurch relationship. At one end is the idea that CUs (Christian Unions - i.e. Campus ministries) are not churches, and therefore not a part of God's plan for reaching college students for the gospel. As such they should be abandoned and churches step up to the plate. At the other end of the spectrum is the idea that CUs are in fact churches, and so should start behaving like them (including celebrating the ordinances). The article, of course, finds a middle ground, somewhere right about where he is trying to encourage UCCF to see themselves.
There is much to commend the article. His sketch of what a church I would say includes necessary but insufficient criteria. Yet even in that search he comes up with enough material to show clearly that campus ministries shouldn't consider themselves to be churches. I'll quote some points from the section that I was most in agreement with:
First: a CU cannot function as a church in the manner in which Paul and the apostles
wanted churches to function because it does not have an appointed ministry of word,
sacrament and discipline, and must not pretend to.
Secondly: a CU cannot function as a church because, for all the warmth and
closeness of fellowship that can be experienced within a CU, it does not have the
communal characteristics of a family that the Bible assumes...
Thirdly: a CU cannot function as a church is because it is a specialised ministry that is
seeking to target only one mission field. It has a clearly limited missionary objective:
students. In no sense does it have the ambition to function as the heterogeneous body
that Paul describes in Ephesians 2.
I agree with these three points the article makes. To them I would add.
4) A CU cannot function as a church because it will probably not have men qualified to be elders.
5) A CU cannot function as a church because, not only is a CU homogeneous in terms of age-group, but also, at many Universities it would be homogeneous in terms of intellectual & educational backgrounds.
6) A CU cannot function as a church because people are would be forced to leave that 'church' and, even if staying in the local area, join another, not as a act of discipline or of dissatisfaction, but would be forced to leave because they no longer meet a particular non-Scriptural qualification for church membership - they cease to belong to the University.
In further posts I shall explore the alternative model that the article puts forward, seeing CUs
as para-church, not church.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
“ ‘I count all things to be a loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord,: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him… that I may know him…’ (Philippians 3:7-10). When Paul says he counts the things he lost ‘dung’, he does not merely mean that he does not think of them as having any value, but also that he does not live with them constantly in his mind: what normal person spends his time nostalgically dreaming of manure? Yet this, in effect, is what many of us do. It shows how little we have in the way of the true knowledge of God.”
It is a striking image. The question that I want to focus on is why we have such a hard time counting them dung.
I’ve been listening to John Piper’s excellent podcasts about the ‘divided man’ in Romans 7. Well, whether or not one agrees that the divided man of Romans 7 is a Christian, it is clear that Romans 8 talks about a divided man who has the Spirit.
“If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness [justification]. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ form the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8:10-11)
When will he give life to our mortal bodies? Has this happened yet? No, they are dead because of sin.
“We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, graon inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (8:23)
This is why I find myself constantly attracted to ‘nostalgically dreaming of manure’. I know, in my spirit, that it is manure, but my flesh considers it just as beautiful as it always did. My flesh is not even being renewed. My spirit has been regenerated, my mind is being renewed (12:3), my body will be redeemed.
My body is just as committed to this world as it ever was before I was saved. In fact, it is committed to this world in more adult and sophisticated ways than it was when I was an unsaved child. Everything that it sees holds out opportunities to sin that it was not aware of previously. Even wonderful things like the law afford opportunities for my flesh to sin. It has seen more of the attraction of that which my soul now sees is dung. It has more opportunities to seek my glory than it did before I was a Christian. My body never sought to receive worship from my wife and children before I was a Christian. I hadn't met my wife. My children hadn’t been born. But my flesh sees a whole lot of opportunities for worldliness now that I am a husband and father.
As a Christian, therefore, I need to acknowledge that the things of this world will be attractive to me. I live in this body. And yet I am to count them dung, not by denying their appeal, but by holding up next to them the ultimate and eternal appeal of the glory of Jesus Christ.
We cannot kid ourselves that our flesh will ever revolt against it’s own comfort, indulgence and glory; but we have seen that the glory of Christ is far more appropriate, beautiful, and to those who know Christ, delightful.
What therefore is needed is indeed a sacrifice of the body – it is to be presented as a living sacrifice, as the deeds of the body are transformed by the renewing of the mind.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
This blog is entitled Loving Church.
(1) Because a healthy church mustbe a loving church, full of people who excercise self-sacrificial, Christ-honouring, discipleship encourgaing love towards one another. By this we are recognised as Jesus' disciples. We must have churches where the word is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered, but unless the word transforms the church into a loving community, and the sacraments declare the loving unity of the body, then the bible assures us that the church has nothing.
(2) Because I am loving church, and I would love to see Christians loving, not just other Christians in the abstract, but
- loving to gather together with the particular group of people with whom they have covenanted
- loving to gather around God's word
- loving to sing God's praises
- loving to pray as a body for the body
- loving to take the Lord's supper with their brothers and sisters
- loving all of this not ultimately because it gives us what we want, but because it gives the Lord we love great glory.