The reason many college students identify primarily with a campus ministry rather than with a church is not because of any flaw in most campus ministry organizations. It is because, too often, we evangelical Christians have a deficient view of the church. We assume that it is any gathering of people who believe in Jesus and who do churchly things. Many Christians assume the church exists simply to help us learn more about Christ and pool our resources for missions. If that’s the case, a campus ministry can do all those things, and more. But the Scriptures tell us the church is much more than that. Read more>>
(HT: Daily Scroll)
To alleviate concerns that Clark might be opposed to campus ministries, I’m not. I benefitted considerably from the pastoral care and instruction I received and friendship I experienced as a University student from Warren Embree, Bill Stephens, Chuck Hill and others. The campus ministry that was most useful to me, however, was under the oversight of a local Reformed congregation, St John’s Reformed Church in Lincoln, Neb.
The college group did what a good college group should do: it taught me to love the Lord and to love his visible, institutional church (Belgic Confession, Art. 29). The churchly emphasis of our college group was in contrast to my brief experience with other college groups who seemed more interested in using the local congregation as a feeding ground for their own organizations. Rather than operating in submission to the visible, institutional church, these groups were competing directly with them and they were employing all the revivalist strategies inherited from Finney, Moody, and Sunday. Until recent years the sorts of shenanigans that the high school and college-age youth groups employed gave them a distinct “advantage.” Now, of course, the Sabbath morning service, in many places, is indistinguishable from the local Young Life or Campus Life meeting.
Our understanding of Scripture is that Christ instituted a visible, institutional church to preach the law and the gospel (the whole counsel of God), administer the sacraments, and to administer discipline. These things do not belong in college chapels or in campus groups. Whether college students should transfer their membership while at college is a matter best left to a member and his or her consistory (session) but college students should be actively involved in and accountable to a local congregation.
One final thought. When I taught at Wheaton I recall students staying up to all hours to pray. I remember telling them, in class, you people should go to bed at a reasonable hour so you can get up and fulfill your vocation as students. It isn’t “pious” to pray one’s self to exhaustion so that one is unable to fulfill one’s daily calling. As the father of college students I have the distinct impression that this is still a problem. I truly appreciate the passion that college groups can inspire among students and there’s no problem with Christians forming private societies to do good and useful things but the local campus ministry isn’t the visible church.