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Missional Campus Ministry … Integration (RJS)

posted by Jesus Creed Admin

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In his post this morning Scot suggests that missional people are asking folks in their own neighborhood: “How can I help you?” The answers to that question determines what “missional” means in that neighborhood. Given this definition missional campus ministry and missional churches in University communities will meet the University, students, faculty, scholars, staff, on their own terms.  Missional campus ministry will not be a safe haven to shelter Christians students from the big bad world, it will equip students to engage the world and the University, to participate in the mission of God, to live out and spread the gospel.

This is a challenging endeavor. The tendency is for people to compartmentalize – and bracket. Faith life here –  academic or professional discipline there, safely separated – and often a social life divorced from both of the others.  But we need integration. This separation plays a role in loss of faith. Even when faith remains – standing up for the Christian faith and worldview in the University is a challenging task; it is well nigh impossible without integration.

IVP is publishing a series of books – The Christian Worldview Integration Series – designed to help college students
in a
variety of disciplines integrate their Christian worldview into their
approach to their discipline. The first in the series, Education for Human Flourishing, came across my desk courtesy of IVP. The preface by the series editors Francis Beckwith and J.P. Moreland contains a number of ideas well worth some thought and interaction.

Consider two questions to start the conversation:

How do you integrate your Christian faith with “secular” life and discipline?

What is necessary to allow students and scholars within the University to integrate faith and life?

Integration, according to Beckwith and Moreland, is two fold – conceptual and personal. 

In conceptual integration, our theological beliefs, especially those derived from careful study of the Bible, are blended and unified with important, reasonable ideas from our profession, or college major into a coherent, intellectually satisfying Christian worldview. … In personal integration we seek to live a unified life, a life in which we are the same in public as we are in private, a life in which the various aspects of our personality are consistent with each other and conducive to a life of human flourishing as a disciple of Jesus.

The two kinds of integration are deeply intertwined. All things being equal, the more authentic we are, the more integrity we have, the more we should be able to do conceptual integration with fidelity to Jesus and Scripture, and with intellectual honesty.  All things being equal the more conceptual integration we accomplish, the more coherent will be our beliefs and the more confidence we will have in the truth of our Christian world view. (p. 9-10  Education for Human Flourishing)

They continue on to list several reasons why integration is crucial. Among the most important:

Neglect of integration  results in a costly  division between secular and sacred.

The nature of spiritual warfare necessitates integration – spiritual warfare is largely, although not entirely a war of ideas, – and we fight bad ideas with better ones.

Genuine life-transforming spiritual formation requires integration – not a veneer of faith on a secular life.

And – a final challenge:

For over fifty years, [atheist philosopher Quentin] Smith notes, the academic community has become increasingly secularized and atheistic even though there have been a fair number of Christian teachers involved in that community. How could this be? Smith’s answer amounts to the claim that Christians compartmentalized their faith, kept it tucked away in a private compartment of their lives and did not integrate their Christian ideas with their work. (p.26-27)

This, Beckwith and Moreland assert, has got to stop.

The big question, of course, is how to make a change. At Christian colleges there is often a gloss of faith over the disciplines – students are not trained to integrate. At the secular University even the gloss disappears. Most of the professors are not Christian and campus ministries do not have the numbers or the resource to make a difference. How then can we learn to integrate and provide an environment where, perhaps, it is passed down more clearly to the next generation of scholar?

Beckwith and Moreland hope that the Christian Worldview Series will help. The first volume Education for Human Flourishing: A Christian Perspective by Paul Spears and Steven Loomis is available, and the second Psychology in the Spirit: Contours of a Transformational Psychology by John Coe and Todd Hall is anticipated in Feb. 2010 – with more in the works. I have serious doubts that this series of books will make any significant impact as long as the conversation plays it safe and remains confined to, and interacts only within, the evangelical ghetto.

What role can churches and campus ministries play in this process? I suggest that to make a difference – today and into the future we need to work with four stages of development. A scholar able to integrate and defend the faith within the University will need to work through these stages.

1. Come to faith. This is rather obvious, without a commitment to the gospel there is no faith to defend. Campus ministries must be concerned with presenting the gospel and living the gospel.

2. Understand the faith. This really means understanding the essence of the faith and developing an ability to separate the essential from the peripheral. It also requires a background that places the faith within historic Christian thinking. What is, to borrow an illustration from Keith Drury, written in pencil, what is written in ink, and what is written in blood. This provides the breathing room to actually engage and eventually integrate. (Read his story and use it to start a conversation. I’ve found it a powerful tool.)

3. Own the faith. Move past a faith that is defined by boundaries and propositions to a faith that is believed and owned. Understand what is meant by the core Christian doctrines and why they are important. This is an ongoing process.

4. Integrate the faith. A faith that is possessed, understood, and owned (or at least where progress in being made on understanding and owning) is capable of integration and defense.

This brings us back to the key question for the day…

How can a campus ministry act in a missional fashion to allow students and scholars within the University to integrate faith and life?

If you wish to contact me, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net



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Rick

posted December 15, 2009 at 7:46 am


“Smith’s answer amounts to the claim that Christians compartmentalized their faith, kept it tucked away in a private compartment of their lives and did not integrate their Christian ideas with their work”
Does he provide stats to back up this theory?
I think the goal of missional integration is great, but (so far) I do not see much about the roots of the problem. In other words, why is there such a separation on campus? Why do they “compartmentalize” their faith so such a degree? Is this more of a problem than in non-academic settings (is this equally a widespread Christian problem)?
If we can get more to the root/roots of the problem (fear? intimidation? bad Christian PR? etc…), perhaps we can know better how to address it.
Love the idea of using Drury’s pattern.



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David Mosley

posted December 15, 2009 at 8:15 am


Here is my question. At Christian universities, like the one I attend, how do we become missional and reach out, given our gifts and academic bents, to the community around us? For scholars or those with a mind for scholarship I see this as difficult since most of the people in my community do not want lessons in Greek or Church History. I have thought of some things (like debates sponsored by both non-believers and believers or contributing to local newspapers in their religion sections), but am at an overall loss.
In my community we have become a ministry each year where most of the churches in our town come together and do manual labor across the town to try and help people. We don’t pass out fliers or tracts, we simply do good works for the Kingdom. I think this is wonderful, but I am all thumbs when it comes to carpentry and terrible at yard work (outside the occasional gardening and weed pulling). How do I use my gifts as a university student on days like this?



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Scot McKnight

posted December 15, 2009 at 8:22 am


David, I’d like to jump in on this one. Your first paragraph is “attractional” in essence: it speaks of what you and your school have to offer and makes those items available to the community and seeks to attract to the community to gain from what you have to offer.
Missional looks at things completely differently: the most important image for missional is not the mouth (which is attractional’s key organ) but the ear. The secret to being missional in your community is to listen to the community and entering into the community through those needs. You can’t determine in advance what your community needs; you ask this question – How can I help you? — and wherever answers leads is what it means to be missional.
Does this help?
Our school, North Park, is very, very good at this. We have developed things like After School programs for kids because one of our students (Erika Carney Haub) was listening and then acted and … this is but one instance.



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Steve Lutz

posted December 15, 2009 at 8:55 am


Great thoughts here, RJS.
One of the key missional practices on campuses is the going to people, “on their own terms” as you say.
Practically speaking, an approach that we are seeing bear fruit is that of “missional communities,” which intentionally get out of the christian fellowship ghetto, and focus on “people-groups” representing a dorm, a major, a club or organization, a team, etc.
In many cases, these missional communities can be composed of students from multiple fellowship groups, who share a burden for a people-group.
The people we want to reach are already gathered, and in many cases, already having spiritual conversations–it’s our job to find them and join in.
Discipleship and evangelism can not and should not be divorced. When we equip and deploy missional teams of Christians students to reach out to their friends, we are forcing them (and helping them) to do that integrational work in the context of mission. They will be thinking very intentionally about “how do I communicate the Gospel to the astronomy club/anime club/intramural soccer club?” “What are their objections to the faith?” Answering these kinds of questions is an essential part of understanding/owning/integrating the faith with the rest of our lives.
I’m glad to see the rise in talk of scholarly integration, but one danger is forgetting that just as much academic discipline is worked out in dialogue (verbal and written), so must this spiritual discipline be worked out, not in the abstract, but connected to real people in the context of relationship. If this isn’t grounded in mission, but in, say, knowledge for knowledge’s sake, then it will run aground.



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RJS

posted December 15, 2009 at 9:21 am


Rick (#1),
Great questions. Smith doesn’t provide statistics – but his observations match my anecdotal experience dead on. At this point I have been in secular academia for some 28 years as graduate student, scholar, and professor. Clearly I have not seen everything, and some do very well at both integration and presence – but this is a minority of Christians who compose a minority of faculty.
The roots of the problem … this is an important question. I would say that the root is multifaceted. Certainly fear, intimidation, and bad Christian PR are part of the problem. But there is more to it than this.
In my experience one of the biggest problems is finding a way to get through the understand and own stages. I am a scholar – at a top university. My colleagues are smart and thoughtful. For two decades I kept faith tucked away in a private compartment of life and did not integrate or even acknowledge it at work or with work because I simply could not enter a discussion to defend or even define exactly what I believed. And — I could not find people or resources to help me through this stage. All I really knew was that the standard evangelical fare would not stand the text in this environment.
So here is the situation – Christian scholars are a minority in the academy and a minority in the church. To make a mark in the academy they must take faith with the same intellectual rigor as their discipline but the “church” broadly defined has no interest or mechanism for enabling this development.
These observation guide much of my thinking about missional campus ministry.



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RJS

posted December 15, 2009 at 9:32 am


Steve,
I do think that this spiritual discipline be worked out, not in the abstract, but connected to real people in the context of relationship – not knowledge for knowledge’s sake. My reason for emphasizing knowledge (understanding and ownership) is really given in my comment #5.



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Mark R

posted December 15, 2009 at 9:35 am


I would argue that part of the reason for the lack of “integration” between academics and faith is that we have too often presented faith as a series of doctrinal propositions which one holds to secure paradise after death. Those doctrines can have little relevance to daily life. Or at least it fails to offer as compelling an explanation for lived experience as a secular framework might.
However, if those propositions offered not simply a ticket to paradise but an explanation of her life within the community of faith, an academic would feel compelled to integrate her faith and study. The doctrine of atonement, for example, can simply explain how one gets to heaven. However, within a community which practices forgiveness with one another, it is an explanation for one’s experience. It’s why we forgive one another. An academic who experiences this within a community is less likely to adopt, say, a kind of hard line Darwinian social theory– at least not within serious revision.



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Steve Lutz

posted December 15, 2009 at 10:08 am


RJS–agreed. I wasn’t accusing you of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. I was more thinking about discipling the undergrad who is trying to make sense of their field and sees a dichotomy between faith and academia, who then retreats to their christian ghetto to work things out. Mission keeps us faithful to all of our callings: to love God with all of our being (including the mind), and to make disciples.



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beckyr

posted December 15, 2009 at 12:14 pm


How do I integrate? By realizing every thing I do within a 24 hr time period, is a witness. Also realizing God calls some to work within the church and some are just as called by God to work outside the church.



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Danimal

posted December 15, 2009 at 1:14 pm


Steve #4 said: “how do I communicate the Gospel to the astronomy club/anime club/intramural soccer club?”
As a player/coach on a club team sports team at my University this question hits home. To be honest, thus far I haven’t gotten too far on working this out. Anyone have any suggestions??



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Benson Hines

posted December 15, 2009 at 9:46 pm


For me as a student and a college minister, it helped me along the integration path to hear of ministries bringing spiritual principles to bear on what seemed “non-spiritual.” For instance, bringing Jesus to bear on social-event-planning within a college ministry may surprise students – in all the best ways.
If ministers would help guide their students to all sorts of “mini-theologies” in both the college ministry and their daily lives, it certainly might ring a glorious bell that can’t be un-rung. If we’ve dared to offer a “theology of party-going” or a “theology of service projects” or a “theology of studying” or a “theology of dorm living,” we might even find our students asking us for help integrating other areas – including their majors – soon enough.
In college ministries across the U.S., it’s been rare for me to see functions of the ministry – besides the OVERTLY “spiritual” ones – treated as matters of faith-in-practice. That’s a bummer. This isn’t the solution to integration, but it could certainly help prime the pump.



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nick

posted December 15, 2009 at 11:54 pm


We’re moving the same way as Steve in comment 4, sending out multiple, missional tribes to incarnate Christ amongst campus subcultures in ways that are congruent with them. There are a lot of campus subcultures around which students form their identities that are not strictly academic: football, chess club, etc. I don’t have stats, but I have a feeling that we’ve been better about reaching them (whether attractional or missional) than the more academic subcultures (think FCA). Despite this, there are plenty of academic subcultures we could and ought to be going to, subcultures the Kingdom will certainly not ignore when it comes to the U. Teaching lone students and profs to integrate faith and academic life is an important part, but we must intentionally go together to follow Jesus and make Him known within their specific contexts. I’d agree with Steve that we’ll begin finding the answers to these questions as we go and spend time amongst them, and there are likely to be multiple good practices based around multiple academic settings. Our crew wants to move this way, and are doing some things to begin dialoguing/debating/hangin’ with our local Free Thinkers as a first step. I’d love to eventually get to degree-specific groups/societies and to connect with faculty, but we’re a few years away from that.
RJS- This being the case, you could be a great asset in helping guys like me figure out how to teach and model faith that’s congruent with academics, because, unlike most of we campus ministers, you’re an academic embedded in a professorial subculture. I’d love some stories of what you’ve done to follow Jesus and make Him known in your professional setting.



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RJS

posted December 16, 2009 at 10:51 am


nick,
The fact is, unfortunately, that I’ve done a pretty lousy job of this through the years – but it is something I’m trying to change. One reason I bring this subject up is to brainstorm on ideas that could help me – and others, especially at earlier stages of career and involvement, find a path to take a stand in professional settings.



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