Wednesday, August 27, 2014

College Ministry and Colleges

It seems that the most difficult ministry for modern churches to be successful in is the college ministry. I should know....I am the associate pastor of students at my church, encompassing everything from middle school to college. When I talk to my colleagues around the country, friends from college, seminary, and other ministry events and partnerships, they have a similar sentiment. We all have similar yet different struggles. One of my friends has a large college group, but very few students will commit to the church body and become leaders. The majority of my friends struggle just to get college students in the door. Another prominent problem is that many college students do not want to graduate to the next age bracket and prefer to stay in youth ministry.

Bill Bright has been quoted as saying, "If we can win the campus today, we will win the world tomorrow." We know that this is true as student ministers; otherwise, we would not be in the position that we are. We invest strategically in the future leaders of the world. Why then do our efforts have little to show for it. The Barna Group has asserted that on average 60% of high school students leave the church when they get to their twenties. As a student minister I feel this, and it affects me personally. I find it very emotional when students who were active in my youth group decided they have outgrown God and college group is not for them.

I believe this is in part because many college ministers do not know how to define success in their college ministry. Rupert Leary posted an article on The Gospel Coalition website called "5 Keys to Effective College Ministry." In his article, Leary outlined an intentional prayer plan, use a relational approach, recruit a team (he used term hire a team), wine the many by focusing on the few, and develop outreach projects and overseas trips as his five keys. These are all so important to college ministry but still does not answer my quest for what is a successful college ministry.

I do not use Rupert Leary, who is the campus outreach ministry at Campus Church in Raleigh, NC, to show his faults. I respect his work a lot as a disciple making minister to college students. I use his article as a good example of how I find lots of great resources for how to do college ministry and the principles of good ministry, but I still lack this intrinsic question of what makes for a successful college ministry. In other words, what is the goal of college ministry?

I believe this answer is found within the success of the church as a whole. A church is successful when it is providing relevant corporate worship, relationships with other Christians, outreach into the community and beyond through service ministries, evangelism, and church planting, and discipling of the saints through Bible study (Rick Warren via Acts 2:42-47). Furthermore, for the church to be healthy, it must be reproducing itself and continuing on into the next generation of believers.

This is what I want for my college ministry, which will just now be starting on Sept. 4. I want this for my college ministry, and to accomplish this goal I will employ all five of Leary's keys. Perhaps I am writing this blog today to flesh out what I know to be true, but also to be transparent in my apprehensions. I have never done college ministry directly until this position that I began in January of this year. I know that for my church to survive it needs a thriving student ministry, and I know that all church revitalization comes through the children, student, college, and young adult ministries. Perhaps the Lord will bless my feeble attempt to reach the throngs of college students in my city.

My new theme verse for campus ministry is Colossians 4:2-3, "Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door of the Messiah..."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Music, Theology, Faith, & Gungor

I find myself surprised when Christians get surprised when certain musical icons leave the faith. Recently there has been a large interest in a recent post by Michael Gungor, founder of the Christian band Gungor, that he is leaving some of the basic tenants of the faith, particularly those of the veracity of scriptures. In his blog "What Do We Believe?" Michael Gungor wrote about his doubts concerning the scriptures. He made lots of comments about the stories of the Old Testament and their truth. The funny part is that he chooses to reject the belief in a flood, creation, and similar events due to his ability to observe. I find this interesting because Mr. Gungor has no such ability to truly observe events pertaining to these events, just the same as everyone else born after their occurrence.

He further explained that to him everything is a belief, and all beliefs are built upon assumptions. However, this is only partly true, because the assumptions are built upon beliefs. Our worldview informs our presuppositions, and those presuppositions in turn inform our worldview. It's not quite as simple a system as what Mr. Gungor purports. What truly seems to be happening here is that Mr. Gungor attempted to walk people through a quick overview of metaphysics and existentialism.

He then wrote a quick treatise on behavioralism, where people are a product of their environment. That his faith is the result of assumptions that were fed to him from his parents or prior events in his life. So, he is choosing to rejecting certain "(un)beliefs" that have formed his worldview, but he is only exchanging them for another set of assumptions based heavily in secular humanism.

Now let me be completely clear. I am not attacking Mr. Gungor in the slightest. In fact, I have not necessarily written this post for him to read, but for those people who are either attacking him or curious about these events. He has simply opened the door to some subjects that I would like to address.

First, It is absolutely alright for a Christian to deal with some doubts. If this is what he is dealing with in his personal life, then he has every right to deal with these things however he wants. Doubts are a normal part of life for a believer. Even John the Baptist had doubts to the person of Jesus, a guy he grew up with and knew better than most other people. So, as Christians let's not roast a man for dealing with these questions. I had a time in college dealing with these questions, and I found truth and real logic that helped me to a much more firm foundation in Christ.

Second, Mr Gungor relayed a conversation he had with someone who stated that he was no longer to be considered a Christian because of the beliefs he has rejected. Gungor claims that this is due to his loss of unconscious assumptions from his past, but the truth of his statement is earlier in the sentence when his friend commented that it has nothing to do with how much like Jesus he is acting but about his beliefs. Let's be absolutely clear minded about this. What makes us a Christian is not our actions, or how much we act like Jesus. No, our actions are the proof of us being Christians (see James 2:14-18 and Romans 4). Our faith is our beliefs, and the only true source we have about Jesus is the Scriptures. This is not me being an old school fundamentalist, this is just good research and logic. If you want to know the most accurate details about events, you go to the record of eye-witnesses. If everyone were able to determine their own stories, accounts, and truths about Jesus, then all you end up with is relativism. Relativism is worthless, because no truth can be known. People may argue that relativism results in everything being true, but to make everything true, then everything must be false as well.

For Christians we only have one source of real truth, and that is the account of prophets and apostles recorded in the Scriptures. When we begin to diverge from that truth we then become dependent upon other lesser sources, lesser accounts, and ultimately our own whims. I do not trust in my own ability to determine truth, because I am prone to be wrong...just ask my wife. Mr. Gungor concluded that he judges peoples' faith according to their actions. However, I would argue that their actions are built upon their faith/beliefs.

And as a caveat, I would argue that Christian means belief in Jesus as according to the scriptures. Salvation is through Christ alone, not Christ and belief in the flood of Noah. When in glory, everything will become clear, but Jesus is always constant.

Third and last, I would like to use this to encourage Christians to know what you believe, to know good theology by reading the Scriptures, and evaluating what you listen to. I still listen to Gungor. I love his music, and his creative composition is beautiful. As a musician and guitarist, myself I really enjoy his music. However, I never get my theology from his music. Not because it is his music, but because I get my theology from Scriptures and no where else. I evaluate the music according to their truth. If people had been listening to his music and evaluating his lyrics, they would not have been surprised by this blog. This blog is a more transparent version of what is in his music.

When a person gets all bent out of shape because of events like this, we can understand two things about them: they do not evaluate the lyrics of the music they listen to, and they do not know the scriptures well. They are casual Christians, whose faith truly is built upon the assumptions of others as Mr. Gungor states, because they have never dived into the depths of God through the study of His Word.