As I was looking back over Steve Lutz‘ recent book on missional college ministry, one particular idea resonates with a challenge I have encountered in my own context of campus ministry at the University of Cincinnati.
During my 15 years of working with high school students as a youth pastor, I know that I was often guilty of making a statement like this: “Be careful not to lose your faith on the big bad campus of ___________.” Beware of Babylon!
And unfortunately, many of our Christian/churched kids enter their college years with an unhealthy temptation to disengage from the campus and culture.
Jeremiah 29 contains a letter written to the exiles who found themselves in a situation somewhat similar to that of a college student. Diversity, pluralism, humanism, a hedonistic culture…there are plenty of forces which seem to work against the fragile faith and worldview of many young Christians. But the surprising word to those exiles via the prophet Jeremiah included these verses:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
God intended for the exiles to have an impact on the culture around them…to engage it. Instead of fearing the new environment and assuming an isolated and antagonistic posture towards it, the mission of God included prayerfully investing their lives (building houses, families, relationship, influence, etc) in the place where God had positioned them for this season.
“We can’t look at college as a rest stop on the way to the rest of our lives. God wants us to engage our mission field.” (Lutz, 57 of College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture)
Especially when I observe many Christian students at college, I see that they tend towards a couple of mistakes:
- Seeing the campus environment as something to avoid and by which not to be spiritually tainted
- Missing God’s mission for their time on campus because they see college simply as the means to their own personal success in life
There’s another way to live and invest the resources of Christ (Gospel, faith, your life) in such a way that our sent-ness results in the welfare of the city/campus.
For those engaged in the field of campus ministry who want to press in a little more on this missional approach, I highly recommend Steve Lutz’ book on the subject. Check this out for a more comprehensive review of Steve’s book from fellow campus minister Guy Chmieleski.