Sunday, July 06, 2003

Campus Perestroika-Eileen and I went down to DeKalb this morning to church at DeKalb's Grace Vineyard. As we were driving down Glidden Road north of town, I saw the Northern Illinois U's campus skyline, with a quartet of big, boxy dorm towers that brought the adjective Stalinesque to mind; Stevenson and Grant towers (a quick scan of the campus map supplied the names) reminded me of those ugh-ly Cold-War era box-tower apartments all over Eastern Europe. It wasn't until I got to church and listened to a guest pastor who just moved to town in order to minister to NIU did the metaphor come to life; I was given a visionary thought of a spiritual Berlin Wall of secularism falling over in our state universities. Most of these campuses, at least on the institutional level, as about as godless as the old Warsaw Pact territory, being run by boomers steeped in 60s leftist thought. The good thing is that today's college kids are more old-school and less liberal than their elders in their thirties and forties were when they were youths. 9-11 showed the gulf between the middle-aged hippies running departments and more pragmatic youths. We're seeing a growing conservative presence on universities, both secular and religious; they're fighting an uphill fight, but they're winning more fights than they lose. However, my vision of this morning was of an increased and more fruitful campus ministry for Grace Vineyard at NIU in particular and for various church ministries on secular campuses in general. Campuses aren't a spiritual wasteland; pan-evangelical groups like InterVarsity, Campus Crusade for Christ and the Navigators are there, as well as denominational outreaches like the AoG's Chi Alpha and the Southern Baptist's Baptist Student Ministries (ne Baptist Student Union back in the late 80s when I was at MSU). I think campus Christians like Mr. Bauer and (back in the old days when he was a single college guy) Mr. Domenech will become more common and more accepted as the decade progresses. Ministry to this group will need a special touch; it will have to be able to tackle a post-modern paradigm, where relationship is more important and logic is less important. This will require stressing a relationship with Jesus and with fellow believers, and will require more than just the shake-29-hands-and-tell-them-Jesus-loves-you type of fellowship to make Christ real with a modern college kid. Some type of cell-group ministry, where a Bible study or prayer group can do one-on-one ministry that you can't do well on Sunday morning, will be helpful. It may be a while before InterVarsity gets equal press to the gay-and-lesbian shouters in the official campus birdcage-liner, but we're heading in that direction.

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