Friday, April 28, 2006

If I Was Back on Campus...

It's hard to believe, but it is now almost four years since I was last on campus on a daily basis as a campus minister. Since that time, I've served in regional and national roles with Campus Crusade/Impact. Giving leadership on a broader scale has helped me to gain a greater perspective on the realities of ministry to college students and to recognize trends across the country. Thinking back on my 14 years of experience with college students (four years as a student; ten years on staff), I think there are several things that I would do differently if I were to go back on campus tomorrow. Here they are:

1. I would spend more time pioneering. The natural tendency in campus ministry is to hunker down with a core group of students once a movement is launched or a small group is formed. In the initial stages of forming a movement, we do a ton of evangelism in order to surface students, but then once we find the key leaders, we taper off our evangelism as we focus on discipleship. The problem is that these two areas, evangelism and discipleship, are not mutually exclusive. They actually go together!

Once forming a core leadership team, I would take a more apostolic (pioneering) approach in leading. I would still seek to equip and coach these leaders, but I wouldn't do all the ministry. I would do a better job of training them to lead. I would move on to other people groups on the campus and move on to other campuses. This could be a great part of the discipleship process as I would take my disciples with me to trust God to launch movements in new ethnic communities and to seek to launch movements on nearby campuses. I did this some with a few of my disciples, but I would do it a lot more. Instead of sitting in a cafeteria or a coffeeshop talking about our lives, we could do that while we're doing ministry together.

2. I would give students more freedom to lead. It's funny because as a student, I was on a non-staffed campus. We had a CCC staff member visit our campus once a week, but we as students were really leading things. I was actively sharing my faith on a regular basis (i.e. multiple times each week) and gathering for prayer several times each week with other students. And it wasn't because I was super spiritual. It was because that was modeled to me and was expected. As a student-led ministry, it also meant that we reserved the rooms, bought the food for socials, organized and led prayer times, followed up evangelistic contacts, spoke at weekly meetings frequently, led Bible studies, put up publicity flyers, interacted with administration, etc. But once I came on staff with Crusade, I began to think that I was the "expert" and that the students needed me to do stuff for them.

We can't allow students to become dependent upon the "professional missionaries." It cripples them. And let's be honest here. Who understands students better -- college students themselves or middle-aged missionaries that are still jammin' to Keith Green? Just as a parent prepares their children to go out on their own, we need to prepare our students to do the same. I've asked a number of our staff, "What would happen if your whole team left your campus/city tomorrow? What would happen to the movements you lead?" The typical response is that "the students wouldn't be ready for that."

I'm sorry, but the reason that the students wouldn't be ready is because we haven't prepared them for it. 18-23 year olds are very capable of leading and leading well. Go to Iraq, spend some time with our soldiers there and then tell me 18-23 year olds can't lead. Most campus organizations are led by students and we're actually quite an anomaly in that we have whole teams of outsiders giving leadership to our ministries. Even among campus ministries, there is usually only 1 or 2 staff giving leadership to the ministry. Not 15-20 like we have in some locations. In order to fully "own" their movement, students need to feel the burden of responsibility. That's why they should be the ones leading Bible studies, leading outreaches, initiating campus prayer, recruiting for conferences, and planning socials.

3. I would focus more on foundational truths. Though I first got involved with Crusade in the early nineties during a major change process in the Campus Ministry, I was brought up "Old School." I went through NLTC training times, was sharing my faith within a few months of making a profession of faith, and went through the old Discovery Group, Discipleship Group and Action Group Bible studies. In fact the first Bible study I was ever in covered the five follow-ups that we go through with new believers -- Assurance of Salvation, Relationship with God, The Holy Spirit, Ways to Grow (Prayer, Word, Fellowship, Witnessing) and Purity. Just after a few months of being involved in Crusade, I was challenged to be discipleship and become a leader.

I think we've gotten too "cute" in recent years. We think the Four Laws is outdated, few people know how to share the ministry of the Holy Spirit, evangelism is occasional rather than a normal part of life, our Bible studies lack direction and I'm guessing that most of our student leaders have never heard of the Transferable Concepts. I certainly wouldn't disagree that our materials and resources need to be continually updated, but the message needs to stay the same. I fear that in an effort to stay trendy, we've gotten away from what our leadership is now referring to our "core DNA."

As a parachurch ministry focused on evangelism and discipleship, our primary calling is pretty clear. We should not do everything that a local church does, now should we attempt to. Campus Crusade has always been a help to local congregations as we take the gospel to students that our churches have a difficult time reaching, build new and immature believers in their faith, train them for ministry, and send them forth to do likewise.

Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade, was often accused of being too simplistic and naive because of his simple gospel presentation and insistence on focusing on the basics of the faith. But Dr. Bright was anything but stupid. The man spent five years in seminary and could walk theological circles around most Christians. But he knew that complicated explanations were not easily and simply passed onto others. That is why he developed tools that the average Christian could quickly learn and be able to pass onto others rapidly. Dr. Bright sincerely believed that a follower of Christ (no matter how old they were in their faith), if empowered by the Holy Spirit, could see God do great things through them.

I'm encouraged by how we are moving forward in these areas as a ministry as we wrestle with a changing student culture. Pioneering new movements, student ownership and a focus on the fundamentals are all current emphases that we have in the Campus Ministry. While we do have a lot of great things happening , I look forward with anticipation as many more students are compelled by the love of Christ. And not just so that they can be a better person, but so that they can be engaged in mission of expanding God's kingdom "on earth as it is in heaven."


Gary Harbaugh said...

Good words, Scott! Keep on with the work of an evangelist!



It was three years ago when the Lord Jesus spoke to Melanie and I and said, “Go to New Orleans.” We had labored there in Amarillo, Texas for thirteen years; pastoring the church that we had planted, reaching the lost, feeding the hungry and equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.

Our families were there. Our closest friends were there. Our fondest memories were there. The only thing that was not there was God’s will for what He desired us to do next. In just three months time from announcing to the church that we were leaving, we had loaded all of our earthly possessions in a school bus and began ministering full time in the streets of New Orleans.

I have discovered that each step and each place that God takes us is typically a wonderful learning experience and time of preparation for the next step in which He will have us take.

Many in the Body of Christ though grow too comfortable “camped out” in the experience and never truly get to experience the true realization of God’s destiny for their lives. We experience a tremendous move of God in our midst and instead of taking what He has taught us through that experience and using it to reach a lost and dying world, we instead “build a memorial” to the experience and spend the next 25 years trying to remind ourselves of what once was.

Across this nation there is a trend towards the Mega-Church (churches with membership over 1,000). There are even churches in the US that boast membership at 30,000 or more! With that many Mega-Churches being pastored by Mega-Ministers one would think that the Mega-Problems in our cities would be quickly solved by a mobilized army of high-powered, Holy Ghost filled disciples being churned out in these faith factories!

But therein lies the problem: Churches, or more accurately “leaders of churches” are no longer “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry”, but have instead adopted a “come and watch me minister” mentality.

On the basketball court it is referred to as being a “ball hog.” There is one person taking (or calling) all the shots and getting all the points on his personal stat sheet, but the team is suffering through yet another losing season. Friends, the time is too short for the Body of Christ to suffer through another losing season! We have got to start functioning like the CHURCH was meant to function.


Pastors, ministers, elders, leaders (or whatever is in vogue this week in regards to titles) have got to get back to the true work of the ministry!

Ephesians 4:11-12 “It was He (Jesus) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

Instead of spending multi-millions on state of the art, multi-media comfort centers for the spiritually impotent—why not use the resources to reach the lost, equip them (discipleship) for the ministry, and then send them out to win more people to Jesus before they get too comfortable and too convinced that the GOSPEL message is somebody else’s responsibility to share with the world!

Last year in the NBA (National Basketball Association) a young player for the Phoenix Suns won the award as the leagues Most Valuable Player.

The player, Steve Nash, was the teams point guard. He was the one who called the plays on the court, he was the one who the ball came to first, and he was the leader of the team. Yet, if you looked at Nash’s statistics you would see that there were other players in the league who had better numbers in one area or another.
Nash did not lead the league in scoring or in rebounding—but he did what an MVP should do, he made everyone around him better! The one area that Nash was the very best in the league was that of assists. For those unfamiliar with that term, it means the number of times he passed to others so that they could score instead of him taking the shot!

For the season Nash had 861 total assists. The second best in the league had 668. That is 193 more than his closest competitor! The true MVP’s (most valuable preachers) in the Church today are those who make others better. Nash did such a great job that there were other members of his team that some thought might eventually be league MVPs themselves. He ELEVATED the play of his team mates.

Philippians 2:3-5 says “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”

Rarely, if ever, in professional basketball has the team with the leagues highest scorer ever won the championship. While the individual may boast great accomplishments on his own—he is not able to win the whole thing by himself.

This is the picture of the church of today. There is very little if any genuine equipping the saints for the Gospel Ministry. I qualify that by inserting the word Gospel, because there is much going on in the Church-but very little of it results in people taking the Gospel to a lost and dying world.

While there are many activities filling the schedules of a great many in the Christian Church of today; meetings, conferences, retreats, and even a great many Bible studies and prayer gatherings—how is it that with all of these activities being done in the Name of Jesus that so few people are out doing the actual work of Jesus?

“The Son of Man (Jesus) came for only one reason, and that was to seek out and to save lost people.” Matthew 19:10

That sounds pretty clear to me!

Some of the greatest coaches in any sport will often say, “We have got to work on the fundamentals. The game is won or lost based upon the fundamentals.” This is the same with the Gospel. It all will really come down to whether or not we are raising up people (a team) that is solid in the fundamentals. The fundamentals are pretty simple:

Love God with all your heart and life.
Then tell as many people about Him as you possibly can.

If I, as a minister, do not lead the league in assists, then I am really not my teams MVP. The church, and especially those in leadership have got to get back to the basics (fundamentals) of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry of reaching people for HIS KINGDOM and not just establishing another flesh-based, low-impact, man-centered program that might make the “spiritual highlight reel,” but will never make the type of eternal impact that HEAVEN DEMANDS.

“Ball-Hog” Christianity may fill up stadiums (or sanctuaries) but it will NEVER win the ultimate prize: “Well done My good and faithful servant.”

Jesus raised up (12) and then told them, “You will do even greater things than I have done.” That was His goal– to teach them how to take it to the next level. Yet, a “have your best life now” mentality has slipped into the church under the guise of positive Christianity that has been the death knell to global evangelization. Instead of raising up a generation of blood bought, word taught, Holy Spirit filled warriors of the Cross– the church at large has cloned a brood of spineless, powerless pew-sitters with no urgency for those outside of the walls who have not had the opportunity to hear the Gospel themselves!

2 Cor 4:3-5 “But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord;

Bigger buildings, more luxurious surroundings, a more relevant approach and a more welcome atmosphere seem to be the mantras being chimed by today’s diminished standards.

Jesus said the “fields are white and ready to be harvested”, yet the “fields” that He spoke of where the harvest fields of souls filling street corners and the market places of this world-that demand that we GO and take His message to the masses.

Today the “harvest field” has instead become the proverbial “field of dreams” and the empty promise is “if you build it...they will come.” Buildings, programs, pizza parties, lattes, and grinning greeters will never draw a person into His presence. These things are things that man has power over! These things are man-made and man-centered.

Romans 1:21-23 “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man…”.

The GOSPEL demands GOING. The GOSPEL demands DYING to SELF and LIVING for JESUS. This is rarely a comfortable situation! Can you imagine these book titles in your local Christian Bookstore:

“Go through hell NOW so that you can experience heaven LATER.”
(Rom 5:3, Rom 8:18, Phil 1:21, Phil 3:10-11)
Or perhaps this one
“How To Be Hated”
(Matt 10:22, James 4:4, John 17:14)

These titles would obviously have a more scriptural foundation! Now am I saying that living the Christian life is just some hard, negative, drudgery? Not in the slightest way! It is the GREATEST LIFE that one could ever know and experience-but with it there are GREAT DEMANDS and great CONSEQUENCES involved.

To see someone’s heart miraculously changed and transformed by the Holy Spirit upon hearing and receiving the Word of God is indescribable!

Watching an alcoholic pour out the drink he just paid for in the street and then kneel down in front of thousands weeping before Jesus defies description.

Suddenly seeing a light come on in the darkened soul of a young man set free from years of homosexuality is the most amazing thing!

All THESE things require GOING out where the broken and bruised are. If your Gospel doesn’t REQUIRE you to GO, then it is not GO-SPEL, but just a SPELL!

Galatians 3:1 “Oh, foolish Galatians! What magician has cast an evil spell on you? For you used to see the meaning of Jesus Christ's death as clearly as though I had shown you a signboard with a picture of Christ dying on the cross.” NLT

It is time to break free from the spell and then GO do that which God has repeatedly commanded in His Word.

Most Christians would readily agree that “this world is not our home” and that we are all just “strangers and pilgrims” in this place—–yet why is it that the core of our time and investments are made in those things that are so temporary and this-worldly? I lay it squarely upon the shoulders of pastors and teachers who have failed to equip, empower and release His people into their God-given and God-required mandates to reach people for HIS KINGDOM.

As long as winning the lost (with the Gospel—not a bounce house, hot dog or cappuccino machine) remains on the backburner of Christendom and not our primary purpose in this life, then the church will remain a place of “ball hogs” and “bloated statistics” with no true victories.
If we genuinely believe that our stay is temporary, then why not “pass the ball” and get other people involved in the game rather than building more coliseums to showcase our religious superstars.

Church buildings, gymnasiums, air conditioning—there is nothing inherently wrong with those things—but once THEY become the focus, THEY become the idols that testify against us and set us in difference toward the TRUE Gospel of GO.