Posted by: naccm | February 17, 2010

A Movement…Shaped by a Heroic Heart // by Mike Armstrong, University of Arkansas

For over 27 years, Mike Armstrong has worked in student ministry at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.  “Working on a university campus has given me an opportunity to look at life from many different angles. I have been married to my incredible wife, Gina, for almost 30 years & have two wonderful daughters – Erin & Stacy. I have also served as a track & field official for almost 20 years, working meets from high school through masters & elite & local through international levels.”

Continuing our series on A Movement…A History of the ACM, we at HOCM blog asked Mike to reflect on how the “ideals” of the Restoration Movement have given shape to their campus ministry with Christ on Campus at the University of Arkansas.


There isn’t much external evidence of our ministry’s connection to the “independent Christian church.” Our website says that we are a “non-denominational Christian community.” You won’t hear mention of the “Restoration Movement” or the “Stone-Campbell Movement” in our lessons or curriculum. But that is my heritage and the part of the Body of Christ to which our ministry is mostly directly connected. Just as my family’s heritage affects who I am and how I view the world, so this heritage shapes how we do ministry regardless of how obvious the connection happens to be.

As with any fellowship of churches, there are parts of our movement with which I am uncomfortable and disappointed. But I’ve come to realize that our heritage as a part of the independent Christian churches is much like the skeleton of a healthy body. The skeleton is always below the surface. It’s not obvious. But it is always present. The skeleton gives strength, shape, and support to the body. It allows movement. The body couldn’t function without it. Being a part of the independent Christian churches provides the philosophical skeleton for much of what we do in campus ministry. We grew out of a movement that was committed to God’s Word, to unity, and to the freedom to follow God as one was led. These values continue to shape our work.

Committed to God’s Word

We live in an age and work in a place where our students are exposed to a multitude of voices calling for their attention. Professors, parents, peers, actors, athletes, advertisers, and musicians are all trying to shape how they think and what they believe. Students develop their own “smorgasbord” spirituality – picking and choosing what sounds best to them from a variety of religious systems. Even Christian students are often more enamored with “Christian celebrities” than they are with God’s Word. So we are committed to consistently and clearly teaching Scripture. Not John Piper. Not Francis Chan. It is God’s Word that they need to know. We want to them read and hear God’s Word so that it can shape their values, their choices, and their faith. We want them to know the Bible so that they can exercise wisdom when they hear the voices of our culture.

Committed to Unity

One of the historical values of the independent Christian churches is unity. Our movement was born out of an era of divisive Christianity. Phrases such as “we’re not the only Christians, but Christians only,” and “in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity” were some of our early mottoes. Unfortunately, many have forgotten these values. They act with suspicion toward those who come from other backgrounds. But we believe that unity doesn’t require conformity in every area. I believe that the unifying ethic of our movement is better demonstrated on the university campus than maybe any place else in the US. We gather students from all over the world and from all kinds of religious and non-religious backgrounds around a commitment to Christ and to the Word of God.

Another way that this value is demonstrated on our campus is through our commitment to unity with other Christian organizations. We recognize that we are just a part of God’s work in our world and we want to find ways to work with other groups who profess a biblical Christology so that the cause of Christ is advanced. For over fifteen years, we have prayed on a weekly basis with the leaders of at least fifteen ministries on our campus. We realize that none of our ministries can effectively reach our campus by ourselves. So we pray together and for one another and look for ways to work together without any group violating their conscience or convictions. Our common goal is that Jesus would be glorified on our campus and his purpose fulfilled.

Committed to Following the Holy Spirit

Because our ministries are independent, we have the freedom to minister in the ways that are best suited to our gifts and passions and the personality and needs of our campuses. While some denominational or national parachurch campus ministries have prescribed approaches to doing ministry, our background allows us to be accountable to God’s word and the discernment of our staff and Board of Directors.

A Heroic Heritage

I posed the question, “How does being a part of the ‘independent Christian churches’ shape how we do ministry?” to our staff. As we shot ideas back and forth, one staff member replied, “I had no idea, from observation, what kind of heart for unity and truth those who started this movement had. It was heroic and went against the status quo! I would have never thought to characterize this movement in that way.”

It is that heroic heart for unity and truth that form the skeleton of our ministry. Though the history of our movement isn’t perfect, this legacy provides a firm and true foundation upon which we can build ministries that can influence the world.

Next Week:  History and Organization of the ACM

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Responses

  1. Michael Armstrong wrote an blog about the Hepler Christian Church. Are there any photos of the church or people that could be emailed or seen online? I was one of those student pastors at one time. Thanks.

    • Gary, I’ve passed your name and link to MySpace onto Mike.

  2. […] A Movement…Shaped by a Heroic Heart // by Mike Armstrong, University of Arkansas […]

  3. […] “inside baseball” stuff, but Heart of Campus Ministry has produced some neat posts (from Mike Armstrong and from Tim Hawkins) on how being a part of their fellowship of churches (the Independent […]


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