Posted by: naccm | March 31, 2010

A Movement…Final Reflections by Tim Hawkins

A Movement…Final Reflections

I hope the series of posts on how the Restoration Movement uniquely shapes the college ministries of the ACM has and will continue to be a helpful resource for our campus ministries in the years to come.

I wanted to offer here a summary of what, at least in many conversations I’ve been engaged with at the intersection of church planting and campus ministry, seem to be some of the merits and challenges moving forward for the college ministry movement of independent Christian churches.

MERITS

  • Longevity – Our localized structure with resourced funding for facilities and usually at least enough funding for one staff member has created campuses ministries with legacies.
  • Connectivity – Being affiliated with independent Christian churches, many of our students…though not coming from our tradition…have come to know of it through church visits, Sunday morning mission presentations, helping in church campus, working as youth sponsors, and various church meetings.  This creates a more natural bridge to finding a church when students leave campus ministry for careers in new locations.
  • Flexibility – Ministries of the ACM allow for a great amount of adaptability to at least three important factors:
    • Gifts of staff – Is the lead staff person a gifted teacher or administrator?  A gifted evangelist or host?  Musician or shepherd?  Our ministries demonstrate a diversity of structure based on the giftings of the staff.
    • Culture of campus – From commuter campuses to residential campuses, from liberal arts to technology campuses, staff are allowed to contextualize for the gospel.
    • Financial stability – To begin a ministry with a LOCAL base of church support usually produces an ongoing self-interest for local churches to maintain funding for their local campus ministry, minimizing the start-up funding time for an individual raising support.

CHALLENGES

  • Ecclesiology (specifically)– To a great extent, campus ministries began to fill a void of the local church, a perceived abandonment of the liberal education, political and theological agenda of the university.  Not only has there been within our tradition a long-standing disagreement about “para-church” ministries and structures, we sometimes operate somewhere “in between” the church and para-church.  Some campus ministries would define themselves/ourselves as “churches”, but exactly what we mean by that may not be as clearly understood, or the implications.
  • Theology (generally) – To be “non-denominational” is often a misnomer.  Are we (members of the ACM) evangelical in a general sense?  This question played out in the Evangelical Theological Society in the recent past (a good book and reviews on the topic can be found here).  Coming from a anti-creedal movement has created a resistance to creating uniting “traditions”, be they credal or practical.
  • Identity – Tied to the other two, but more involved is the question of our identity.  When the ACM began 40 some years ago, it began with a distinct association of churches with a distinct loyalty to the Restoration Movement principles translated into campus ministry.  What happens when our churches are no longer committed to that tradition?  What happens if a campus ministry no longer reflects the values of the movement?

I suppose most of us would say that these may be concerns, but what we are really concerned with, and therefore, spending our time working out…is sharing Christ with students on our campus and making disciples…we’ll let tomorrow take care of itself, today has enough trouble of its own.

Agreed.

But, this doesn’t keep us from planning, from organizing, from reflecting and praying about tomorrow.  Even the Apostle Paul had great hopes for how the church in Rome could launch him into the next phase of his ministry.

Part of that, was working out the church in Rome…making sure they understood their mission…united…so they could be a part of the ongoing mission.

NEW PERSPECTIVE

We recently added, “a college ministry of independent Christian churches” to the description of our organization on the web site.  When I mentioned this to our staff, our youngest staff member and new Christian said, “That is awesome!  When I first met Bobby (one of our other staffers), one of the first questions I asked was ‘Where do you guys come from?’, and I spent the next 24 hours Googling all I could about the independent Christian churches.”

We don’t dwell on and become inactive about today, but planning and praying for tomorrow may mean resonating more with our roots than distancing from them.

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Responses

  1. Tim, et al.
    Thanks for this series of posts. Together they make a nice description of our roots and a good introduction to share with others interested in the restoration movement.


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