Posted by: naccm | July 8, 2010

The Church as a Demonstration

In this series, I have explored a few sociological and developmental benefits for campus ministry to have a positive relationship with a locally connected community of Christ followers.  In the first post, I posited that the generational diversity of a local church is a tutor to selflessness.  And last week that the church at its best provides a mentoring into mature men and women.

Stanley Hauerwas, DUKEMagazine Volume 88, No.2, January-February 2002

The practicality of both, or the practice of both, seems to me can be worked out with endless creativity best by our local contexts.  Whether that is recruiting people with life-experience to come speak at our gatherings, pair students with local mentors, recruit people from churches to come alongside the campus, or by advocating student participation in the local community, creativity and context will determine the best practice.


I was watching an interview once with Stanley Hauerwas (Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity) when he stated passionately, “I am a pacifist, because inside I know I am a violent SOB.

Maybe this better states the concern.  Maybe I am somewhat compelled to think about campus ministry and the church at its best in our local contexts, because inside I know I am a selfish SOB and I’d rather just have things the way I want/like them.


The church in the world has never been perfect. Relevance, performance, selfishness, misconceptions, personality differences have always been at war against the church as an agent of God’s mission of reconciliation.

Over the years, I have thought a lot about Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and the consequences of a divided community.  This issue dominates the letter so much so that Paul begins the letter, “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours…

Most of us who write, read and follow blogs like this one do so because we are leaders, teachers, pastors and shepherds to students and we know the importance of Paul’s introductions is often as a preview of the entire letter.

And the issue Paul jumps into is the fracturing of the Corinthian community.  This fracturing, Paul suggests is facilitated by their “jealousy and quarreling” which Paul calls “worldly”.  The issue, it seems, is not so much with the physical nature of the community but our attitude toward the community itself.  And, as Paul continues in that letter, this fracturing has an ongoing effect…dividing action:  lawsuits, sexual immorality, lack of regard for others weaknesses and spiritual life.  The mantra “everything is permissible” ends with the self focused phrase “for me“.

I am not suggesting that campus ministry is by nature self-indulgent and arrogant toward the local church (again, by local church I mean the church at its best).  But, if we are honest, we have to admit that it can be.


The practical, even ethical, result in the community of faith was an ongoing problem with selfishness.  Lawsuits among believers (as if no one can be trusted), lack of sexual discretion, and eating food sacrificed to idols without regard to the corresponding consequence on those around me seem to be the result of this systematic practice of self preference.

There are ways we engage students in selfless practice, no doubt.

But, our participation with the local communities of faith builds trust, opportunities for partnership and demonstrates an attitude of selflessness that carries into every stage of life.

University life may be the most self-focused period of life for most of us, everything is about “you”:  “your education, your career, your relationships, your apartment, your classes, your major, your money”.  We are on our own for the first time to become, to change habits, friendships and behaviors.

The church can be a beautiful demonstration of selflessness.  A place that operate differently than the patterns of the world around me.  A place that does not cater to me, but asks me to became a part of it.

I would not say that our campus ministries are not those places, or cannot be those places…I think they can, but are not always.

But, in a society that idolizes youth and marginalizes the elderly, that fears death and devalues the aged, maybe our intentional participation in local communities of faith is more of a demonstration to the world of what the church that reflects Jesus can be, rather than what we are inside.  Watching a group of people live differently in the world is inspiring…transforming…inviting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: