Posted by: Justin Wallace | November 15, 2010

Long Distant Friends :: From Robert in Munich

*Sometimes I feel like a like a lion stuck in a cage. I can only see the 4 walls that have captured me. My world view is small and minimized. I wonder if, at times, we approach ministry from this place. We only see ministry from the perspective of our context, our culture, our generation, our 4 walls. So, we spin our wheels, thinking that we’re moving but instead the back axle is sinking deeper and deeper in the mud. I see this as a huge temptation that we as American college ministers face. We become so locked into how ministry is done in the context of America that we become more like America than like the Kingdom of Heaven. What is the remedy? How do we protect ourselves from such a myopic view of ministry? I believe we must surround ourselves with friends, mentors and Christian family from outside the 4 walls of this country. I have asked 4 of my friends that work with College students in other countries, other contexts, to share their views of college ministry and their suggestions for us here in America. I asked them, “What would you, someone outside the four walls of the US, say to those of us that are working with college students in the US? Suggestion? Warnings? Advice?” Today’s post comes from Robert Millar in Munich, Germany. I hope you enjoy!

I was surprised to be asked to offer an opinion on American college ministry, but as Justin is a good friend and I’m delighted that he’ll have to pay the piper if I say anything outrageous, I’ve nothing to lose! As an Irishman leading a College Ministry in Munich, Germany, for an American youth ministry, with his American wife, two American staff and one German volunteer I may even be as outside the box while still having a reasonable perspective of American Mission as you’re likely to find.

Christian Smith in his book Soul Searching coined the phrase “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” to describe American teenagers. Add that nifty little phrase to Post-Christian, Post-Modern and Post-Secular and you have the ingredients for a demographic that are instinctively turned off by the antiquated religious groupings of their grandparent’s era, while still seeking something supernatural to believe in. How do we reach a generation who unconsciously believe in a benevolent deity who rewards good behavior, while rejecting Christianity as an antisocial, intolerant believe system that appears to be attempting to institute a legislative, political theocracy upon the American dream of Happiness, Change and Tolerance?

The past 5 years have offered me multiple opportunities to meet American college students andyoung graduates, as well as many brothers and sisters who labor in American colleges reaching students. I believe one of the overriding truths about America is it defies all stereotypes. So forevery MTD; PC, PM, PS (see nifty little phrases above) student you meet you’ll probably bump into a Hell Fire and Brimstone student who’ll instinctively recoil at the word “relativism” and be certain his liberal professors are on their way to a well deserved eternal punishment for disbelieving in the scientifically proven literal six day creation. America is a cultural cauldron of competing worldviews with little tolerance for anyone who wishes to remain neutral.

Justin asked me to offer my perspective and also my point of view concerning possible solutions. While there are a multitude of reasons and solutions I’ll offer one perspective with the knowledge there are many sides and perspectives. I think the single greatest threat toEvangelistic growth and success in American College Ministry is the cultural war that rages throughout the whole of American society. Too often I’ve sat among dedicated believers inAmerica and the hot topics of discussion are abortion, political strategies for ensuring legislative dominance in state and federal bodies, and finally the school science curriculums. I realize this may sound sarcastic but as a European the desire to dominate my society to ensure it follows Godly practices is truly putting the cart before the horse. I feel if we Christians could willingly capitulate, the cultural war to the other side and focus on equipping each other to live authentic Christ-like lives and then go out to our students and love them unconditionally then we may wellsee The Holy Spirit change our societies and colleges from the inside out.

So here is a simplistic outside perspective: “Cultural Wars and Contempt may be the great enemies of effective College Ministry in America.”


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