Talk to campus ministers and you'll hear their frustrations with local churches:
"They feel entitled to all the students"
"They waste so much money"
"They don't respect our work"
"They can't understand our students"
"They are more interested in crowds than transformation"
Why can't we just leave churches behind?
Here are 3 reasons that I've found ...
I became a Christian and was discipled in a church. Churches fund our ministry, send us students and care for our Staff. Though we may feel impatient with some churches, God has brought his blessings to us through them. To leave them behind would smack of ingratitude.
The churches that surround our campuses are filled with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We, their neighbors and siblings, have the privilege of being included in a special moment of God's mission. Few things compare to the joys of student ministry. It's invigorating, filling us with an exhausting joy. How could we hold this back from them?
I'm reminded of the story of the lepers who leave their city as it is under siege, choosing to risk execution rather than face starvation. To their surprise, they find that the enemy army disappeared into the night and the siege has been lifted. They eat and drink and celebrate, then remember the city they left behind. And this is what they say: “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.”
A posture of generosity forces us to long for churches to join us on campus. The Lord is doing great things in our midst. How could we neglect to invite our brothers and sisters to join us?
Abingdon, VA has a population that is the same size as one of our colleges in South Florida, FIU. Abingdon Bible Church is a thriving witnessing community of hundreds of people, sharing the gospel with their community, caring for the poor and supporting missionaries all over the world (including us!). Now, to put this in perspective, ABC serves more people than all of the campus ministries at FIU, combined. There is a scale differential between campus ministries and local churches.
The largest InterVarsity campus ministry in the country has 600 or so students. It's amazing. But it represents only 3% of the students on that campus. Every year, thousands of students graduate from that campus (the campus with a large and amazing campus ministry) never having had a meaningful opportunity to connect with the Christian community or to explore the gospel of Jesus. Maybe we need to think bigger. According to my best estimates, none of our campuses in South Florida have more than 3% of students involved in campus ministry.
I have dreams for campus ministry in South Florida. Big dreams. Dreams that are big enough that they keep me from daydreaming about leaving local churches behind. We will never get where we need to be without them. And, whether they know it or not, they will never get where they need to be without us, without our students, without our campuses.