One who accepts the saving grace of Christ in his life inherits large Christian responsibilities. Perhaps foremost among them is concern for the souls of men whom he encounters daily. But too easily are we caught up in our own little cosmos and daily problems that we forget how specific the Word is in its commandments to all believers to be ambassadors for Christ and workers together with him. The responsibilities of the minister, teacher, admonisher, and evangelist, so clearly evident in Scripture, are not limited only to those who stand in pulpits.
The University Mold
A university community presents in many ways a paradoxical situation. There are students who come there because it is all part of a family legacy; others reach for the social atmosphere (a big item on every campus); while still others are driven by the pressure to succeed. Basically, however, the real purpose for attending a university is that the student may get the intellectual, social, and personal growth that will enable him to perform on a professional and responsible level his duties in occupational and family life. Idealistic as it may appear, then, there seems to be a central objective for all university students which, although they may not realize it at first, is what the university desires them to get—namely, these three types of growth.
In another way, of course, students are grossly different. Widely variant are their family and community situations, levels of maturity, likes and dislikes, major areas of interest, spiritual training and vulnerability, and mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. Thus, the paradox becomes obvious—the student fitting into the mold of university objectives versus the student’s extreme heterogeneity of personal background and needs.
Further complicating the student’s life are the classroom requirements. Often the intellectual rigors of academic life are used, through certain pressure techniques, to attack a student’s vulnerable spots. One who is not well-grounded in his beliefs will find rough sledding when he comes to grips with the many unbiblical concepts taught in so many university classrooms. The damage done inevitably spreads like cancer to other areas of the student’s life, to the point where complete spiritual and moral decay may set in, and an intellectual self-vindication begins to take precedence over the thin thread of belief. Soon a defensive and negative attitude with respect to the things of the Lord becomes evident.
The responsibilities of Christian students and ministers of the Gospel in a university setting are indeed tremendous. Not only must they meet intellectual challenges but they must take the offensive in winning those around them to Christ.
What Of The Gospel?
One finds a rather distressing situation, however, in the churches of university towns. The intense liberalism of the universities appears to have permeated many of them, so that these churches, with few exceptions, fail in preaching the Word of God. Let me illustrate: sermon topics such as “Love and Marriage,” “Research in Marital Integration,” “A Trip to South America,” “People I have Known,” “What Education Says to Religion,” “Let’s Resolve the Cold War with the Catholics,” and “Integrating the University Barber Shops” point to an orientation of preaching that is adrift from the Word.
Too often one finds that the only hint of a real church service on Sunday morning (evening services are unthinkable) is the hymn singing and traditional routine-like reading of the Bible. As the sermon develops, one feels as though a study of the Scriptures is almost passé, for illustrations are usually taken from the latest Broadway show or the most controversial novel of the time. Pastors in many campus pulpits direct their approach strictly to the intellect, and rarely show concern for the spiritual condition of souls.
Thus, as one might suspect from this description, any semblance of evangelism in the majority of university churches is nonexistent. This does not seem to them to be their responsibility; rather they assume as their primary obligation the development of cognitive functioning in students. “Don’t rock the boat” seems to govern any outreach to students’ spiritual needs.
The university student is a curious and easily influenced individual. In fact, the very structure of university life presupposes that he will be pliable and submissive to what is being said, whether fact or fiction, by those with whom he associates. Since attending church on Sunday is what certain well-organized campus groups consider to be the correct thing, students easily form impressions from what is being expounded in the pulpit. If the student hears how fortunate he is to be in college, how basically good he is, that all he needs to do is develop his cognitive abilities to as high a degree as possible for the later business world, and that he should go out and do good—then surely this is the concept of Christianity he will adopt.
The Neglected Majority
On the other hand, if he is made aware of his sinful ways and is led to accept the saving grace of Christ in his life, then this is what becomes meaningful to him. The fact that the latter is the exception rather than the rule attests to the lack of such an emphasis on university campuses. Thus, the needs of the soul are whitewashed with deeply intellectual or philosophical “lectures” without scriptural orientation.
Certainly we know that today’s university students are tomorrow’s national leaders. Thus the probability of social and moral decay is going to arise unless Christian workers begin now to preach Christ crucified in the churches of our nation’s campuses.
The transient type of congregation characteristic of a university setting does not negate or alter the basic message of the Church. Boards of churches should express deep concern with respect to qualifications for those people interested in church work in a university community. Evangelical boards need to become more interested in Christian work on campuses, for these are in themselves becoming well-defined mission fields. Home churches ought to be continually in prayer for the evangelism and Christian growth of students. And Christian students themselves need greater awareness of the acute need for Christian witness in classrooms and among fellow students.
The problem presented here is a critical one. While the emphasis has been placed on the type and caliber of preaching in the pulpits of university churches, the problem itself is really relevant to all Christians who are concerned for those who do not know Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
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