Last Wednesday, I started posting a public log of Michael Frost’s comments about college ministry last week in Brazil. (If you’re unfamiliar, Michael Frost is an internationally acclaimed expert on the Missional Church.) Time was short while I was on the trip, and my updating fell behind. So here’s the FULL list, and I’ll post a few reflections below the list.
When we’re in the presence of experts like this, it’s good for us to lap up all we can – whether we agree with them on every point or not. (I certainly wouldn’t agree with every single point Frost made, and I’d love to hear arguments for OR against his thoughts here.)
These are simply the references Frost made to college ministry or common college ministry practices. I’m trying to present them as straightforwardly as I can. Whether we’d ascribe to each of these assertions, it’s still some excellent stuff to chew on.
- Frost said he doesn’t like the approach of motivating college ministry by sharing the bleak statistics. His specific example was someone sharing the large number of people on his campus, followed with “but only 1% follow Christ.” That focus is not all that motivational, he said. Instead, he seemed to be inferring that we should motivate by describing the specific people to whom we’ve been sent.
- He said that as a general rule, “I don’t think we’re meant to evangelize strangers.” This was said in response to a question about how “announcement” and “demonstration” work together without one being subservient to another (a key point he argued in his first talk). After stating that those two things should generally accompany each other, he made this quote.
- After stating that missional Christians have to embed ourselves into communities, Frost added, “I guess you do [that] as campus ministries especially,” stating his observation that college ministries already tend to embed themselves into their people group.
- He used the arguments of Allen (1927) and Bosch (from the 1980s) to argue against campus ministry models that let the church “outsource” their mission aspect. He described it as the college ministers saying, We’ll go on mission, and then we’ll send them to you [the churches] to get the Worship, Discipleship, etc..
- Connected to #4, Frost said oftentimes the Christians who are most willing to go “on mission” often get “ejected” from within the church in order to perform that mission outside the church. This particularly missional group includes, he said, college ministers.
- Connected to #4 and #5, he said we college ministers need to take that missional passion God has given us and make sure we’re connecting with our own churches enough to help bring them to this understanding.
- Frost explained that one of the key practices of missional ministry is Proximity in his third message, and he specifically noted that college ministers do practice Proximity (by spending our time on campus).
- Someone on our team shared that much college ministry work seems to require us to play various roles – including roles that seem to avoid the “Powerless” orientation Frost had argued for in that third message. How do we deal with the need, for example, to be respected by the school’s administration, if we’re supposed to take a “powerless” approach like Jesus did? Frost replied that “bringing ourselves lower” doesn’t mean acting in a way that disrespects the people we’re working among. Further, he said, we can’t undo who we are – for example, if we have a Master’s degree. But we just shouldn’t go in with lots of prefabricated products and methods. Instead, we should adopt a “Don’t just do something; sit there” mentality, spending time with and among students to discover the needs and the methods.
- Toward the end of that third session, Frost added an emphatic word for campus ministers: Let students participate in the mission.
- As Frost started his final message (Questions for Missional Ministry), he said that many of the college ministers he’d been chatting with on our trip were already asking these same missional questions. He encouraged us to help our churches ask the same questions we’ve already been asking.
- He mentioned #1 again on the final day.
- After urging us to follow the God of the missio Dei, he asked rhetorically (and with affirmation), “Why would you be doing student ministry, why would you be planting churches, if you weren’t?”
- Regarding the specific Missional Question of “To whom have you been sent?,” Frost specifically noted that we (in that audience) are already thinking about this question, since we know the campuses we’re called to. But he again encouraged us to help our churches think about the same question.
- I asked how we in college ministry should best define our people groups, and if it’s possible to “over-define” or too narrowly define those groups. He answered that we could indeed over-define these groups. His example involved saying that we shouldn’t try to reach a geographic area (the “parish model”) on top of trying to reach college students (which are the subculture), because students don’t really see their identity as belonging to the “west side of campus.”
- In connection with Frost’s point that we should reach out missionally together, he stated that many parachurch ministries started instead with rugged individualism. The mentality has been, he said, “This group isn’t being reached, so I’m going to reach them.” His examples included a major national college ministry and a ministry to surfers.
I was most interested in two facets here:
- Frost was extremely consistent in explicitly treating college ministers and the act of college ministry as generally “missional.”
- Playing off that belief, he regularly encouraged us to use our own missional understanding to help our churches understand these things.
Of course, Frost was talking about much more than college ministry. These are just comments that came up in the course of his four messages. If you’d like to read some fairly detailed notes that walk through the great primer on “missional-nees” that he provided, check ’em out:
- Talk one: Basics of Missional
- Talk two: The Missional Church
- Talk three: What Missional People Do
- Talk four: Questions for Missional Ministry
So there you have it! I’m sure I’ll be springboarding from these thoughts for awhile, so stay tuned.