legalism, pillars, and teaching enough

Something I touched on yesterday (because it came up at the Cohort) is something that has been near and dear to my heart since the yearlong road trip, after observing all kinds of college ministry activity around the country.

It’s the concept that without connecting our ministry’s emphases to spiritual truth, we create legalists.

On Saturday, we talked for awhile about social justice / compassion ministry, which is obviously something that many college ministries are now incorporating in a major way.

My comment was that if we avoid truth-teaching at this juncture, if we just treat this activity as “obviously right” or “something we do because it’s clearly good” and never point to the biblical whys and underlying spiritual ideas here, then we’re simply teaching students the same non-theistic morality they’d learn in their fraternities or the Kiwanis Club.

The same goes with anything we promote – and especially those things we hope to make “pillars” or the “DNA” of our college ministries. If we want a theme to spread throughout the ministry and its students, then we surely have to teach its biblical foundations in a ministry-wide, comprehensive way. This probably means from the stage of the Large Group Meeting, or throughout your small groups. And it probably means more than once. And it probably means somewhat repeatedly.

If we don’t, then we’re not teaching godly grounds for good works. And that produces a form of legalism, right?

I’ve hinted at this principle on occasion, but the last time I really expounded on the thought was a year and a half ago. So if you really want to wrestle with this concept, I’d encourage you to read those two posts – the first, about connecting students with the biblical whys, and the second about the dangers when we don’t.


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  1. Pingback: another 10 reads for assessing your college ministry « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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