this-is-missions monday: manifest destiny

For a few of the last several Mondays, I’ve been highlighting some of the thoughts from my free book, Reaching the Campus Tribes. It’s a chance to point out just how missiological the work of collegiate ministry is; the more we (and all American Christians) realize this is a missions endeavor, the better off we’ll be!

This week’s quote and discussion were suggested by my time in Ohio last week, where I got to consult with several college ministers and some potential church planters. The issue I discuss here came up often (just like the one I mentioned on Friday).

In many … college ministries, there is a strong bias toward ready-made programs that have been used elsewhere. While these successful templates might be a helpful place to start the planning process, students will only be best served when campus mission efforts are tailor-made for the tribes they are reaching. Contextualization is key. This doesn’t mean new ministries have to be untrue to their sponsoring organizations or fully “start from scratch” at each campus. But form should always serve function, not the other way around. Oftentimes that will require creative adjustments to the usual template.

Wise contextualization will also reveal that not every campus is right for every national ministry. Some parachurch and denominational organizations seem to assert a “manifest destiny” to place a ministry at every available college campus. However, I would urge all groups to consider planting ministries only where their work is truly needed. As with international missions, the cause of Christ must trump the cause of a single group. (Reaching the Campus Tribes, pages 103-104)

Not only campus-based groups reveal a “manifest destiny” mentality, either; I’ve come to realize that churches can do the same thing – both standard churches (especially ones with a large budget) and collegiate churches.

We simply don’t have a right to assume that just because we can plant a college ministry (or collegiate church), we should. Not every campus needs another ministry – especially if it’s yet another ministry of the same type, aiming for similar students.

As the week continues, I imagine I’ll discuss some of the implications – and amazing options – here. But first and foremost, we each have to deal humbly with the missiological wisdom of hesitation.

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