Saturday, April 10, 2004

Collegiate Christian Consumerism

Part 3


We're still propelled by the big event. The massive buildup to a main-themed, on campus penetration into the larger campus community comes in the form of various outreaches, public films, forums, concerts, etc. On-campus "big-eventism" is the evangelical currency of choice, mainly because that is what is still esteemed by the campus ministry fathers who came before these young adults. I do not contend that the big event does not produce fruit at does. Yet, as far as relational investment and consistency, it is the cheapest fare. Come up with a week and an emphasis and you have it. With the big event, you get to do what is most immediately and visibly gratifying, where evangelistic action is concerned. Dangle the carrot, gather the masses, proclaim the message and hopefully gather the harvest.

Herein is the problem with our approach to evangelism.....we major on proclamation and harvesting but neglect cultivation. Our idea of cultivation is to invite pre-Christians to a few events and then drop the Jesus bomb on them. Cultivating is the dirty, unglamorous, ugly red-headed step-child of evangelism. There is much relational investment with pre-Christians that MUST be devoid of a "what-can-I-or-my-church/campus-ministry-get-out-of-it?" mentality. Granted, this mentality is not as spoken as it is behaviorally implied. We still value a "come-see" approach and pagans are not coming to the big shows, no matter how many ultra-cool, rocking and glitzy post-modern sci-fi films after which we can name our campus ministry. They still wonder if we Christians actually care enough about them to not pander our shtick to them. So they hurl their complaints and we say they aren't ready for Jesus yet. Maybe we're just giving Jesus-by-products. Why can't we stage a production that never ends that is neither staged nor that blossoms behind-the-scenes and one that won't "get at" people? What about something with no stars and no big names who neither know us nor stay around long enough to want to? What about something truly mundane, simple and reeking of "common?" Where are our homegrown theologians, missionaries and our next generations' great thinkers? I'll tell you where they are.....they're not even Christ followers yet.


Mission is still seen as "out there" in Meh-hee-koh or Botswana or Uzbekistan or Panama City. I know they need Jesus too. I know they need sewers dug and church houses built.

I know too that in the last 50 years of the 20th century, evangelicals in USA failed to gain even 2% of the American population. In other words, we're not even reaching our children. Only India and China have more lost people. In fact, China now boasts more Christian believers than the USA. I know that my lost young adult friends are living together with their boyfriends and girlfriends, go to the bars and Steak and Shake for ultimate meaning and purpose with their like-minded network of friends. They ask the tough questions, enjoy being lost and flaunt it at times. They are brutally honest and tell you what they think. They are not even as presumptuous as many Christians I know. And they will listen to us if we go to them. Not just once, mind you. But to stay, listen and love.

You don't have to go overseas to find this. This is in our own backyard. In Oxford, Ohio......the stepping stone and preparatory place for the leaders of the world's tomorrows. So why one week mission trips? Why the resource hungry buildup to honor these monoliths when the need here is so great? What about 52-week missional living in the garden where we are planted, whether 1,2,3,4 or 10 years? Why is mission "out there," miles away from our here-ness? I suspect one-week mission-mindedness is attractive because we can return to the obscurity of whatever it was we were doing before. And it's sexier to have the exotic one-week mission for a conversation piece. And there are no long term investments to bind. Besides, if you're always on your way to something better, somewhere else, then you can't ever have too much asked of you. There are also the promises of an enticing tourist attraction in the "foreign" mission, as if the calling to go and serve selflessly weren't enough. Why the "fun" hook to missions? Why weren't we taught that joy in serving was enough? Perhaps we just don't know what to do with a wandering people we see, know and shun on a weekly basis. Maybe our familiarity has bred a barrier of contempt amongst our own people in our own community.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't have fun. We should. I'm not implying that all who participate in the typical- (if there are such)- campus ministry one-week mission trips are thusly shallow-minded and have hidden agendas. I'm not saying they should be abandoned. I am saying the philosophical approach to mission is skewed long before we hit the road or the plane. And I am saying that we need to seriously revisit Kingdom-living on our campuses with a second naivete, if that's even possible. And do we really have time for that?

I don't know if I want to even see a "movement" (whatever that means). It seems on the front end if you start out with that in mind you end up running it and expending too much energy to maintain something altogether different. I don't think we need anything to "emerge" either. For that which God has intended (the establishment of his Kingdom), the resources are already at our disposal. Isn't it really the Gospel plus NOTHING- no gimmicks, no catches, no agendas? But when you only have some people maybe for four years at the most, you are hard-pressed to come up with something unique and memorable.

So with that, do we teeter, tending toward being anti-thetical to a grounded, Kingdom-minded community? And what does that really look like- devoid of the agendized, hypo-relational machine wherein the cogs are immovable and fixed?Where are the young adults who will claim their present and former campuses as their own parishes, effectively loving them into the Kingdom of God and pastoring and persisting with them for the duration? Where is our burden to live amongst a wayward and transient people as a prophetic roadblock to the slave syndrome under which our nowherely mobile peers live?