Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Conquering America?

Let me break my series on the future of the church and comment on an article that appeared on the Baptist Center for Ethics website.

BCE reports that David Clippard, the executive of the Missouri Baptist Convention, recently said, "The real threat we are facing today is that Islam has a strategic plan to conquer and occupy America." Part of this plan is funding Islamic studies and opening mosques near colleges and universities. "They are after our sons and daughters, our students," Clippard is reported to have said.

I don't know if Clippard's observations are correct or not, but the idea of attempting to reach a nation through its college and university students makes sense. In the early 20th century, many Christian groups (including Baptists) decided to do the same thing. This gave birth to the Baptist Student Union, the Student Volunteer Movement, the Wesley Foundation, and many other denominational and non-denominational groups. This resulted in the equipping and calling of thousands of ministers, educators, missionaries, and lay leaders for the churches.

The unfortunate thing is that this strategy is not being actively pursued by Christians today. Southern Baptists have pulled much of their funding for national programs for college students, and state programs of campus ministry are facing frozen or declining budgets (Mr. Clippard's MBC is a good--or bad--example).

Those of us in the CBF camp haven't done much better. With a few exceptions, most churches, state and regional organizations, and national entities have not made ministry with college students a priority.

There is a vacuum in ministry to college and university students. Maybe the Muslims have found a "niche." If so, we have no one to blame but ourselves.


Jim said...

If the SBC and state conventions are cutting funds for collegiate ministry, does that mean that groups like Campus Crusade and Intervarsity will dominate the collegiate ministry scene? Also, since you are a former director of campus ministry for a state convention, would you say that many states have tendencies to call only those who are under 35 to campus ministry? I am 42 and was introduced to Christianity while a college student in the 1980s; and God has given me a desire to serve in collegiate ministry for quite some time.

Ircel said...

CCC and IVCF will certainly continue to be players as well as a number of other parachurch groups. One of the downsides to these groups is a lack of consistency in staff and, therefore, in ministry. In the middle TN area, even the CCC folks are spread thin and are asked to work several campuses.

Age is probably not as important as where you went to seminary!

Although we keep talking about churches doing more in collegiate ministry, those examples are few and far between.

I wish that I had a good answer to this situation. The old model will no longer work, but a viable, new model does not seem to have appeared yet.

One possiblity is church planting in college communities, but this is hard work and not for the faint of heart. I wonder what would happen if a really passionate person decided to do this, asked from help from CBF and the state/regional organization, and worked his/her network to provide resources. If this were in TN, I think TCBF could drop in a few bucks (now, will someone make be ante up?).