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Home Church Planting/Missional Campus Ministry, the Church and Ministry training - Text

Campus Ministry, the Church and Ministry training - Text

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Campus Ministry, the Church and Ministry training


Tony Payne and Philip Jensen – Copyright


Editors note: This is part of an important article is taken from the book  Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns

 By D. A. Carson


In thinking about what church actually is, the most sensible place to start is with the meaning of the word itself—which is, of course, an assembly. In both secular and Christian contexts in the New Testament, we find that the word ekklesia simply connotes a gathering, a group of people, even a mob. it", can be a Christian gathering that meets in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for his purposes; or it can be an angry, riotous non-Christian ekklesia (as in Acts 19:32 ). It is not a religious word. It just means an assembly.


What then is special or significant about the Christian assembly? In bibli­cal theology, there is a particular gathering that essentially defines what is dis­tinctive about the Christian gathering. It is the gathering of God's people at Mount Sinai, the definitive time in the Old Testament when all God's people gathered to hear God's word. It is called the "day of the ekklesia" in Deuteron­omy 9:10 and 10:4 (LXX), and Stephen reflects this usage in Acts 7:38 when he refers to it as the "ekklesia in the wilderness." That crucial day of the church is also referred to in Hebrews 12 —in Christ we have come, not to Mount Sinai, but to the heavenly Jerusalem, where all God's people are gathered around his throne in joyful assembly, for which reason we must not refuse him who speaks and who warns us from heaven#(Heb. 12:18-25 ). This is the church that belongs to Jesus Christ and that he has decreed he will build (Matt. 16:18 ).


That essentially is what a Christian church is—a gathering of Christ's people to hear the Word of God, to meet in obedience to that Word. Our par­ticular local earthly gatherings are expressions of the great heavenly gathering of Hebrews 12 . Thus, when Christians meet in the name of Jesus Christ in a lecture hall to hear his Word, then that particular gathering (or church) is a Christian one. You don't need a fancy building, stained-glass windows, organs, or any of the normal paraphernalia that we associate with church. You only need a place in which to proclaim God's Word to his people as Paul did daily


Call it church and be done with it. Stop trying to pretend that you aren't a church, when you transparently are. If the Navigators were to do so, we might lose some people from our Sunday gathering—but that would be all right. They are essentially passengers in our gathering and would no doubt be more effective in their witness and ministry if they concentrated on "Navigator church."


The fact that you have a particular focus or target group for your ministry is no barrier to being a church. What we have found is that in planting a church aimed squarely and specifically at students, we have also seen all sorts of other ministries spring up through the people God has brought to us. We have a Korean congregation and a Greek congregation-, we have planted two churches for Italians and one for Vietnamese; we now have two family con­gregations, a ministry to the elderly, and a congregation of young profession­als. And these congregations are not homogenous and sealed off from each other. Each of them has a mix of people.




At this point, many readers may be thinking: "But don't we basically go to church to worship God, and isn't this what Sunday supplies that the midweek parachurch activity cannot?"


That this view is so common among evangelicals today is testimony both to our lack of serious engagement with what the Bible actually says about church and to our short historical memories. We write as Anglican evangeli­cals, whose denomination has basically been destroyed by this view of church and worship over the past 150 years. When we hear evangelicals talking about church being worship, and our buildings being sanctuaries, with the Lord's table as an altar, it is greatly disturbing, not least of all because it is so bibli­cally wrong. All the language of temple, altar, sanctuary, service, priests, and offerings is taken up and fulfilled in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, our great High Priest. He is our temple, our tabernacle, our offering, our sacrifice. In him God's presence is continually with us (through the indwelling Spirit), and thus our whole lives are our spiritual worship as we obey him and do his will. We do still worship in church—but only in the sense that we breathe in church. We don't go to church to worship any more than we go to church to breathe.


The purpose of church is fellowship with God's people around God's Word. We worship in every aspect of our lives day by day as we offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God. To confuse the two, as most evangelicals seem to today,is a drastic error. You certainly won't find the two confused in the New Testa­ment. In fact, it is an interesting exercise to try to find even one reference in the New Testament where worship language is used in association with Chris­tian gatherings.'


These ideas no doubt go somewhat against the grain. We have sat, Sun­day after Sunday for years on end, hearing our pastor say, "We welcome you today to our hour of worship." Yet study the Scriptures and see.




Our chief strategy as a university church is to get rid of our members. We want to export them, not hold onto them. In other words, we don't believe in church growth. The modern penchant for church growth, it seems to us, is largely self-centered. For which church is it that you want to see grow? My church, of course.


We should be far more interested in gospel growth, as Colossians 1:3-6 puts it, in men and women all over the world acknowledging the Lord Jesus Christ. You could say that this was church growth, so long as you recognize that the church involved is the church of Jesus Christ, the great gathering in heaven of all his people that he is building.


The church of Jesus Christ grows through the preaching of the gospel, so our chief strategy is to recruit and train more gospel preachers. We won't reach the world and see the assembly of Jesus Christ grow simply by trying to make our own church bigger. We need to plant many more churches, and for this we need many more gospel preachers.


Our approach to campus ministry, then, is conditioned by our belief that the university is a key place for recruiting and training gospel preachers. At University you have people for around four years at that crucial stage of their lives when they are beginning to make decisions as adults and to launch them- selves into life. We want them to launch into gospel ministry, whether as a full- 'me minister or as mission-minded, evangelistically active laypersons. We want them to be so shaped and changed by the gospel at university that when they leave us, they do so as motivated, well-taught, well-trained gospel people. Some of them will continue on in their chosen profession. We try to persuade Is many as possible to give up their small ambitions for professional success and become full-time gospel preachers instead.


Many of the training programs that are now available through Matthias .,media were first developed and field-tested in this campus context as we sought to train people in the basics of Christian ministry—the "Two Ways to Live Training Course" for personal evangelism; "Just for Starters" and the "per­sonal Follow-up Training Course" for teaching people how to disciple a new believer; "Growth Groups" for training small group leaders; and so on. Through regular weekly Bible teaching, these training courses, and personal discipling, we aim to get each of our undergraduates to the point of being what we call a self-starter—that is, someone who will leave university, go to a church somewhere, and begin to minister, whether they are asked to or not. We want them to be the sort of people who look for opportunities to minis­ter the gospel wherever they happen to be. (Here again, it is important to remember the difference between the commuters and the residents at our cam­pus. In this whole program of training, we have far more success with the res­idential and overseas students than with the commuters, simply because we see more of them each week, and they typically stay with us for longer.)


Throughout this ministry to the students, we are always on the lookout for people whom we call blokes worth watching (BWWs). These blokes (and blokesses) are those who seem to have real gifts for ministry. At university this can be as many as a third of the students who are with us, because they have already been preselected by our educational system to be the clever people, the able people, the leaders. Our aim with the BWWs is to direct them, over time, into full-time gospel ministry It usually takes around ten years from the time that we first spot a likely looking BWW to when he or she ends up on the mission field or in pastoral work. We believe in training them properly for the long haul. And to do so we have evolved two important structures.


The first is called "Club 5." This is an informal organization that aims to inform, encourage, and generally help people through the process of thinking, about full-time ministry. Each member of Club 5 is assigned a coach—some­one who sticks by them over the years, who is on their side, and who talks with them personally about all the decisions and hurdles to actually making it into full-time Christian work. We called the organization Club 5 because we. wanted to recruit five hundred full-time evangelists in five years. Our first five. years have now passed, and we have more than reached our target. We're now aiming at five thousand in the next five years. We don't know if we'll make it, but we're going for it!


The second important structure is called the "Ministry Training Strategy." This is essentially a two-year apprenticeship course in which our preachers­to-be test their gifts and gain practical experience in gospel work before they head off to Moore Theological College (which is a further four years of full-time study). We currently have around thirty trainees in this program at UNSW We pay them enough to stay alive (just) while they learn by doing gospel work on the campus. It's a model that has now spread to other churches in Australia, with thirty-five different training centers and more than a hun­dred trainees currently involved in the program.


This is our church/campus connection: we run churches on and around a campus with the aim of bringing biblical revival to the world. We seek to so evangelize and train students while they are with us that when we export them to other churches as members or evangelists or pastor-teachers, they will not only preach the gospel, but they will train other people to do so as well.





Barclay, Oliver. 1977. Whatever Happened to the Jesus Lane Lot? Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press.

Horn, R. M. 1971. Student Witness and Christian Truth. London: InterVarsity Press.

Peterson, David. 1992. Engaging with God. Leicester: Apollos.



Last Updated on Friday, 14 February 2014 10:14  

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