THE CASE FOR PUBLIC CAMPUS MINISTRY

THE CASE FOR PUBLIC CAMPUS MINISTRY

 

By: Sebastien Braxton

Despite the large number of Seventh-day Adventist youth that attend secular colleges, an urgency fit for such times fails to grasp many conferences, pastors and churches. This urgency falls upon deaf ears not due to unwilling hearts (at least this writer hopes not) but often unawareness. In addition, some have even asked, “Why should I do secular campus ministry?”!  Mind you, this question is not raised by souls ignorant of Jesus’ commission in the book of Matthew or His last words to His disciples in Acts 1. The question emerges from the wearied hearts of youth bombarded with a cacophony of causes to invest their precious lives into. Public Campus Ministry (PCM), in the minds of some youth, competes with sex-trafficking, the green movement, present-day crises across the world and even domestic inequities near the university they attend. With so many worthy choices before students, what compelling reasons could one give to these anxious youth?

I call them the 8 P’s — here are the first three:

The Past

The first compelling reason to do PCM comes from history. A quick survey of the protestant reformation will lead one to perceive the power of ministry within an institution of learning diametrically opposed the principles of Christ. Almost every major reformer served as a professor at such an institution. John Wycliffe at Oxford, Martin Luther at the University of Wittenberg, Jan Huss at the University of Prague just to name a few. We often look to these bold and biblical leaders, who often met a martyrs death, as the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation. Indeed, we are right to list them as such, however, their students were the mechanism. These students, nameless to us, foot soldiered these gospel professors’ messages within their motherlands and beyond.  This mammoth of a movement compels to take PCM seriously.

The Potential

Potential is defined as having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future. What does PCM have the capacity to become or develop into in the future? A movement of global proportions. It was 2 am in the morning. The Michigan winter foreshadowed by the chilly breeze. It’s foreboding did not deter the 5,000 plus crowd gathered at the steps of the Michigan Union to welcome presidential candidate, then Senator, John F. Kennedy. The senator asked the question, “How many of you who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world?…on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country…will depend whether a free society can compete.” 1 From these words spawned a movement that eventually led to a government agency devoted to peace and friendship.2 The Peace Corps, since its inception, facilitated over 200,000 volunteers to over 139 countries to confront issues from AIDS education, environmental issues, and information technology3. Is not the remnant church of these last days the true Peace Corps? Devoted to bringing peace between God and man, and man and man? Our church has begun to see this phenomenon through the continuous impact of GYC and the subsequent movements inspired by its work.

 The Problems

When on assignment in Cambridge, MA, serving the universities there, I came across an article regarding a new university policy at Tufts. This policy stated that it was no longer allowed for a student to be physically intimate with his/her mate while their roommate was in the room! I personally had to navigate this challenge with one of our SDA students there who woke up one morning with a half-naked boyfriend coming out of the bathroom! Sexual perversion and promiscuity run rampant on secular campuses devastating the self-esteem, future, and health of freshmen to doctoral students. We have also seen a recent increase in the news of suicides on various campuses. Most of these a direct result of an oppressive depression. It is said that 44% of college students reported feeling symptoms of depression and that it is the 2nd leading cause of death in college students age 20-24. Imagining such problems just within the 300,000 students in the Boston Metropolitan area or within the state of Michigan cries for the gospel of Christ.

 

Despite the large number of Seventh-day Adventist youth that attend secular colleges, an urgency fit for such times fails to grasp many conferences, pastors and churches. This urgency falls upon deaf ears not due to unwilling hearts (at least this writer hopes not) but often unawareness. In addition, some have even asked, “Why should I do secular campus ministry?”!  Mind you, this question is not raised by souls ignorant of Jesus’ commission in the book of Matthew or His last words to His disciples in Acts 1. The question emerges from the wearied hearts of youth bombarded with a cacophony of causes to invest their precious lives into. Public Campus Ministry (PCM), in the minds of some youth, competes with sex-trafficking, the green movement, present-day crises across the world and even domestic inequities near the university they attend. With so many worthy choices before students, what compelling reasons could one give to these anxious youth?

I call them the 8 P’s — here are the last five:

Preaching

Upon the imminence of Jesus’ departure, the question of His return weighed heavily upon the hearts of the disciples. The mixture of truth and error within their troubled breasts led them to associate Jesus’ return with the end of the world and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.4 In brilliant fashion, Christ utilized this misconception to bring to light the actual final events of this age. Christ then gave an unequivocal sign that the end would come. The gospel being preached in all the world as a witness to all nations is an unconditional prophecy of Jesus. This surely includes secular campuses, which often serve as the intelligentsia of a nation and the cradle of its future leaders. Thus, within the gospel mandate, Jesus’ authority and power avail itself even within the concrete jungles of our world. This gospel must be preached and will be preached on secular campuses. This guarantee behooves us to cooperate with the commands of our King for the only way to fail in secular campus ministry is to do nothing.

Previous

It is not a secret that at least 70% of SDA youth attend secular campuses in the NAD. This number remains steady (and is probably much higher) despite the numerous Adventist colleges and universities within our borders. Yet, statistics and discussions suggest that about 70% of SDA youth are leaving the church primarily during the collegiate years. Is this a coincidence? A God in heaven makes coincidences few and far between. Especially a God who has placed us in a reality deeply rooted in the law of cause and effect. The truth of the matter is that many SDA youth not only attend these

institutions for specific areas of study but to get away from Adventism itself. In my years of PCM, many campuses boast of hundreds of SDA youth attending and even declaring themselves so, but not interested in the church nor the campus ministry. When Jesus sent out the twelve in Matthew 10 He bid them begin with the lost sheep of the house of Israel. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus builds that case for seeking that which is lost and its inestimable value. Thus, those who were previously Adventist, which are many in our time, can be reclaimed through the work of PCM. I would go so far as to say that PCM, biblical and vibrant, is the key to ebbing the enormous loss of SDA youth in our generation.

Possibilities

Without struggle, there is no progress. Frederick Douglass’s words rang true in a time of institutionalized prejudice against people of color but also in an era of institutionalized prejudice against people of faith. PCM brings its own unique difficulties to the table as any ministry does. Yet, these obstacles tend to deter many churches or students from even attempting to crack the juggernaut of a secular campus. Indeed, it is a struggle and shall always be, the devil will ensure that it is so. But humans bear struggle for possibilities. Success and failure are equally possible. Yet Solomon reflects that work should not be determined by foreseeable results.5 He argues that if we constantly study and focus on the possible challenges and pitfalls, we will never start6, and surely never reap. I remember doing ministry at Tufts University and thinking, “Vegetarian Tastefests draw people but never lead to serious Bible study interests.” In partnering with Tufts Christian Fellowship for the event (the largest Christian Organization on campus) the event drew over 100 students from 10 different faith backgrounds. There was no standing room. All stayed for the health talk and the promo for our Revelation series. For the next hour, we six Adventists tried to connect with over 100 students and the in and out visitors. We were pleasantly outnumbered. From that one event, we had a non-SDA attendance to our series and eventually a small group of 12-15 each week on the book of Daniel. We promptly forgot about the struggles and continued to seek new possibilities.

Present

Unlike most, I have found that a post-modern world lines up perfectly for our unique message as Adventists. (I can perhaps explore this further in a separate article). In brief, the current age is obsessed with the concept of a story. As Adventists, God has entrusted us with the story behind every story. The Great Controversy theme or meta-narrative immediately confronts the two great challenges of our generation: purpose and pain. It provides a rich and meaningful answer to the problem of pain and God’s work

to solve it and why His approach is what it is. These two contending powers war upon the ground of human hearts. Each soul either becomes an annexation to the kingdom of darkness or the kingdom of light. It lays upon the shoulders of sentient souls the eternal weight of every decision of life. Whether we are famous or not in the context of

the secular world, our lives have meaning and point to some transcending victory for one side or the other. More than ever, these two questions plague the pensamientos of collegiates globally, and they are asking with pathos. Thankfully, God answered before they even called through the unique message given to us as Seventh-day Adventists. So much more to say on this, but brevity beckons me onward.

Prophecy

As if the previous seven reasons were not enough, the writings of a modern prophet adds to its importance and urgency. In 1891, at an educational convention in Harbor Heights, Ellen White sought to impress upon the hearers the idea of entering worldly colleges primarily for the purpose of living out the principles of the gospel unswervingly. She reasoned that interest would generate in those around them and opportunities to share emerge. At the conclusion of her remarks she makes the startling but sensational promise, “but this work must be done and will be done by those who are led and taught of God.”7 In other words, if we sense God calling us into a work that will be done, PCM is it. The only condition is our willingness to be led and taught of God.

*****

Sebastien Braxton is a former graduate and director of the Missionary Training Program.  He is also the founder of STRIDE in Boston and has served as the General Vice President of GYC.  To read the first post click here.

______________
4 Matthew 24:1-3
5 Ecclesiastes 11:6
6 Ecclesiastes 11:4

1http://www.peacecorps.gov/about/history/speech/

2 http://www.peacecorps.gov/about/
3 http://www.peacecorps.gov/about/

 

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CAMPUS PROGRAM DIRECTOR AS CHAPLAIN

CAMPUS PROGRAM DIRECTOR AS CHAPLAIN

It has been a few months now, since the time I was pulled over by the officer, and each time I sit in a police car I am thankful for the opportunity to serve. Having done a few ride alongs I am learning a new culture, my eyes are being open to new needs in my community. My prayers are being answered by a God who cares for and extends grace to me as a Pastor and to those in uniform who work to keep us safe.

CLICK HERE to read the full article published in the Lake Union Herald.

THE DANGER OF AUDACITY

THE DANGER OF AUDACITY

The darkness of the events soon to take place surely pressed about the upper room, where Jesus was eating with His disciples. In those few quiet hours, Jesus could share a few more words of counsel and comfort to His disciples. His burden, as made evident in the gospel of John, was for the disciples to understand the need for them to abide in His Words, in His commandments. “If ye love Me,” Jesus said, “keep my commandments.” Most Christians today would have no problem consenting to follow most of the Ten Commandments. But the fourth commandment seems to be insignificant to most of Christendom today; the graveness of disregarding the law of God–specifically, the Sabbath commandment– is not realized as it should be.


A prestigious Roman Catholic, Cardinal James Gibbons, who was the first cardinal to be appointed in the United States, says this in his book The Faith of Our Fathers:
“You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day we never sanctify.” (Pg. 72,73)

 How is it that someone claiming to be a follower of God can so shamelessly admit that they disobey direct instruction from the Bible? The language of the Sabbath commandment is this: 

‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall you labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it, you shall do no work–you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.‘ Exodus 20:8-11

Some believe that the Sabbath was not instituted until God spoke them at Mt. Sinai and that it was abolished at the cross, implying that the Sabbath is just something to be tossed around. This is proposed by Theodore H. Epp, founder of the organization, Back to the Bible.

He also says, What day, then, should Christians set aside? There is no commandment given to Christians in this area.” (backtothebible.org)

Epp argues that Jesus kept the Sabbath because Jesus was a Jew, and the Sabbath was a sign for Israelites, according to Exodus 31:13-17. This cannot be correct thinking because Jesus says that the Sabbath was made for man in Mark 2:27–not Sabbath was made for the Israelites only. The Sabbath is included amongst other commandments that everyone is subject to, and there is no basis for separating it from the Decalogue as applicable only to the Jews.

The fourth commandment begins with the word ‘remember’. The children of Israel, having received this formal declaration of God’s law soon after their liberation from Egypt, most likely had forgotten the sacredness of this day because of their occupation as slaves. They were probably forced to work on the Sabbath, and so it is understandable that God would say to ‘remember’, considering that the duration of their slavery was conducive to forgetfulness in regard to this special day.

Spiritual Israel today has ‘forgotten’ the one command where God has called for remembrance. The first day, Sunday is observed as the Sabbath by much of the Christian world today. Why is this so?

History records that the change from the seventh day Sabbath to Sunday was put into motion beginning with Constantine, who was the emperor of Rome several years after Jesus lived on earth. He decreed that work was to cease on Sunday, which reminds one of the languages of the commandment of God.  Prior to this, the Christians were heavily persecuted in the Roman Empire. Yet, amidst this hostility towards the followers of Christ, the Romans witnessed a change in their emperor when Constantine professed conversion to the Christian faith.

 In that time, much of Roman religion revolved around sun worship. Pagan Rome was entrenched in their own religion. To be asked to give up ceremonies and practices in order to embrace Christianity would create chaotic reverberations within the empire. Constantine used compromise was utilized. The ‘Venerable Day of the Sun’, from which ‘Sunday’ arises, was proclaimed by Constantine in 321 A.D. to be the day set aside for rest and worship.

This change was instituted by man. However, divine law does not change on the say so of a human being. This swapping of Sabbath days has no sanction from the Bible. It was only to make the Christian religion appeal to Roman paganism that the holy day was changed.

 The conversion of Emperor Constantine marked the beginning of the rise of Roman Catholicism. For more than a thousand years after that event, this system of church mixed with state grew and became a dictatorial power in Europe. Along with the change of the Sabbath, there were other practices and teachings–such as indulgences, worship of images, confession to a human priest– that evolved within the Catholic church, these things being contradictory to Biblical concepts. The religion of Rome, though officially termed “Christian” by the emperor, was simply paganism made to look like Christianity.

 Persecution again arose against true Christians, only this time from a religious power. Groups like the Waldenses stood against the Catholic church, claiming the authority of Scripture over that of men. They kept the commandments of God, including the Sabbath ordained by God.

Eventually came the period of the Protestant Reformation in Europe, with Martin Luther and others. Those who had access to the Bible and knew of the errors that pervaded the Catholic church decided to go against this religious system in favor of pure Christianity. Though persecuted for holding on to the truths found in the Word of God, they understood the sacredness of God’s law and knew that obedience to His commandments needed to be a priority in their faith. Many of the errors and practices of the Catholic church were abandoned by the Protestants.

It is necessary to look at this history–a history of people who were persecuted and opposed because of a desire to obey the commands of Jesus– and realize the significance of the great problem in the fact that most of the Christian world today, both Protestant and Catholic, still observe Sunday as Sabbath, still violate a commandment.  There have been many martyrs, many trials faced by Christians throughout the centuries. This continued allegiance to the day of rest designated by man mocks the sacrifices of God’s people in the past as if to say that the law of God is not so important after all.

More appalling than that is the blow to God Himself.  Look back at the way that God begins when He delivered the Ten Commandments directly to the people of Israel. He begins by reminding them that He is the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt from the house of bondage (Exodus 20:2). Every commandment that follows should be remembered in that context. The Lord provided their freedom– as their Liberator, He has given them His law, a law described as follows: 

‘The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover, by them, your servant is warned, and in keeping them, there is great reward.’ Psalm 19:7-10 

In living by the precepts of the law, people are changed. Wisdom may be obtained, and joy is experienced. The understanding is broadened, and there is no guilt in abiding reverently before God. In this world where sin has been a curse, the conversion experience gained by keeping God’s commandments is the need of every human being. As a God who liberates, it would make sense that any law given by Him would be for the continued freedom and welfare of the ones He has freed. 

 ‘Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins–let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression.’ Verses 11-13  

 In His Word, God lets His people know the danger of not abiding by His law. The psalmist implores the Lord to keep him from the chains of sin. Sin is transgression of the law, and the wages of sin is death (1 John 3:4; Romans 6:23). Slaves do not expect any good recompense for their labor, and the same is true spiritually. Being a slave to sin will produce death, and again, being the God of love and life that He has demonstrated Himself to be, He implores us to keep that law which will lead to triumphant results, not only in this life but for eternity. 

 Yet there is the contention that the Ten Commandments were abolished at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, thus freeing Christians from obedience to this law. A blogger by the name of Paul Ellis wrote an article, making the case that the Ten Commandments are not part of the law written on our hearts, as it says will occur in Hebrews 10:16. Another verse that this idea stems from is found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: 

 “He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” Ephesians 2:14-16 

 Consider another statement by Paul from Colossians:

 “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13, 14 

 Paul’s reference to “the law of commandments” and the “handwriting of requirements” refers to one of two laws that are noted in Scripture: the Book of the Law written by Moses, and the other set of laws being the Ten Commandments, which were written by God.

 The case against the nullification of the Ten Commandments can be made by looking at the context of these two passages. Paul, in both letters, follows the line of thought that humans, having been spiritually dead in sin, have been brought to life by the mercy and grace of God, through the death of Jesus Christ. Because He died, a man may live in Him. And so Paul continues to the point that “if you were raised with Christ” (Colossians 3:1), and your life is hidden in Him, “put off the old man and put on the new” (verses 9, 10).


And what are the characteristics of this “old man” that Paul exhorts the Colossians to put off? He speaks of “fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, covetousness, which is idolatry…anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy” (verses 5, 8). These are things that God exhorts His people to put away in the Ten Commandments. Further, in his discussion, Paul references the fifth commandment (Ephesians 6:2; Colossians 3:20).  If Paul had indeed been referring to the Decalogue as the law which was abolished at the death of Jesus, and considering that in the death of Jesus, Christians are told to put off the “old man”, what sense does Paul make then in saying that to put off the old man is to follow the principles of the Ten Commandments?


Refer also to the historical context of the two laws to decide which set of requirements has been “wiped out”.  Throughout the years before Israel and Judah were carried into captivity, there were repeated scenes of apostasy, especially in regard to the first and second commandment, which forbids the worship of other gods and graven images. In reviewing the story of King Josiah in 2 Chronicles 34, it is seen that the Mosaic law, having been found and read again, led to obedience to the moral law of God (seen in the reformation that took place in the removal of idols).


Look to how Jesus Himself regards the commandments of God, in Matthew 5. He mentions the command to not murder (verse 21) and to refrain from committing adultery (verse 27) and expands the meanings of both to include not just the visible and tangible aspects, but the motives and thoughts of a human heart. This reveals that, in the eyes of Jesus Himself, the moral law was not to be diminished but to be studied in such a way that the underlying principles might be understood in a clearer manner. If the death of Jesus was meant to abolish the Ten Commandments, there was no reason for Him to take the time to teach more concerning the moral law.


Now consider the sanctuary services practiced by the Israelites from the wilderness to the time before the crucifixion. The offerings, the ministrations of the priests, the atoning for sins–all pointed forward to the plan of salvation (refer to Hebrews 9 as well as the book of Exodus), and specifically, to Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Refer again to Paul’s statement, that “the handwriting of requirements that was against us…has been nailed to the cross.” The mind of a Jew, in reading this, would have recalled the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 31:26, which says, “Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there as a witness against you.” He was referring to the laws of sacrificial ordinances, not the Ten Commandments, which were placed, not with Moses’ Book of the Law, but inside the ark of the covenant (Exodus 40:20).


When the Bible says that sin is the transgression of the law, this is describing a scenario in which two things exist, but which such intense friction that one must be done away with. The law that cannot exist in harmony with sin, and if the death of Jesus took away sin, then the law, the moral law, has been left to remain.  The law of ordinances was abolished because Jesus was nailed to the cross, has become sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).

This had been pointed forward to by the sacrificial system all throughout Israel’s history, and when Jesus died, the need for these ordinances became non-existent. May it be understood, then, that if these men, along with the Son of God, believed in and referenced the moral law of God with no allusion to its invalidity, a modern follower of Christ will adhere to this law, in its entirety.

“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said ‘Do not commit adultery’ also said ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.” James 2:10, 11

 James makes it clear that no commandment is considered less important than another. All are necessary, and most, understandably so. Recall how Jesus summed up the law in two commandments:

“ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40

 In looking at the Decalogue, it is seen that the first four commandments refer to loving God; the last six, loving other people. Honoring parents, life, marriage, ownership, reputation, and property are considered by any rational human to be logical in relating to others. But note that, excepting the fifth commandment, there is no reason given in the last five for the commandment. They are simply straightforward and are accepted without question as good and necessary.

 When reading the commandments pertaining to God, notice how God gives a reason to the command:

 1st Commandment: You shall have no other gods before me

Reason: ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.’

2nd Commandment: You shall not make for yourself a carved image

 Reason: ‘For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.’

3rd Commandment: You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain

 Reason: ‘For the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain’

4th Commandment: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

 Reason: ‘For in six days, the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.’

 The very concept in having a god is that one’s god gets the supreme regard in the life of the worshiper. Adoration, attention, service, homage, obedience–a god should expect this. Theoretically, Christians know this. Yet hear the sentiments of God expressed in Malachi:

 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor, and if I am a Master, where is My reverence?” Malachi 1:6

 The context of this passage speaks to the fact that God’s people, especially and specifically the priests, are dishonoring their God by the laziness and carelessness of their worship. The defects of their offerings testify that they had reached a point where they did not regard their God as worthy of highest honor.

“You offer defiled food on My altar, but say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind, and the lame and sick as a sacrifice, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you?” Verses 7, 8

 The bewildering tone of God’s dialogue in Malachi is understandable as one feels the shrug-off attitude in the responses of these people who, by their actions, clearly have an indifference to the fact that God deserves at least the respect that they would have rendered to earthly authority. A probable third-party assessment of the situation would be one of indignation if God, in this situation, were passive about the haphazard way in which His people serve Him.

 But when God sees that His people are in this state, He cannot keep from speaking up and addressing the problem:

 “‘And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. If you will not hear, and if you will not give glory to My name,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, because you do not take it [the commandment and giving glory to God’s name] to heart.'” Verses 1, 2

 “‘Then you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant with Levi may continue,’ says the Lord of hosts. “My covenant was with him, one of life and peace, and I gave them to him that he might fear Me; so he feared me, and was reverent before My name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity and turned many away from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth, for he is a messenger for the Lord of hosts.’ “ Verses 4-7

 God never keeps silent when His people have turned away from His covenant, because He “has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked should turn from his way and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11). People, both Christian and non-Christian, do not realize that this “law of truth” gives life, peace, and a sinless existence to those who abide by it.  And since humans, as sinners, cannot abide in this law on their own, God sent His Son to make it possible.

 Now, it does lie on the individual to decide for himself whether or not he will follow God’s commandments. But at the same time,  those who stand in religious positions of authority have not been doing their job in upholding God’s law. Just as the priests of Israel showed contempt in regard to His commands, so also church authority has forgotten it’s responsibility to know and follow God’s requirements, encouraging the people to do the same.


 Howard Peth, the author of 7 Mysteries Solved, says, “Religious leaders have misled millions so that nearly all of the people are fooled as to the Biblical day of worship.” (Pg. 749)
In the Roman Catholic catechism, in response to whether or not the Church has the power to institute festivals of precept, it states:
“Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her–she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday the seventh day of the week, a change for which there is no scriptural authority.” (Pg. 174)
Former President of Redemptorist College, Father Enright states:

“The Bible says, ‘Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day.’ The Catholic Church says, ‘No! By my divine power, I abolish the Sabbath day, and command you to keep holy the first day of the week.’ And lo! The entire civilized world bows down in reverent obedience to the command of the holy Catholic Church.”
These boastful, audacious statements indicate how much pride and arrogance can result in the breaking of just one command of God. Ellen White, in Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, comments on Matthew 5:19: “He who willfully breaks one commandment, does not, in spirit and truth, keep any of them (James 2:10). It is not the greatness of the act of disobedience that constitutes sin, but the fact of variance from God’s expressed will in the least particular, for this shows that there is yet communion between the soul and sin.” (Pg. 52)


People may say, “Why does it matter what day I worship on?” or “That was only for the Jews–I don’t have to keep Saturday as the Sabbath,” and it seems a small thing in their eyes. But it reveals that there is a reluctance to follow what God has said to do. And if there is an unwillingness to do something as “small” as worshiping on the day that He has commanded His people to worship on, there will be hesitancy or outright obstinacy in regards to other commandments.


She continues, “The heart is divided in its service. There is a virtual denial of God, a rebellion against the laws of His government.” The wording of the fourth commandment gives reason for worshiping God. As the Lord and Creator of heaven and earth, He has a right to ask His people to worship Him in remembrance that He created them. Keeping the seventh-day Sabbath of the Bible acknowledges His authority.


“Were men free to depart from the Lord’s requirements and to set up a standard of duty for themselves…the government would be taken out of the Lord’s hands.” This is exactly what has happened with the changing of the Sabbath. When Adam and Eve sinned, it was because they departed from a singular command of God. They gave their allegiance to the devil in eating the fruit. Today, in keeping Sunday, millions give their allegiance to another god, when the Creator is the only one who deserves it.

“Not by one word, not by many words, but by every word that God has spoken shall man live.” The Word of God in its entirety is what God has spoken to man through men. But God personally spoke the Ten Commandments, and He personally wrote them on tables of stone (Exodus 31:18). Even when the second pair of tablets came, cut out of stone by Moses, God wrote His law with His own finger (Exodus 34:1). This should testify to how important the commandments are in God’s eyes.

 “We cannot disregard one word, however trifling it may seem to us, and be safe. There is not a commandment of the law that is not for the good and happiness of man, both in this life and in the life to come. In obedience to God’s law, man is surrounded as with a hedge and kept from the evil. He who breaks down this divinely directed barrier at one point has destroyed its power to protect him, for he has opened a way by which the enemy can enter to waste and ruin.” (Pg. 52)

 One sin led to separation from God in Eden. One command broken makes it easier for the next one to be laid down as unimportant. “For whoever shall keep the whole law and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” And if he is guilty, he needs a Saviour. But if he does not think he is guilty in breaking one commandment, he does not really feel his need of a Saviour. Since he does not feel the need, he cannot receive the sacrifice of God on behalf of him, because his faith in Jesus is not complete. Whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life; he who does not will perish.

 The danger of audaciously putting down God’s law is that sin has become excusable. And when sin has become excusable in the eyes of a man, God Himself cannot do anything more for his salvation.

 

Written By Julianna Dunn

Missionary 2016-2017

 

Bibliography

The Bible

-Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing by E.G. White: Chapter 3: The Spirituality of the Law

-The Great Controversy by E.G. White:

“Constantine I” by Donald M. Nicol and J.F. Matthews, 2016, Encyclopedia Britannica article

This is where I read up on the history of Emperor Constantine, and the involvement of Rome in the Christian church

 -“What does God’s Word say about the Christian keeping the Sabbath?” by Theodore H. Epp: 

 .https://www.backtothebible.org/what-does-gods-word-say-about-the-christian-keeping-the-sabbath#sthash.V3rugsJc.dpuf

7 Mysteries Solved by Howard Peth, published in 1988.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RELATIVISM: A SOLUTION TO GLOBAL INJUSTICE?

RELATIVISM: A SOLUTION TO GLOBAL INJUSTICE?

It is hard to think that the Cambodian genocide happened in the last half-century. It is even harder to think that the Rwandan genocide happened less than two decades ago. It is hard to fathom this because, despite all the technological and intellectual advances made, mass acts of injustice against humans are still occurring.

This is why discussions about morality and justice are relevant now more than ever. With the European Renaissance period began a surge of human interconnectivity, moving from improvements in marine technology to machines that can now traverse the globe in less than three days. Couple that with the desire to explore and the vastly less virtuous desire to conquer and exploit others and we have a global network that falls far from a pleasant intercultural get-together.

So not only have human beings not reached some enlightened moral plane through centuries of intellectual pursuits, but they have also become more interconnected giving rise to more opportunities for cultural and ideological clashes. If there were ever a time for a discussion on morality and culture, that time would be now. And it is.

In the wake of numerous wars, the world is left with the conundrum ‘What is ethical?’ Situations vary and the ethics of people in those situations vary as well. This has caused the development of two sides; one maintaining that there is no absolute truth or right and each person’s morals and beliefs must be respected, the other that there is a moral truth, one that should be respected and upheld. The first view emerged from a desire to treat other cultural and moral views respectfully as a counterweight to the often racist and Eurocentric views of the 20thcentury. Unfortunately, this has morphed into an ‘anything goes’ ideology, which is at odds to serving justice.

This paper maintains that moral relativity is an enemy of justice and cannot serve as a template with which to build a moral structure to govern inter-human relations, regardless of the scale on which justice is sought.

The definition of relativism can be hard to pin down, and in philosophy can have varying meanings. For the purpose of this paper, the most relevant definition is the metaethical one. Metaethical Moral Relativism purports that morality is not absolute or universal, but rather is relative to the culture within which it is being practiced. While modern moral relativism is due largely to ideologies arising in the 20thcentury, relativism goes back to ancient Greek thought. In ancient Greek philosophy, it was acknowledged that there were a diversity of moralities, but instead of thinking that there were many truths, they believed that none of the diverse moral positions were true in and of themselves. This is considered a position of moral skepticism. This rolled over into Western philosophy and continued until the 20thcentury when intellectuals moved from simply skepticism to taking positions on moral relativity.  

The concept of cultural relativism came from Anthropology in the early 1900s. A professor at Colombia University, Franz Boaz, challenged the then prevalent concept that Western society was superior to the cultures it studied. Boaz argued that the criteria used by the Western world to determine ‘civilization’ might not be the only ones there are and that Western ideas of civilization are affected by Western society’s own emotional, subjective bias. Two of his students, Ruth Benedict and Melville Herskovitz, continued these ideas, and the modern description of metaethical moral relativity that we know is a formulation of Herskovitz’s. In the context of observing, evaluating and documenting cultures that are different from one’s own, he maintains that judgments made are relative to the culture from which the judgment is made. Considering that at the time, ‘civilization’ was measured by very Eurocentric

standards, Herskovitz’s ideology assigned value to cultures that were vastly different from Western cultures. Thus it encouraged viewing members of other cultures and ethnicities (non-Western ones) as equal.

Thus, initially in the world of Anthropology, morality was inextricably tied to tolerance. Considered as a prescriptive instead of descriptive theory, the knowledge that there were different moralities in different cultures motivated relativists to espouse tolerance for the different moral constructs. Because of this, moral relativists are often rebuffed with the idea that critiquing someone’s lack of tolerance is an intolerant act in and of itself. Renteln maintains that contrary to popular belief, tolerance is not a foundation of moral relativism and that the relativist can indeed offer moral critique. Holding a relativist view means that one recognizes that different cultural and moral systems exist. To believe in relativism, one need not be tolerant, nor objective (i.e. be unbiased about which moral system is best).

Objectivity rather comes from an Anthropological desire to be scientific when conducting ethnographies. The more objective a report, the more scientific it is, thus in expressing their research, anthropologists desire to be as objective as possible. Because of relativism’s close ties to Anthropology, objectivism has been touted as a feature of relativism. Renteln’s position is that while objectivism is a useful partner to relativism for the anthropologist, it is not an indispensable feature of relativism. Not only that but when relativists claim that tolerance and objectivity are foundational to subscribing to relativism, they change relativism from a descriptive theory to a prescriptive theory.

Relativism as an ideology, however, is based on enculturation. Enculturation refers to unconsciously learning the standards of one’s culture. Enculturation leads to firm moral judgments, because one’s moral standards are not seen a merely cultural, but rather as objective principles. Because one has unconsciously acquired certain moral principles, such principles are seen as unspoken truths, rather than culturally relative. Once the impact of enculturation on moral judgments is recognized however, that knowledge becomes a motivating factor for persons to view moralities from other cultures as just as valid as their own. This is different from simply encouraging tolerance, as considering enculturation necessitates critical engagement with one’s own morals and the morals of the society they are considering.

This equal validity does not mean that relativists cannot decry certain actions. Moral challenges can be made in three ways, according to Renteln: (i) when the act is contrary to the moral standards of that country or group, (ii)when the act is contrary to not only an internal societal standard, but also a universal standard and (iii)when the act is in accordance with the local societal standard, but different from the standards of the moral critic. This is based on the relativistic concept that morality is local, and can at times be universal (i.e. where similar principles are held across global societies). While this may seem like self-contradiction (‘relativists don’t believe in absolutes’), universality is distinguishable from absolutism.

Universality refers to principles across cultures that are the same or similar. Universal values are not objective, but relative to societies in a particular period. She contrasts this with absolutes, for instance, the concept of natural law, which contains objective principles that stem from nature. Absolutes are timeless, so morality does not change with time. She argues that universality offers a better model because it is better able to serve the members of whichever societies it applies to at that time. This goes against the concept that values should remain unchanged. This is also a rebuttal to absolutist arguments about morality derived from universality. Some absolutists argue that morality derived from a consensus of societies, or from universalism might contribute moral principles that are inhumane. Renteln argues that since universalism is not mutually exclusive with change, if cross-culture universals are discovered that are inhumane, then there is always the opportunity to change these moral concepts. Absolutes, on the other hand, cannot accommodate newly emergent societal needs.

While she does not hold those universal ideals exist for a fact, she acknowledges that they are a possibility, and highly probable ones at that. Her argument for universality is also helped by the concept that morality across different cultures is more similar than people tend to think. Morality may have different expressions, but the principles behind the judgments are very similar.

Surprisingly, that is a view that is common to both absolutists and relativists. C.S. Lewis in the appendix of The Abolition of Man compiled ways in which various cultures have similar ethical beliefs. While many of the cultures are European, there are non-European cultures that display similarity with the non-European ones. While it may be nearly impossible to compare all cultures, both relativists and absolutists agree that certain values are cross-cultural, such as an abhorrence of murder and stealing, and valuing justice and respect. But that may be as similar as their ideas get.

In his book Mere Christianity, Lewis challenges the reader with the dilemma of morality. We all have the desire for a moral standard, he proposes, and live by both spoken and unspoken rules of morality. At the same time, however, none of us is able to live up to the standards we all seek to live by. He uses this as an argument to support man’s need of morality. Relativism does involve morality but in a different way. Relativity dismisses the idea that there is one correct morality, hence removing the authority of a God-figure and the need for an authoritative God-figure to regulate morality. On the other hand, Lewis uses the argument about our inherent desire for morality as an argument for God.

Often in discussions of morality, this question of deity comes up. This is because many, if not all, religious systems purport values to guide the lives of its adherents. A supreme being is seen as having a role in the creation of amorality. Thus one could say that in the discussion of morality, absolute, divine and timeless principles are often pitted against universal, time-bound, human-determined principles. Renteln’s argues that time-bound morality is better able to meet the needs of the society which it governs. While this may be true, it then means that no meaningful moral assessments can be made of societies that are not in the same time-periods as the one attempting to make the moral judgment. That is, events that occurred in non-contemporary time periods must be judged on a completely different moral basis. Not only that, but it negates the heart of morality as espoused by Lewis.

He argues that our desire and basis for morality come from a source outside of ourselves. Humanity does not settle for laws that can be easily satisfied, instead, it chooses laws that are hard to keep, and that is often broken. An argument can also be made along these lines about our desire for justice. If we simply wanted to experience justice, and morality could truly belong to time, then we could adjust our concepts and ideas of justice to something far more attainable, but we do not. In that sense, Renteln’s argument about the relationship between enculturation and morality begins to break down. While some beliefs that are a part of certain societal moral constructs are due to enculturation (such as the use of one’s right hand for eating and one’s left hand for use after urination and defecation in some African cultures at one point in time), there are others that relativists would consider universal, such as the injustice of rape.

Certain moral ideals are more negotiable than others, which points to a possible demarcation between what can be considered as moral and amoral. There are certain actions that are looked upon more disdainfully than others. Whether this is conceptualized on a scale or as a binary, there is a difference between the severity of what are considered crimes in different cultures. I would like to argue that this points to a difference between moral principles and their practical manifestation. Principles are timeless, whereas the manifestation of these principles is specific to the time and place in which they are being practiced. Often rules of morality exist that are mere off-shoots of rules made to ensure compliance with certain moral principles.

That still leaves the question of who gets to decide what is moral and what is immoral. Renteln’s relativistic argument maintains that morality should be left to respective cultures, and can still be subject to critique from members of other cultures and/or societies. In the typical relativistic model, tolerance is an important part of the construction of morality, which is a pitfall for relativists who cling to the importance of tolerance. Espousing a sweeping concept of tolerance makes it hard to critique what relativists see as wrong, and is inherently contradictory when they reprove others for intolerance. While they can accuse others of wrongdoing, there is no objective basis against which to lean for validation of their accusations.

Renteln maintains that the basis for justice would come from the morality of a culture or society, an international body, or member or group from another culture or society. Absolutists often argue that there is no basis for the enforcement of such morality since it does not pack the weight of being universally agreed upon, but as Renteln argues, there are ways of ensuring one’s moral codes are respected and followed. In the case of international justice, we see that happen with embargoes on countries that refuse to comply with the moral standards of more powerful countries.

This is only an example of how influential power is in all of this. On a very basic level, cultural norms are highly affected by power (Sikka 2012). Often times, many aspects of culture are determined by those who are most powerful within that culture or society. It then follows that the morality of that culture or society would be heavily influenced by those in power if morality was solely left to human devising. In that sense, justice would not be served because it would lean on the side of those in power. On a larger scale, in the global dispensation on justice, the only people to have a say in morality, and to actually achieve some outcome from justice processes would be the ones that actually had the power to ensure that their moral views were respected and upheld.

In some cases, this works, but because humans are imperfect, this often goes horribly awry. On a local scale, it means curtailed justice for those, not in power, who are often the poor, marginalized and oppressed, the ones that need justice the most. On a global scale, it means the withholding of justice from weaker countries and societies, often oppressing them more than they are already being oppressed. The concept behind learning about enculturation as a combative ideology to the maltreatment of other societies and cultures is that knowledge will make a difference. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case.

As was mentioned in the introduction, in the last decade there have been crimes stemming from cherished ethnocentric ideals. One such horror was the Rwandan genocide. It was only possible through the separation of the people into Hutus and Tutsis; an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. Once that was done, ethnocentric ideals were promoted, in that one group was better than the other, so much so that the Tutsis were branded as ‘cockroaches’ fit and worthy to be destroyed. It is clear that intellectual advancements do not necessarily map onto moral improvement.

At the same time, a form of tolerance is still very relevant and necessary in our interactions within the global community. In a world with a myriad of cultures, the ability to appreciate amoral cultural beliefs that are not your own is indispensable to peaceable inter-cultural relationships. But without absolute morality, there is nothing of which to be tolerant.

From a Biblical absolutist worldview, morality hinges upon the reality that there is a God that prescribes amorality. In both relativistic and absolutist concepts of morality, some power has to be depended upon as the arbiter of justice and morality. With moral relativity, it either depends on who is the most ‘tolerant’ or whoever wields the most power or influence. With Biblical absolutism, it is dependent on a God that makes timeless moral prescriptions. The very nature of the concept of God as all-powerful, all-knowing and all-present gives the concept of divine morality credence. Unfortunately, relativistic morality is presided over by imperfect human beings. And while divine morality is often dispensed by human means, which often materializes in less than perfect ways, that does not preclude the validity of divine morality.

Relativism offers a solution to a myriad of moralities. Historically, the analysis of other cultures and societies has been rife with Ethnocentrism and biased value judgments, and in an effort to alleviate this, the theory of cultural relativism was formulated. As it evolved, anthropologists drafted ideals of tolerance and objectivity to make less prejudiced assessments, but those began to be touted as foundational to the theory of relativity. More foundational to relativity, however, is considering enculturation. Enculturation is immensely helpful to the relativist by helping them critically engage with their own morality and the morality of others. On the downside, relativism does not grapple with the issue of who ultimately determines what morality looks like. Even when left to a local formulation of morality, power plays a huge role in the concept of morality that emerges as triumphant. In a theistic absolutist construct of morality, a divine being prescribes morality. This concept goes hand in hand with C.S. Lewis’ observation that human beings believe in and live by moral principles that they cannot live up to, yet doggedly believe in. In both constructs, power plays a role, the difference is that one power is local and familiar, and the other is strange and supernatural.

 

Bibliography

Beckwith, Francis J., and Gregory Koukl. Relativism. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998.

Dundes Renteln, Alison. “Relativism and the Search for Human Rights.” American Anthropologist 90 (1988): 56-72

Lewis, Clive S. Mere Christianity. San Fransisco: Harper Collins, 2001.

Lewis, Clive S. The Abolition of Man. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001

Sikka, Sonia. “Moral Relativism and the Concept of Culture.” Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory 59 (2012): 50-69

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. “Moral Relativism.” Last substantive revision April 20, 2015. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-relativism/

BRINGING LIGHT TO A DARK CAMPUS

BRINGING LIGHT TO A DARK CAMPUS

Mother Teresa, a nun who devoted her life to serving the poor and destitute around the world, once said: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” In our day and age, there are many people who have created ripples, good or bad, across communities, the country, and even the world. Within the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, an amazing stone was cast causing many ripples throughout college campuses, and that stone was the idea of starting public campus ministries. Public Campus Ministry is a ministry that takes place on public college campuses, with a goal to reach out to students seeking God and Adventist students who need community and nurture, to bring them all into Jesus’ arms.  It is a vast mission field, full of students from all different backgrounds and countries, and through this ministry, these students will be brought into unity in Christ.

            With a great mission, it is easy to see why public campus ministry is important, and even more important is the impact students can have any work they can do as young people if they serve God. A quote from Ellen White says “[Satan] well knows that there is no other class that can do as much good as young men and young women who are consecrated to God. The youth, if right, could sway a mighty influence. Preachers or laymen advanced in years, cannot have one-half the influence upon the young, that the youth, devoted to God, can have upon their associates…You can do a work that those who minister in word and doctrine cannot do. You can reach a class whom the minister cannot affect”. (White 204,207) This inspiring message shows how much good can come out of the ministry, and that students who are starting and growing their ministries are doing a work for Jesus that no one else can do.

            The importance of this ministry starts at how it affects and impacts the students ministered to. The whole point of the ministry is to show people the love of God, and bring them closer to Him, and as that happens, lives are truly changed. As an individual learns of the love God has for them or finds it again on their own in school, the fruits of the changes they are making become obvious. There are so many people in secular settings that are lost. There are many who suffer from drugs, drinking, depression, bad relationships, emptiness, or whatever sin and life problems they are going through. These people are either consciously or unconsciously yearning for something to fill that hole in their hearts, and as a ministry, our goal is to bring them what they are deeply craving: Jesus. As we do that, and as the individuals have real and genuine interactions with Him, their lives will instead be filled with love, joy, peace, and so much more, and it will be noticeable. These life changes can lead to baptisms, and full commitments to live for God, which is the greatest change someone can make.

            Another big importance of this ministry is that it creates a community. It gives students a place to come together, to feel comfortable together, to learn and grow together, and to be friends together. On your own, many things can be hard, but having a community who can not only help you grow spiritually, but also help with the many things life and getting an education can throw at you, is truly a blessing, and is one thing that this ministry can bring to people. It brings people together and gives them people to rely on not only friendship but also fun. As students, they are all working towards the same goal, and having the same beliefs and wanting to bring more students together with them, creates such a loving and warm atmosphere to be a part of.

There should be an emphasis on building strong, spiritual connections and bonds with other Adventists and friends. This type of ministry reaches many diverse people that create this community made up of the non-Adventist students, the students who were raised Adventist but have drifted away, and the Adventist students who want to get involved. This creates such a wonderful balance of mentoring and support from everyone involved. With public campus ministry, not only is it a want to bring new Adventists into the church, but inspire the youth to become soul winners, inspire them to reach out and care about the salvation of others. Lives being changed, baptisms, and communities being formed are all wonderful fruits of the ministry, and within it, there is a structure in place that is essential to the function and effectiveness of the group. Although the only thing needed to be a student group, according to the university, is be registered and meet the requirements, there are many different things that go into starting and maintaining a successful public campus ministry. This includes the leadership of the group, connection to the local church, and the determination and passion of the group.

             The leadership of any student group, but especially this student group, is vital to how the group will run and is the first essential aspect to look at. Great spiritual leadership starts at the heart of the spiritual leaders, and their dedication and commitment to God. People who will be leading others in this group should be people who will encourage spiritual atmosphere and conversation within the group. Leading a student group is always a big task, and when you have the task of winning people to Jesus, those leaders need to be passionate and have daily experiences with God. The leaders should be students who prayerfully lead the group and their fellow students, and enjoy serving God.

            Another important aspect of the ministry is the connection between the group and the local church. A relationship between the church family and the students provides many different things for all involved. It gives students the opportunity to serve at the church they attend, and get to know the adults and young families in the church. This can lead to great mentorship, not only spiritually, but professionally as well, as church members have different jobs, skill sets, and education levels. Great bonds can form through the interactions at church, and in addition to the relationships, support and help can also come from the church. Funding, or even just more manpower can be provided by the members of the church, and the members could be eager or excited about helping the ministry on campus.

            With whatever help the student group may be receiving, or however great the leadership may be, the determination and the passion of the group is an aspect that applies throughout everything. Without passion for what the group is doing, things will get done, but the fruits from the group, if people are passionate about serving God and ministering to others, will be so much greater. If the group is determined, and get back up every time they go through trials, that is what makes the student group great. They will get these traits from God, and with them, they will keep pushing on and forward to win people to Jesus.

            Combining all the different aspects that make up the public campus ministry, everything that the group does will be dependent on the resources and people they have, but the typical things the group does include: Friday and Saturday night worships to bring in the Sabbath, Bible studies, small groups, outreach events, and in reach events. All of these things are ways the group will get people involved, nurture them, show them God’s love and truth, and continue to form a strong community.

            Unfortunately, with every group, there are challenges that will be faced. There will be ups and downs in different areas of the group, and rough patches that the group will go through that will test the group. Those challenges include finding solid leadership, getting funding, coordinating events, working together with others, unity, interest levels of the students, and finding ways to reach students.

            The first of these challenges is finding solid leadership. Finding dedicated, spiritual, responsible, and passionate leaders to guide a student group can be a hard task, and one of the most important aspects that we have to tackle. This can even sometimes lead to discouragement when trying to keep the student group active and dedicated when there aren’t enough leaders. Another issue is often not having enough people to fill all the roles and responsibilities the group has, causing the few people leading the group to have a lot more responsibility than normal. In addition, putting people where they can best serve is a hard task as well, and when putting someone somewhere they don’t do well may lead to them not wanting to be a part of the group anymore.

            Secondly, finding funding for the group can also be the source of a lot of stress within the group. When trying to plan events and ways to reach out to the students and people within the group, money is needed. Especially if the group wants to feed people for Bible studies or vespers, creating more of a home environment, it can be very expensive. Without the money to do what the group is planning, that can also cause discouragement, and cause people to stop coming up with more ideas that might not be able to happen. Money controls a lot of what the group does together, and could possibly affect the appeal of their events.

            Thirdly, coordinating events can be a challenge. There is so much planning that goes into everything the group does and determines the outcomes of the event. Planning is an important aspect of all events and takes lots of time and effort. With a smaller group of people, the planning can often end up falling on one or two people, causing them to stress about the events. This could even possibly cause conflict between people who might not be contributing to the events or the planning of them.

            Next, is working together with others. This challenge can be hard for many student groups. With the different things the group does, there may be differing opinions or methods of how things should be run or what should be done. These situations can also cause conflict between people and can divide the group if these problems escalate. As the group goes through different things together, when there is a divide, it can cause many problems for the student group and the ministry to other students.

            Going hand in hand with the previous challenge, group unity is another problem that can come up. If everyone does not have the same mindset or goals for the student group or are not all on the same page, it can make it difficult in the planning stages, and executing different plans. When people are in disagreement, it can truly affect the whole ministry.

            In addition, it can be challenging to find different ways to reach students. A lack of ideas, or effective methods, can make it hard to keep trying new things or going with the methods that work. Students are all reached in different ways, and it is hard to choose one thing to focus on when trying to plan events. Being able to gauge what events work for different people is difficult, and sometimes different methods will be successful in some cases, but not as successful in other cases, causing confusion on whether or not that method of reaching people should be used again.

Lastly, there is the challenge of a leader in the group keeping their own spirituality. As a full-time student and leader in the group, it can be hard to juggle those two things alone, but trying to keep a relationship with God during those busy times can be hard. While so busy, even with ministry, it can happen that the reason why an individual is doing something gets lost. This really affects the atmosphere of the group, the decisions made, the attitude going into everything the group does, and most importantly, it affects that person’s relationship with God. Everything that person does flows from their heart, so if it isn’t purified and consecrated to Him daily, it will affect who they are as a person and a leader.      

With all of these challenges, it may seem that having a public campus ministry might be more negatives than positives, but that definitely isn’t true! Ministering to other students and bringing them to Christ is worth all of the challenges, and with prayer and planning, these challenges will be taken care by Him who cares for us, loves us, and who is with us always. There is always a way to problem solve and not just manage, but mend the problems presented to the group. With the challenges the group is facing, there are always solutions to them, and the challenges may be heavy, but God is mightier than they are.

            The first challenge was finding leadership for the group, and although this one is a tough one, there are solutions. The first thing that should be done, is to pray to God and ask him to bring people to the group. He always sends people at the most unexpected times and from places we won’t even expect. The next board member could be a student the group ministered to and ended up getting baptized. Or, they could be an Adventist student new to the university. With the students and peers available to be on the board, inspiring commitment can be a worry, but a solution to this is to try and discern the students’ spiritual levels and leadership interests. As a leader in the group, the student should be an active member of the church, and be responsible and interested in serving as a leader. With these requirements, it will benefit the group with having the leadership it needs. As a group finds leadership, it shouldn’t find students just for numbers in the group, but find people who are passionate about doing the ministry. Once students become a part of the group, one big thing that will help a lot is putting the students into positions they will thrive in. This can come by observing what each person likes to do, or you see would be good at, and give them the opportunity to do those things. Each person has unique gifts and skills, and certain tasks will suit different people, so finding where that person thrives can really boost the desire to be a part of the group and help in the ministry.

            Next, was the challenge of funding. Although stresses about money are very real and common, there are many places to turn for help. Every group on a public campus is a student group through the school, and universities have money set aside for all of the groups to use. Having this money available, as plans are made for future events and things the group need money for, a proposal to the school should be made requesting the funds. The school may say no to some things, but start trying to find funding there. Another option is going to the local church board and writing a proposal requesting help with monetary needs. While the school might not provide all the money needed, the church is there to help support the ministry as well, so asking for help there can be a huge asset to the student group. Fundraising is also an option, and can be a fun way to bring the members of the group together as well.

            Another challenge, coordinating events, does take a lot of work and effort, but there is a solution to the issues. With the planning of the events, different tasks should be delegated to different people in the group. The planning should be a group effort, not only to prevent one or a few people from being overburdened, but also the whole group has a part in the planning, all feeling needed. There are many little and big things needed to be done in everything planned, so giving everyone those individual roles is the best planning you can do.

            The solutions to the next challenge, working well with others, will improve the whole ministry. As a group, the students will be working together frequently planning events, giving Bible studies, leading out in worship services. Although all of these things do bring people together, having relationships with others is so important to the growth within and outside of the ministry. Being friends with each other and knowing the group can minimize conflicts, and also help with resolving the issues that will come up. When those problems do come, because having a friendship with the other members is ideal, it will be easier for a friend to go to a friend and work things out that way, or just talk through the different opinions or disagreements. As friends, students can get a lot more done, especially because people will want to be there. One way this can be encouraged is putting time aside separately from meetings, events, or planning, and everyone spending time together. This will help the more personal relationships to grow, and will bring everyone together.

            Next, the unity of the group is also essential, and with this challenge, the solution is attainable. With different opinions and wants for the group, it is important to have meetings where those things are discussed and worked out, and making meetings specifically for that at the beginning of the year can really help this early on. Everyone should be on the same page to continue going forward with the mission and purpose of the group, and this way future problems will already be resolved before they start.
            Another challenge was meeting students. Finding ways to reach students is the way the group will meet people, and there are many ways they can do this. By doing outreach, the group will have the opportunity to meet those who are lost and seeking God, and one of the main ways the group can do this is by going on campus to do events. A great outreach method is doing surveys to get students who are interested in Bible studies to study with. The survey asks questions about their religious background, their beliefs, and other things to lead into asking if they are interested in learning more about the Bible, and when the person says yes, Bible studies start. Another idea to get Bible studies or more involvement in the group is to have a weekly table to set up on campus that is easily seen/accessible by students walking by or in the building. At this booth, information can be shared about the group, different materials can be passed out like glow tracts or flyers, Bible study surveys can be done, or whatever else the group chooses to do there. There should also be a booth set up at the club fair at the school, so freshman and other students looking for a club to join can learn more there as well. A prayer booth is also a way to reach people, especially other Christians, and just pray for people on the campus. In addition to these ideas, different signs can be made to meet people as well. These signs can say things like “Free Bible Studies,” “Free Intelligent Conversation,” “Do You Have Any Prayer Requests?” and whatever else you can come up with. There are many other ways a group can meet people, but one of the methods that can be the most effective is through ministering to friends. As students, there are so many people that can be reached through everyday interactions, and being intentional about them and being their friend can often lead to Bible studies or interest in the lifestyle the student has that is different from normal students. It is a person’s life that can be the biggest impression on an individual. Some people have had bad impressions of Christians or Christianity, and to them “A kind, courteous Christian is the most powerful argument that can be produced in favor of Christianity.” (White 122) This, in addition to all the other ways that can be thought of, can be used to reach others.

Lastly, was the issue of the individual members losing their spirituality from being so busy. Taking time daily to read God’s word, to communicate with Him, is vital to a healthy Christian life, and a healthy Christian student group. WIth having so much to do, especially with school, priorities must be in place so that God isn’t lost in the daily shuffle of life. Setting aside special time with God is so vital, and with that relationship with Him the days will be so much better. When in communication with God, an individual will have so much guidance that will help them everyday with every situation they are in, and will especially help the student group. Without the love for God and the dedication to Him, the motivation and want to serve Him might fade, so by spending time with Him each day and truly reflecting on how much He has done will keep that motivation and want to serve Him strong.

            In conclusion, public campus ministry makes a difference in all the lives involved, and although there are challenges that each group has to face, there are solutions that can be found through prayer and following God’s will. So many lives have been affected by the efforts made by these ministries, and without them, I myself wouldn’t be an Adventist today. I was ministered to by students and young people just like you who wanted to change a college campus and the students there. So I encourage you, whether you are starting a student group with few people, or are maintaining your student group that has been around a while, if you follow God, and persevere throughout the challenges, God will use you in mighty ways. As it is translated in the New International Version, in Hebrews 6:10, it says “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” This ministry helps bring people out of darkness, and into the beautiful light of God, and as you serve Him in this way, He will never leave your side.

 

 

Works Cited 

“About Us.” Public Campus Ministries of Seventh-Day Adventists, pcm.adventist.org/about-us/.

White, Ellen Gould Harmon. Messages to Young People. Review and Herald, 2002.

White, Ellen Gould Harmon. Reflecting Christ. Review and Herald Pub. Association, 2010.

CAMPUS WELCOMES AGAIN ALANNA RODRIGUEZ

CAMPUS WELCOMES AGAIN ALANNA RODRIGUEZ

CAMPUS Welcomes back to our staff Alanna Rodriguez (Knapp) as our new Assistant to the Director.  Her two primary responsibilities will be developing our student ministry in Michigan and our CAMPUS Partners program.  For student ministry she will be developing our presidents council of Adventist registered student organizations.  This group of young adult leaders provide vision for student ministry across the state.  Alanna will serve as the liaison between our student organizations, Michigan Public Campus Ministry, and CAMPUS.  CAMPUS Partners are people who dedicate at least $1,000.00 each year to advance our ministry.  These funds are used for student ministry, evangelism, and the Missionary Training Program.  Over the last couple of years, many have supported this new initiative and our goal is to grow this important program. 

 

Alanna is no stranger to CAMPUS.  She was part of our Missionary Training Program (2002-2003), a president at Michigan Tech, an Administrative Assistant, and more.  We are excited to be able to have her back on our team!  Welcome, Alanna!