I was speaking with a friend of mine named Joe a couple weekends ago. Joe and I, along with 500 and some college students from all over Ohio attended a weekend retreat. h20 church( the church we both attend-him at BGSU and I at KSU) holds a fall retreat of sorts each year, and all ohio college churches attend. This was actually my first fall getaway with h20 and it was a great deal of fun, and the weekend all in all was an edifying one. I myself was able to witness the larger movement/body that makes up h20. Can you relate with the encouragement that comes from looking out into a crowd of like-minded people who are worshipping something that is worth their worship, not to mention their lives? I could have witnessed the worship alone that weekend and in that received so much. We received some awesome teachings and a considerable amount of truth was fed to us (borderline prophetical). Anyway, hopefully you are able to gain a good picture of what we experienced, because I have yet to write about the conversation I had with my friend Joe.
Joe goes to Bowling Green State University. It is a joyous occasion for me whenever we are able to interact, and considering we hardly see each other, these conversations have only taken place twice. As you might assume, we were able to talk the weekend at the retreat. After the first session we saw each other and began to catch up on life. We talked about what God has been teaching us and doing through our separate but united bodies. Somewhere in the midst of this conversation, we took a turn into the theological realm (which at our young age can usually result in a multitude of ways-but this one went somewhere good) Soon after this directional change, Joe began a sentence in which he stated, “h20 is the future model of college church planting”. Now, I wasn’t so much caught off guard by this statement as I was intrigued by such a bold claim. While we were having this conversation, the sound of the newest hip-hop songs were playing in the background for a dance party that Joe and I decided not to attend (don’t let this make you question the integrity of our church-hip movement was forbidden). Joe and I moved our conversation to the bonfire outside and I began pressing him for answers to why this conviction resided so deep within him. I asked him about ministries on campuses, multi-generational churches, community churches, the difference between campus ministries and churches (much of which I wrestled with last year, but still did not have rock-solid answers for). As Joe answered and I continued asking, I could tell we were both thoroughly enjoying the conversation. Then, when talking of multi-generational churches, Joe, I believe, said something simple yet profound to the predicament all campus churches find themselves in. He said, “Colleges students just want to be with college students”. It hit me, and I couldn’t keep talking without addressing what he had just said. We talked more about it, and then we ate some s’mores.
All the questions that I was asking Joe, I had once asked myself. So, the concepts themselves were not new to either of us. As I have I taken time to reflect on this question, I have come up with little, but I intend to share it just the same. The question that seems to echo throughout every evangelical lately is “How are we to do church?” This indeed is a necessary question and one to be answered in alignment with the Scriptures. No doubt. The church isn’t merely an institution, but a people, not only a people, but a movement of people. This movement has a message. This message necessitates proclamation, a heralding, by this movement of people. I had once heard someone say, “Contextualize the gospel, don’t compromise it!”. There is distinction here. I think that is exactly what Joe did when he said that college students simply want to be with college students. So, if it is true that college students just want to be with college students(would love to hear an argument against this), how is the gospel to be found in that? What shape does it take? Is it distinct? A college CHURCH? Why not? I quickly forget the opportunity God has given us in a place such as this. A group of young people in such an isolated environment is incomparable. So, in discussing what church is and how it is to look, are we considering our surroundings, are we considering the culture. I can assure you the culture of a college campus is different than that of suburbia. I am not proposing the church is the church without the “close-handed issues” or the non-negotiable’s, but I am proposing that college churches will look vastly different than for instance community churches especially in terms of the ages found within them.
Paul says this “For though I am free from all, i have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win the Jews. To those under the law, I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”-1 Cor. 9:19-23.
This is the Biblical contextualization, not a justification, as I once confused it.