A Letter to the Leaders

Our church recently lost its campus minister. He felt that the ministry was not for him and resigned, moving to Florida to be a teacher. We are left to decide what to do. The board, the Deacons and the Evangelist met last Monday to discuss it. We are are a church of about 120 people, only 4 or 5 are campus students, down fro a high a few years ago of 20 or so. However, Ohio State University and it's 60,000 - 70,000 or more students are here in Columbus. Our church family has a strong history in Campus Ministry and on some levels questioning having a campus minister seems unthinkable. While I can appreciate that pull, I am not convinced that we need to have one now.

We are to meet again on Monday, and there's a leader's meeting (larger group including family group leaders and others.) on Sunday afternoon. Since I'm away at a family reunion (ain't hotel wireless grand?) I wanted to put my thoughts on paper and get them to the group before our Monday meeting. The following is what I emailed the board, Deacons and the evangelist.

Brothers,

I was very encouraged by our meeting on Monday. It was very good for us to get together as a group, hopefully we can do that more often. Since I will not be there on Sunday at the leader's meeting, I wanted to put some of my thoughts and perspective on paper and have you be able to review it while I'm gone.

I was glad to hear everyone's views on the importance of the campus ministry. It helped me renew my own conviction on the matter. I agree that it is ultimately a ministry we would be foolish to ignore. However, while my convictions on it's importance is renewed, I am not convinced that it would be best for us to pursue it at this time. We are a small church with limited resources. We must work with what we have and make the best of it for God.

Our movement's history has a strong presence in the campus ministry. Campus ministry has always been a focus and as some pointed out many of our leaders worldwide came from one campus or another. I was converted on the campus of the University of Cincinnati in the summer of 1988 when we saw the ministry double in size (I think, my memory is a little fuzzy). J.S. and T.H. [Members of the church. I used the real names in me note.] were converted in the same ministry around a year prior. College students are just branching out, looking for their place in the world, exploring new ideas and looking for something to believe in. They are deciding if the faith of their parents is theirs or not. It's a tremendous opportunity to reach souls who are searching.

Campus ministry is also somewhat of a 'flashy' ministry. It's high profile, when folks within our fellowship look at our church they wonder about that ministry. It can also bring fairly quick and substantial success, because of the sheer number of people to share with and the fact that many of them are seeking. That can be a boon to the church, but it can also be a detriment. Campus successes can inspire and encourage the other disciples, but it can also take resources away from other more challenging and less visible ministries.

When I look at Jesus and God's heart throughout the Bible, they are not concerned at all with what's important or flashy. When selecting a new king for Israel, God said to Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7:

"Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
I want us to make sure as we consider how to move forward at this time that we petition God and keep our hearts and minds open to what's important to Him. While hiring a new campus minister right now would undoubtedly be a good thing, is it the best thing we can do to honor and serve God? I'm not convinced that it is. I really appreciate Bill's reference to the scripture about the need for differences among us. We must bring these different ideas to the table so we can weigh and consider them and pray about them to determine which one has God's approval.

God's Heart

One thing I want us to think about in this is the heart of God throughout scripture. A while back, I began a study on what is God's heart, or what's important to him. The one obvious scripture that comes to mind is Matthew 22:34-40:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 'This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

According to Jesus, we can do no better than to love Him and others. Everything we do, evangelism, serving, giving, sacrifice, must be done as a part of our love for God and others. If we focus on campus, it must be to honor God and take care of people. Our motivations should not be because the campus mission field is so large, though it is, or because their hearts are searching, though they are, or because of the glory to be gained (for God and us), though it's there. No, we must make sure that it's because we love God and the people around us and are convinced that this is the best way to act on that love.

The other thing I've thought about in this is God's heart throughout the Bible for those who are neglected. Search for the terms 'alien', 'widow', 'orphan', 'fatherless' or 'oppressed' and you find many passages about how God cares for them The OT law commanded the Israelites to take care of them by prohibiting excessive interest, calling for the canceling of debts every 7 years, not harvesting to the edge of your field to allow the poor to take the rest and providing cities of refuge for the accused. God calls repeatedly for justice and condemns those who withhold it. He is "a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows" (Psalm 68:5). One of the most convicting passages in this regard to me is Isaiah 1 & Isaiah 58:

Isaiah 1

1 The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

A Rebellious Nation

2 Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth!
For the LORD has spoken:
"I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knows his master,
the donkey his owner's manger,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand."

4 Ah, sinful nation,
a people loaded with guilt,
a brood of evildoers,
children given to corruption!
They have forsaken the LORD ;
they have spurned the Holy One of Israel
and turned their backs on him.

5 Why should you be beaten anymore?
Why do you persist in rebellion?
Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.
6 From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
there is no soundness-
only wounds and welts
and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
or soothed with oil.

7 Your country is desolate,
your cities burned with fire;
your fields are being stripped by foreigners
right before you,
laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.
8 The Daughter of Zion is left
like a shelter in a vineyard,
like a hut in a field of melons,
like a city under siege.
9 Unless the LORD Almighty
had left us some survivors,
we would have become like Sodom,
we would have been like Gomorrah.

10 Hear the word of the LORD ,
you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the law of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
11 "The multitude of your sacrifices-
what are they to me?" says the LORD .
"I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations-
I cannot bear your evil assemblies.
14 Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts
my soul hates.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even if you offer many prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood;
16 wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,
17 learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.

18 "Come now, let us reason together,"
says the LORD .
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the best from the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword."
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

21 See how the faithful city
has become a harlot!
She once was full of justice;
righteousness used to dwell in her-
but now murderers!
22 Your silver has become dross,
your choice wine is diluted with water.
23 Your rulers are rebels,
companions of thieves;
they all love bribes
and chase after gifts.
They do not defend the cause of the fatherless;
the widow's case does not come before them.

Isaiah 58

6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.


In these passages, particularly Isaiah 1, God lays out the Israelite nation. He calls them evil, rebellious, murderers, sinful, rebellious and Sodom and Gomorrah. Throughout this rant, their sins are not what you might expect. They are mainly sins of the neglect of the helpless. He calls them to repentance, saying "Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."

I am not comparing our church to the Israelites in the book of Isaiah, but I want to see God's heart. He longs for people who will stand up for the unloved, poor and neglected. In that light, is the campus where God would have us focus our limited resources right now? There are many needs in our city going wanting, many benevolent projects that could be run to take care of them. What sort of impact could we have on this community and it's people if we put that money we would spend on a salary toward meet some of those needs? What sort of honor could we bring to God's name? How many tears does He cry because there is no one to take care of those hurting children of His?

Certainly that's a harder road than campus ministry. It takes more that just money. It takes people willing to invest their time and energy and willing to get dirty. It takes searching for those needs. It takes planning. It will not bring us notoriety and recognition, but it will pay dividends with God and in our own hearts as we become more grateful for what we have and are softened to the plight of those around us.

Taking Care of Our Own

We must also look at our church family and think about the needs of our brothers and sisters as well. Family has always been important to God's people. In the OT, men were commanded to take care of a brothers widow and to marry her. If they refused, they were disciplined (Deuteronomy 25). Frequently, if a person was blessed (Rahab – Joshua 6) or cursed (Achan - Joshua 7), his entire family was blessed or cursed. In the NT, we see in Acts 2 that the believers were completely devoted to one another. Galatians 6:10 calls us to "as we have opportunity, [to] do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." In I Timothy 3 we are told that to judge a man's fitness to be an elder we should look at how he leads and cares for his family.

In considering our spiritual family, we must consider that we have not only the 3-5 campus students in need of leadership, but 15-20 singles in the same plight. Why should the campus get attention and those singles not? In light of the scriptures above, it would seem wrong to pursue a thriving campus ministry while neglecting the singles. Are we showing preference to the easier, more high profile ministry? Perhaps there's an opportunity to hire a leader to oversee both. A ministry of 25-30 people should not be burdensome at all. The activities of a campus ministry would be happening throughout the day and even late at night, while the singles activities would be mostly in the evening.

Conclusion

I hope in the strength of my words I have not offended anyone. I also hope that my many words have not been too much. I don't have a specific answer to this, only some thoughts. I realize some will disagree, and that's OK. I fully expect that I will not completely agree with some of what I've said after our discussions are done and other's opinions are heard. I also realize that in the end the consensus may be to hire a campus minister. I am prepared to stand behind the decisions and conclusions of the group, even if I disagree with them. I only hope that the process will involve considering many different ideas, even radical ones, so that we may discern where God is leading us.

I'll see you Monday night.

Love in Christ,

Doug Schaefer

5 Comments

God Love ya Doug! I'll pray for the whole thing! Enjoy your vacation!

This is a phenomenal letter, Doug. I really appreciate the reminder to seek God's heart in all we do.

BTW, Jay and I are now the proud parents of a 3 1/2 month old baby girl!

Amy

Thanks folks. Decisions were made on Monday, but until they're announced to the church (Wednesday night), I'm not saying anything. :-)

Amy - Good to hear from you, and congrats on the new little one. Any trips this way planned? Tell Jay I said hi.

We haven't been able to travel much in the last two years. Jay had his surgery in 2004, I was having a difficult pregnancy in 2005. So we hope that 2006 will be a year in which we can make it back to Ohio!

We haven't been able to travel much in the last two years -- Jay had his surgery in 2004, and I was having a difficult pregnancy in 2005. So we hope that 2006 will be a year in which we can make it back to Ohio!

My mother-in-law has come to live with us, and her sister is trying to move back to Columbus once she sells her house in Tennessee. Plus, one of my favorite cousins is graduating from high school in Ohio in June '06. So a lot of reasons for us to come for a visit.



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  • We haven't been able to travel much in the last two years -- Jay had his surgery in 2004, and I was having a difficult pregnancy in 2005. So we hope that 2006 will be a year in which we can make it back to Ohio! My mot...

  • We haven't been able to travel much in the last two years. Jay had his surgery in 2004, I was having a difficult pregnancy in 2005. So we hope that 2006 will be a year in which we can make it back to Ohio!...

  • Thanks folks. Decisions were made on Monday, but until they're announced to the church (Wednesday night), I'm not saying anything. :-) Amy - Good to hear from you, and congrats on the new little one. Any trips this w...

  • This is a phenomenal letter, Doug. I really appreciate the reminder to seek God's heart in all we do. BTW, Jay and I are now the proud parents of a 3 1/2 month old baby girl! Amy...

  • God Love ya Doug! I'll pray for the whole thing! Enjoy your vacation!...

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