Why a Lutheran campus ministry? Why do we need an LCMS presence at our universities, when there are so many other Christian groups already active on campus? Why do we have a full-time Missouri Synod campus pastor, when there are already so many Christian leaders, even “conservative” ones, working at our colleges in Pittsburgh?
Perhaps questions like these have entered your mind from time to time. Many and varied answers could be given “and I have supplied many reasons over the years” but I would like you to hear first-hand from one of our students, Pat (not her real name). Pat became a Christian and a Lutheran in high school and, upon arrival at a college in Pittsburgh, immediately became very active in an inter-denominational student group (I’ll call it College Students for Christ [CSC]). However, the group has not met Pat’s spiritual needs, at least not fully and rightly, and she has grown discontented. Recently, she shared with me an e-mail that she wrote to one of CSC’s staff:
What is a life worthy of Christ? Yeah, that would be nice, luckily it is God’s work on us rather than our effort that makes us worthy and changes us. Although everyone in CSC would say that we will never meet this standard, CSC doesn’t really remember this in application. I promise you that there is an over-arching mentality in CSC that there are “good, fired-up Christians” and “less-involved Christians.” The latter are judged and objects to conform to the CSC image, that may or may not line up with God’s vision. This is what I have heard called “Law-Gospel-Law”, under which we are freed from the law by the gospel, and now we have to again make ourselves “worthy.” In CSC, a particular type of “active” evangelism is one thing that tags ‘worthiness’.
Now this may not be the intention, but this is how things come off. CSC pushes people away, both Christian and non-Christian, because people feel judged. Sometimes people get so involved in their group and their ways that it is hard to see these things, but it is true.
Besides pushing people away, CSC can also guilt people into getting things done, but this is not freedom from the law, or loving to our neighbor. And now instead of love it is a check list, and even if it starts with a seed of good intention, it goes awry and is not effective, and defeats the purpose.
Of course encouraging other Christians to live faithful lives is good, because at a very simple level we are talking about good things for us, and things that are part of our Christian lives. CSC is good at asking if God is really the center and most important aspect of our lives. But we have to be careful about crossing the line into pressure of exactly how we think they should fulfill that. We are not cookie-cutter Christians, and we have to be careful about putting too much of an emphasis on certain parts of living this out, rather than having a respect for the well rounded. We should not try to make a recipe for Christian life.
I might have come off as “anti-evangelistic,” but I am not. I do not wake up in the morning and wonder how to be Christian, I am Christian, and so are some of our “fringe” members. I do evangelize, but I will not have it shoved down my throat in an artificial way.
Nor does it really make any sense to make “goals” of how many people we want to know Christ. Instead we can be faithful with whatever the day brings us. But when I say things like this in meetings I am accused of having small goals, or not appreciating the power God has to make change. But I appreciate God’s power not ours. And I appreciate my part in the body.
I am not angry with any person, and my words are rather strong, but I am going against the grain, and this is what I believe.
Frustrated with these types of issues in CSC, Pat told me that “Lutheran doctrine answers pressing Christian questions both intellectually and practically that other Christian groups could not”; she now understands one of my frequent comments: “I am a Lutheran because I am a Christian.”
We need an LCMS Lutheran campus ministry because students need to know the freedom of the Gospel after the crushing of the Law, because students need to learn and live out the doctrine of vocation, because students need to rest in the unconditional forgiveness of sins and the peace that only that brings, because students need to know that their identity is found not in their feeble and faltering efforts but rather in being baptismally joined to the unchanging Christ crucified and resurrected for them!
We need and have an LCMS Lutheran campus ministry in Pittsburgh because Pat needs us.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).