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  1. I’m doing some AFES work in Hobart at the moment and these reflections have come at a helpful time.

    Thinking out aloud: I reckon the best thumbnail slogan is “transformation and disciple-making-disciples”. I feel that encapsulates the Reformed idea that all human culture making should bring glory to God, keeps the sharp edge of evangelism but puts it into the relational/growth context of discipleship.

    Also interested by your comments towards the end about the relationship between Uni Ministry and local churches. Are all para-church groups created equal? What are the categories of relationships between para-church groups and local churches? (From I guess, service – the para-church group serves the local church, to partnership through to parallel duplication and then where the Salvation Army ended up.)

    1. Hi Luke!

      So-called mission as transformation (etc) is a bit of an awkward label because it’s really just a way of saying “this is how things are”. Here’s one good expression of it:

      Integral mission or holistic transformation is the proclamation and demonstration of the Gospel. It is not simply that evangelism and social involvement are to be done alongside each other. Rather, in integral mission our proclamation has social consequences as we call people to love and repentance in all areas of life. And our social involvement has evangelistic consequences as we bear witness to the transforming grace of Jesus Christ. If we ignore the world we betray the word of God which sends us out to serve the world. If we ignore the word of God we have nothing to bring to the world.

      I reckon one of the main things with parachurch relationships is establishing that denominations ≠ the local body. Or, in Howard Snyder’s conception, that all structures and institutions, including denominations, are “parachurch” because only the local body is “church”. But I guess you’re asking whether a local church should relate to (say) its local Anglicare in the same way as to its local AFES group. I think it’ll be different depending on the character of the local body. I mean, we don’t expect every local body to cover every single thing that Christianity globally concerns itself with. So some local bodies will more actively support student groups while others will just have students as active members, while others will have no relationship at all… Anyway, I’d like to think more about this!

  2. Hey Arthur,

    some good thoughts I reckon. What would you say the primary goal is then?

    i.e you say “evangelism is not” and “bible teaching is not”. Then what…? are you just saying that there are multiple objectives?

    My thinking is that there are indeed multiple objectives – disciple-making-discles being a good way to capture the idea of growing faith, godliness, witness, living for Christ in a complex world.

    I reckon witness to students on campus deserves pride-of-place in the student context though. It’s the unique thing that student groups can do that local churches can’t.

    “Student ministry is not just another, perhaps more concentrated setting for youth ministry or generalised discipleship.” I agree! well said!

    1. Cheers Reuben

      I want to avoid saying there are multiple objectives because I think it invites creating a hierarchy (see here). I’d say there’s one objective with different dimensions/angles/facets.

      I reckon there are multiple things that are unique to student ministry: only a student group can help students understand the university and their place in it, for example.

      So, the purpose of university ministry? I’ll return to that in the posts to come, but I think I’d say that it’s about creating a community of witness to the university. It’s different to saying, “We’re a church on campus” but it’s broader and more integrative than saying, “We’re an evangelistic task force.” It means, for example, recognising that proclamation goes beyond the individual level (see the quote in my comment above).

      Keep coming back at me about this stuff!

  3. Hey Arthur,

    Your thoughts largely mirror my own reflections on my last year and a half of student work, especially on theology of work and evangelism. I think our tendency in modern university ministry (in Australia, at least) is to abstract discipleship and our theology of work (something which, if I may be so bold, Sydney Uni has been historically stronger on that some other university ministries) from what our students are actually studying. It becomes ‘how do you stay a Christian working for a bank or a law firm’ instead of ‘how might Christians think theologically about banking and lawyering?’ In short, the discipleship of our students is disconnected from their disciplines. The same happens with evangelism: it becomes abstracted from what is actually happening on campus and in lectures and tutorials, and instead becomes a moderately more in-depth treatment of propositional apologetics. In short, we need to recapture a theological and practical engagement with culture (in this context specifically university and academic culture) as a core component of the ministry.

  4. Hey Luke, Reuben, Richard — post number 4 will be up by the time you read this. (And Terence Halliday’s talk is especially stimulating — only just came across it.) I reckon this is important stuff deserving a wide hearing in our AFES circles. Hope you’ll join me in sharing it around and adding momentum! (Reuben, think “Logos” 2.0 — with added clarity!)

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