Sometimes pastors or leaders warn parents not to send their kids to secular universities. They are, it is implied, cesspools of temptation, false gods and pride—in a word, irredeemable. It would be better, rather, to attend a Christian college.
Where does such thinking leave the vast majority of you? Did you somehow miss God’s best purpose when you selected a secular campus? Were you blind to the moral muck you were wading into? Did you somehow compromise your faith? Perhaps you couldn’t afford a Christian college. Then, so the logic goes, your selection may have been a necessary evil. Taking this a step further, perhaps you were not a Christian when you started college. Should you therefore now transfer to a more spiritually compatible learning environment?
As InterVarsity, we boldly reject this line of reasoning. As noted in our first Core Commitment, we seek “to be a redeeming influence” at colleges and universities. How? Through three means, “people, ideas and structures.” We proclaim that Jesus is Lord over all of his creation. We regard the secular university as a seedbed for revival, as perhaps the best place possible to start transforming our world.
Our Purpose Statement reads: “The purpose of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is to establish and advance at colleges and universities witnessing communities of students and faculty who follow Jesus as Savior and Lord.”
As those who “establish and advance witnessing communities,” we serve as missionary colonies. Ours is not a defensive posture set against the campus—a fortress mentality—but rather an open posture and a forward-moving mindset. We foster faith communities of undergraduates, graduates, internationals, Greeks and nursing students in order to bring the Good News to those who have not yet heard. We do this through a wide variety of means—large groups, small groups, Groups Investigating God (GIGs), retreats, service projects, social activities and much more. We also seek to advance faculty communities that will in turn impact their peers, the world of ideas and, ultimately, campus structures.
A while ago I read an article about the government of Israel’s strategy to win the hearts and minds of the American public in regard to its struggle with the Palestinians. One of its key initiatives is to conduct summer camps for American Jewish students who attend secular campuses. Why? The Israeli leaders believe that the campus has been, and always will be, a primary shaper of cultural values. Win the campus, win the nation. Not just tomorrow, but today.
Whatever your views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, credit must be given to the Israeli government for recognizing a truth so often missed by American Christians. Students shape the world. Think of what happens during a camp like Student Leadership Training. Students are trained not just to win other students, but the campus itself for Jesus. We want to influence the way people, even non-Christians, view the world. We are not separatists, but transformers.
In this light, I am so thankful for InterVarsity Press. Our ability to influence the marketplace of ideas is profound. I strongly encourage you to explore the resources available through IVP. Expand your mind. Influence the ideas of others in class, conversations and Bible study.
In a book entitled The Church on the World’s Turf, a non-Christian author analyzes an InterVarsity chapter in Canada. It makes for fascinating reading. He notes that while the Christian community as a whole “has ceded the university to the world . . . I did not expect to find that [InterVarsity would have] built so many bridges.”
Abraham Kuyper, former prime minister of the Netherlands, believed that by changing people and their ideas, structural change would naturally follow. In other words, as a critical mass of citizenry begins to think and act Christianly, societal structures—economics, politics, the arts—also change.
In this sense, we are the most radical Christians of all. Our goal is not just to pluck stray sinners out of the university. No. We are change agents who seek to transform lives, ideas and structures. Colleges and universities are our forum. What a great place to be!
--by Alec Hill
(from Student Leadership Journal, vol.15:2)