Change the Campus - Change the World
High school and university campuses of our continent need not be the cesspools of immorality, rebellion and the hotbed of anti-Christian worldviews that they are today. By God’s grace, they can be reclaimed for Christ. To do this we need to recognise the tactics the devil has used to capture the hearts and minds of young people and resolve to win them to Christ and effectively disciple them in a Biblical worldview.
Where Leaders Learn
The future politicians, journalists, teachers, engineers, doctors and parents are currently studying at university. We need to see the campus as a strategic harvest field, because by reaching and discipling students, we will be shaping the future leaders of the continent.
Revolutionary and Culture Shaping
The campus is where major political movements and culture-shifting ideologies have been birthed. The philosophy of the classroom will be become the philosophy of government, and the entertainment industry, in the next generation. Marxist Revolutionary Vladimir Lenin understood that, “Intellectuals are the vanguard of the Revolution”.
The 1960s sexually immoral, ‘make love not war’ hippie movement began on the campuses in the USA. A generation later, the consequences of this thinking was seen in the skyrocketing broken marriages and families. In 1959, “Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ” won 11 Oscars including Best Picture, but in 1969, just a decade later, “Midnight Cowboy” won Best Picture and was the first X-rated movie ever to do so.
The post-modern writings and influence of philosophers such as Jean Paul Satre, Jacques Derrida and Michael Foucault can be seen in the meaninglessness, ‘angst’ and nihilism of ‘entertainment’ today such as metal rock band “Rage Against the Machine” and movies such as Fight Club or Pulp Fiction. Even TV sitcoms illustrate the pragmatism and relativism of this worldview, writes Summit lecturer, John Stonestreet. Sitcoms from a former time (basically, most of the ones prior to Seinfeld) tended to follow a standard formula: a character (usually in the context of a family) would be faced with a crisis; through the course of the show, the character would wrestle with and resolve that crisis, and by facing consequences a moral lesson was learned in a humorous way. This is not usually the case in sitcoms today. The crisis remains, but real resolution is rare, consequences can be avoided, and morality disappears if the character can get away with it.
Wide Gates to Hell
Students at the University of Cape Town (UCT) were recently bombarded with posters advertising pro-gay lectures and a large closet with pro-gay slogans, planted right in the middle of campus organised by the Rainbow Society (gay and lesbian society) as part of “Pink Week”. Even the UCT website boasted a big pink ribbon and adverts endorsing “Pink Week”. It was at an after-hours lecture at Wits University that Julius Malema sang his “Kill the boer” song with hundreds of students joining in.
The Reformer Dr. Martin Luther warned in the 16 th Century: “I am much afraid that schools will prove to be wide gates to hell, unless they diligently labour in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of the youth. I would advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not constantly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt.”
Hijacking Our Youth
My heart sinks once again as I hear those tragic words: "I grew up in a Christian home, but what I am studying here at Varsity has caused me to be skeptical of Christianity....”
Others have told me when I asked how their walk with God is at the moment: “You know how it is….your friends in res influence you…”. It’s not hard to guess what they mean – their spiritual life has taken a downward turn since they came to university and they got involved with the wrong crowd.
Statistically, 75% of young people from Christian homes who enrol at university are lost to the church within 4 years. In doing one-on-one evangelism at Rhodes and UCT, I have met some of these heart-breaking statistics! If any army was to lose three quarters of its forces it would not be considered a defeat - but a disaster.
Crippling Their Convictions
“Modern institutions of higher learning have changed dramatically in the last half century and from the moment students set foot on the contemporary campus, their Christian convictions and discipline are assaulted. ‘Faith is just a crutch,’ they hear from teachers and friends. ‘The Bible is just mythology.’ ‘Christianity is judgemental and intolerant.’ ‘Morality is different everywhere.’ ‘Everyone must find his own truth.’ ‘I can be good without God.’ ‘Jesus was just a man who died.’ No wonder so many lose their faith!” J Budziszewski, How to Stay Christian in College
However, the attack on their faith and their perspective on sin may not be as blatant as some of these statements. Sometimes, their faith is slowly eroded over several years and Christianity starts to seem irrelevant and restrictive and they no longer see the need to attend church, or read the Bible.
“Since they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, He gave them over to a depraved mind …” Romans 1:28
What if they had been reached?
Robert Mugabe studied at the University of Fort Hare from 1949 - 1951. What if he had been won to Christ and discipled in a Biblical Worldview whilst he was at university? Zimbabwe would be a different place today.
What if the current pro-abortion, anti-family, corrupt members of Parliament had been reached? What if the editor of the Mail and Guardian and the producers of SABC TV shows had been reached?
History would have been a different story if these people had been effectively reached and discipled when they were young.
What if every grade 9 -12 Christian made it their mission to preach the Gospel to every grade 8 learner within the first few weeks of the new school year? What if every college Christian worked together to preach the Gospel to every first year during Orientation Week?
In being involved in campus ministry, I have met the heart-breaking statistics of those who have rejected their Christian upbringing, but I have also seen what effective discipleship can do in taking immature, directionless and often shy young men and women and transforming them into mature, purposeful and bold leaders for Christ. Many of these men and women who were reached on campus have started their own companies, or are in top positions in well-known companies, others have started mission hospitals or have become campus ministers, or church planters.
The 13/30 Window
Missiologists have coined the term “the 10/40 window” to describe the latitudinal boundaries wherein lie the majority of the world’s unreached peoples. A similar term could be used to circumscribe the borders of another people group that lie within the Church’s reach, but for the most part remain unevangelised. The 13/30 window defines the age group of people between thirteen and thirty and outlines the greatest harvest field for the Church today. Six out of ten people on this planet are under the age of twenty-five, a percentage that is increasing every day. Of that number, nearly half are in the high school to university age group. Ninety percent of all professing Christians came to Christ before reaching thirty; seventy-five percent before the age of twenty-five (Rice Brookes, Every Nation in Our Generation).
A Window of Opportunity
When a teenager enters high school or university they are entering into a new phase of their life. They are therefore often more open to new friendships, ideas and experiences. Spiritually, some will be at a crossroads. They can either be sucked up into the world’s ways, or discipled effectively in a local church that will equip them to fight the good fight of Faith.
Leader of Every Nation Ministries International which plants churches on university campuses, Rice Brookes says, “Very few churches and ministries are ‘lifting up their eyes’ – they’re not spending the time, money and effort commensurate with the call. And then what outreach to the youth culture they do have often makes far too many concessions to the spirit of the age.”
Learning from MTV
One of the great forces in shaping young people’s worldviews is the MTV (Music TV) Channel on satellite TV. No matter where they go in the world, MTV is there working to capture the hearts and minds of their young audience. What does MTV know that the church should understand about young people?
They’re open and flexible - they are willing to try new things. They’re impressionable – they are at the most mouldable period of their lives. They’re idealistic – they believe that it’s possible to make a difference in the world, they are willing to fight. They have a capacity for faith – they believe what they are told. They represent a vast army that can reignite the cause of Christ and reverse the trend of societal decay.
The Adventure of Discipleship
We need to encourage our young people to see the journey of discipleship as an adventure and we need to prepare them for the challenges they will face. The challenge of being a radical Christian on campus is an adventure-filled ride with more adrenalin rushes and excitement then the scariest roller-coaster! The tears, struggles and failures however, are worth the reward. God wants to refine their faith to be like gold, right from when they are young.
The Launching Pad for the Rest of Their Lives
To reclaim campuses for Christ, we need to change the way we think about teenagers. Did you know that the first time the word teenager was used, was in a Readers Digest magazine article in 1941? Before then, the concept of a teenager did not exist. One was a child, then one became an adult. Most children, after completing their basic schooling, helped on the farm, or in the family business, or were apprenticed in a trade. The shift to twelve years of schooling and laws banning child labour, created a shift in the culture, where post-pubescent youth were physically adult but experientially still a child.
Some churches simply babysit or entertain children and teenagers in Sunday School and Teen Church. With encouragement and help, most young people can rise to a better level.
Most adults’ attitude towards Youth Groups or teenagers is “well at least they aren’t doing drugs or sleeping around”. When the church takes a defensive posture, and just tries to keep the “barbarians at the gate”, that’s the best you can hope to get. But if you challenge and thoroughly train youth to change the world, to go out and evangelize and make disciples, they can be the agents to reclaim their school or campus for Christ.
By rejecting the low expectations of the world, their teenage years can become the launching pad for the rest of their lives.
Do Hard Things
Teen authors of the book, Do Hard Things, Alex and Brett Harris, coined the word “the rebelution” as a way of capturing this idea – that, instead of rebelling against their parents and God, teens should rather ‘rebel’ against (or reject) the low expectations that the world has for them and do something radical for God. We need to encourage and provide young people with the opportunities to train and stretch themselves to “do hard things”. Hard things like winning their friends to Christ, writing for the university newspaper, or volunteering at a ministry, or getting work experience during their holidays that will take them out of their comfort zone, shape their characters and teach them invaluable skills.
With good training, young people can serve in positions of leadership such as student governance (SRC), House Committees in residences or start Bible Study groups, Apologetics Societies, Reformation Societies or Action Groups on their campus.
Doing hard things for God is going to require them being confronted with hard truths. They need to hear the hard truths of the Gospel – the depravity and deceitfulness of their own hearts, the Holiness and Justice of God and Wrath of God against sin. They also need to hear of Love of God expressed through Christ’s substitutional death on the Cross.
They need to know what they believe and why and how to defend it. They also need to know what they don’t believe and why. They need to understand that we are in a world war of worldviews and be spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and relationally equipped for the battles they will face.
They need to understand their Christian heritage and the Sovereignty of God in History. They need to be able to understand and articulate the Christian worldview, and respond to every challenge to their Christian faith with confidence.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may approve what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2
They Started Young
Young people often think that God’s real calling on their life will only start after school or even university, yet, many of the heroes of the Faith have made an impact on the world from a young age.
God’s plan has always had young people at the forefront. When God sent Israel to possess the Promised Land, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, He used an army of young adults.
God called a young Jeremiah to bring His Word to a nation reeling under the final stages of apostasy. And who did God send to wake them up? A person so young that that he felt unqualified. To which the Lord replied, “Do not say, 'I am only a youth,'For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak.” Jeremiah 1:7.
Paul trained the young Timothy as an overseer of several churches. With all the winds of false teaching and division that threatened the young churches, the Lord needed a strong leader to lead His people. Paul charged his disciple: “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young but set an example for the believers in speech, in love, in life, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12
William Booth , founder of the Salvation Army, started preaching in the slums of London at the age of fifteen.
Charles Spurgeon , arguably the greatest preacher of the nineteenth century, started ministering at the age of fifteen.
Jonathan Edwards entered Yale in 1716 at the age of thirteen, and by the age of 21 was pastoring one of the most important churches in the American colonies. His sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” helped spark the Great Awakening that brought tens of thousands to a living faith in Christ.
Amy Charmichael was twenty-eight when she left as a missionary for Dohnavur, India. She served for fifty-six years without a furlough in one of the most dangerous and spiritually oppressive areas of the world.
David Brainherd became a missionary to the American Indians at the age of twenty-four. In the five years before he died, he bore a lifetime worth of fruit. His diary later became a classic of devotional literature.
In 1844, George Williams, a twenty-three-year-old businessman, started the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) as an evangelistic outreach to businessmen.
John Wesley was twenty-six when he started his Holy Club at Oxford, sparking a revival on the campus that later spread throughout England and America.
George Whitfield was twenty when he became a member of Wesley’s Holy Club. In 1739, at the age of twenty-five, he set out on his first mission trip to America where he preached to crowds as large as thirty thousand
(Examples taken from: Every Nation in Our Generation, Rice Brookes).
Each of these young men and women validated the Apostle Paul’s salutation: “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one”1 John 2:14
Equip Your Child to Change the Campus for Christ
Critics say that teenagers just want to be entertained. We know that the stakes are too high to buy into that way of thinking. Our one-week Biblical Worldview Summit Camps feature over 30 hours of instruction in worldview analysis, Christian apologetics, and leadership from our world-class instructors. We have seen first-hand that teenagers and students not only handle substantial teaching of this type, they long for it.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8