Achive: A Campus Revolution

Does the college campus respond to the clearcut claims of Christ?

By Dr. James F. Engel
Professor of Marketing, Ohio State University
Trinity Methodist Church, Columbus, Ohio
Member, Good News Board of Directors

“Before you leave this course, your faith in Christianity, if you have any, will be destroyed. Christianity is a myth – a crutch for the intellectual misfit.”

Sound familiar? These words were stated this year by a philosophy professor at a major university on the first day of a required course with 500 students in attendance. And similar thoughts are echoed on other campuses around the country. Make no mistake about it – Christianity is facing a challenge that it cannot ignore, and our response will shape the very destiny of tomorrow’s world. Don’t forget that tomorrow’s leaders are in the college classrooms today.

What is the Church’s answer? This is hard to summarize, but the guiding philosophy on a number of campuses is a drive to be RELEVANT. (Don’t stick to an outmoded gospel! Let’s “demythologize the Bible!” “End the war!” “Burn the draftcards!”) ACTION! (“Today’s student doesn’t want to hear the fundamentalist line.” “The gospel is the social gospel.” “Conversion – leave that to Billy Graham.”)

There are thousands of men and women who study and teach at colleges and universities, who, like myself, consider the attack on Christianity to be an attack on our intelligence and the validity of our faith. Moreover, we don’t find draft card burning and some of the other attempts to be “relevant” to be even close as an answer. We believe that Jesus Christ is who He said He was – the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Furthermore, we feel that it is high time to state these views with force and clarity. We are convinced that Christ is the only answer in a tangled world.

Does the college campus respond to a clearcut presentation of the claims of Christ? You bet it does, and this can mean only one thing as it has throughout history – spiritual revolution!

The campus today is in turmoil with a myriad of undercurrents. Students and faculty are restless. Why shouldn’t we be? It is becoming increasingly apparent that knowledge alone is not sufficient to solve the problems of the world. We are no closer to peace today than we were hundreds of years ago, and it is said that the great majority of scientific advances have been packed into the past 10 years. If the answer is in knowledge, then we should have the solutions in sight. But where are they?

Many men and women on college campuses look at those of us in the church and, by and large, dismiss us as being irrelevant. They declare: “You blew it! You sit in your comfortable churches, but you do nothing to solve the problems of the world.”

It doesn’t take a very perceptive student to see that the world is aiming toward some type of climax, and to their credit, many of these men and women want to do something about it. Fault their strategy if you wish, but don’t fault their motivation. At least they are trying.

To the casual observer, it might seem like the campus is the center of atheism – that it is “off-limits” to meaningful Christianity. To some extent, a version of Christianity is off-limits on the campus, and that centers around the impotent Christ, the God on a throne in a placid heaven wearing a long white beard, the “meek and mild” Jesus, the Christianity that is proclaimed on Sunday morning but not lived on Monday. Hypocrisy is despised, and a Christianity that is powerless and irrelevant indeed has no place on the campus. But that is not really Christianity – only a caricature.

The real Christ, the living two-fisted Christ, is something else. This Christ was a complete stranger to me until June, 1965. Then, after 31 years of Sunday morning “churchianity” in The Methodist Church I was challenged at a Faith at Work Conference to let Christ take over my life. I had lived my life for my-· self and my professional reputation, but attainment of some of these very life goals left no satisfaction. To the eyes of the world, my wife and I would probably have been the ideal young faculty couple – financial means, nice home, nice family, good professional reputation. The only thing missing was meaning in life. And that did not come until Christ became our Lord and delivered that abundant life He and He alone can give.

Since beginning my walk with Christ, I have discovered that faculty and students alike are ready and willing to meet the real Christ – to live lives like the first century Christians who “turned the world upside down.” A faculty prayer breakfast at Ohio State turned out over 300 Christians, many of whom offered comments like “I have been a Christian, but I have never known how to live for Christ on the campus.” One log burning alone can do little. But watch out when several are put together! A movement is sweeping the country today under the sponsorship of Campus Crusade for Christ. It involves small “action groups” whereby students and faculty meet in real Christian fellowship, experiencing God’s love, and learning together how to see lives change right on the campus. The natural result of this kind of fellowship has to be an overflow of love and concern to the lives of others. Such groups are now in existence with students on nearly 1,000 campuses that we know of. In just one year, at least 50 campuses have seen the growth of such action groups among faculty.

How are these things happening? By and large, the organized church as we know it, has not taken the leadership. It is laymen who have experienced changed lives who, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, become God’s ambassadors where they are. When the church emphasizes draftcard burning and social action without Christ, the impact is virtually nil! This is being repeated on hundreds of campuses. But huge crowds throng to hear the Gospel presented meaningfully in campus lingo and jargon. The response is overwhelming.

To those with the emphasis on war and peace (and the emphasis on war and peace and the other social concerns which too frequently monopolize the Christian channel on campus), I issue this challenge: can you honestly show that you are getting the job done? Are lives changing? Is this restlessness and search for meaning being satisfied? I am convinced from my travels coast to coast that there is a hungering for God as there has seldom been before. Experience is showing beyond a shadow of a doubt that students and faculty will respond to Christ; that they are willing to accept the Bible as God’s Word; that they are willing to live for Christ. Just show them who Christ really is and how He can change a life. Far too many have sat in church going through the motions as I did and never have experienced true Christianity.

Just this last quarter, students thronged into my office to talk about their problems. Why? Simply because I unashamedly stated in class that I had committed my life to Christ and that He changed me totally! No preaching; just an honest statement of what is important to me. If others have the right to publicly attack Christianity, those of us who are believers have the right to proclaim Christ! Four students prayed with me in a period of several days and received Christ. Others who were Christians experienced genuine renewal and now are vibrant witnesses to the Gospel. Some might say these kids are just misfits. But in reality, each is a campus leader who knows the score and has lived in the mainstream of campus life.

A book could be written about the lives being changed daily, as students and faculty members themselves are witnessing to others. And isn’t this the kind of revolutionary Christianity that changed the world in the first century? We are finding daily that our God “frequently is too small” and that we must believe that Christ is willing to do things far beyond our dreams.

A revolution is taking place; God is putting His army together to change the world, and this is not limited to the campus. vi these times, as never before, we have unique opportunities to see lives change as we make ourselves available to Christ as His ambassadors. The church is far more than a structure; it is each person who knows Christ personally and will live a life under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Methodism lies right at the heart of the Protestant mainstream, and God has given us a remarkable Wesleyan heritage for spiritual revolution. John Wesley preached Christ; lives changed; a total society changed! It can happen again.

The burden, however, is on you and me. We are irrelevant if we are not living lives consistent with our calling. Sunday morning Christianity is not enough. The pastorate, in tum, has a great obligation to ground us as laymen in the Word of God and to train us to be effective witnesses. Let’s remain true to original Christianity and proclaim openly and honestly that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.


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