Stephen Lutz – College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture (House Studio, 2011)

Steve Lutz – a staffworker with CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach) at Penn State University – is convinced that most campus ministries operate as if we still lived in a Christian culture. The consequence of this is that, for the most part, the only people they connect with are those who have grown up in the church / Bible belt. He observes that, despite having mission as a central aim, ‘Many of the groups are growing by becoming more efficient at attracting students from the increasingly smaller pockets of Christendom’. College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture is written to help those in college ministry rethink their strategy.

It stresses the need for those on university campuses to think of themselves as missionaries. They need to recognise that they are coming into another culture and it is their responsibility to adapt to this. Students need to recognise that God has placed them on the campus, and while there they must be missional. Rather than forming a Christian ghetto or conforming to the culture they must live in, but not of, the culture, as shown in this diagram:

Accommodationist
Liberalism
In the world and of the world

Redemptive
Holy Counterculture
In the world but not of the world

Extractional
The Subculture
Not in the world but of the world

Fundamentalist
The Christian ghetto
Not in the world and not of the world

Lutz described the campus as pluralversity comprised of people from a wide range of cultures and worldviews and ministry must reflect this. No single model will reach and serve the different groups. He provides a firm biblical foundation for this and repeatedly returns to the examples of Jesus and Paul to show how this was done.

The book also tackles issues like the relationship between Christian clubs, the relationship between university ministries and the local church and the place of social justice and gospel proclamation. For all of these he had some really practical stuff to say, though I think what should have been added was a more full description of exactly what his own ministry and those that he admires look like. He is writing about the American context, but almost all of it is directly relevant to Australia and much of what he says reflects the kinds of changes that I have seen being made in my time at Melbourne Uni’s Christian Union.

Lutz has been deeply influence by Tim Keller and it almost feels like he is just translating Keller’s model of ministry over to campus ministry. You don’t need to read / listen to Keller to understand what Lutz is communicating, but it helps to see where he is coming from.

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