Should the local church work alongside a college campus outreach, or are these two in competition with one another? A listener writes in to ask, “Dear Pastor John, my name is Ryan, a senior at Virginia Tech. I have been struggling lately with the appropriate role of campus ministry as it relates to the local church. What should that relationship look like? Should campus ministries focus mostly on evangelism and the church on discipleship? What roles should each take to best further the gospel?”
Audio Transcript of from the Ask Pastor John series at desiringGod.org
Interview with John Piper, Founder & Teacher
Ryan asks what the local church and campus ministry relationship should look like. But then he refines the question: Should campus ministries focus mostly on evangelism and the church on discipleship? But with that refinement of the question, he might be assuming something that in the best case should not be assumed and should not exist.
I’m going to go with his first question rather than the refinement and maybe it’ll be plain why. Namely, what should that relationship look like? I’m not on a crusade here against parachurch campus ministries. I think they have done great good for hundreds of thousands of students and that many churches have benefited greatly from the ripple effect of those evangelistic and discipling efforts.
Nevertheless, I think that the relationship between the local church and the campus ministries should be different than it often is. What I have in mind is what we did at Bethlehem while I was pastor there, and it still exists and I watch it with great joy. Namely, we asked a ministry called Campus Outreach to come to our church about 13–14 years ago. Campus Outreach is a loose affiliation of Campus Ministries with a common Reformed theology and a common ethos and philosophy of ministry that are not responsible to any central campus ministry organization. There’s no formal structure with leadership at the top dictating what the campus ministry should do, but in each town or city where the campuses are, Campus Outreach is responsible to — and usually part of — the leadership of a local church, like ours…