For several generations evangelical Christians have attempted to penetrate the secular university with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And with few exceptions the success of their efforts is diminishing.
Many of us remember with nostalgia the deep spiritual foundations of the earliest colleges. We proudly recall the nineteenth century’s determination to found hundreds of church-related colleges as the frontier moved west. We still are thrilled by the story of the unprecedented thrust for world evangelism made through the Student Volunteer Movement. Yet today, faced with the greatest student opportunity we have ever known, we discover that the combined efforts of conservatives and liberals, denominational and non-denominational groups, are losing effectiveness in the university world of students, teachers, and the increasingly important sectors of administration and research.
I believe that the underlying reason for this is the failure of campus religious groups to take either the whole university world or the whole of Christianity seriously. The size of modern universities, their complex structure, their involvement in industry and government, the great varieties of interest and academic levels—all this seems to be ignored in the programs and plans of the religious organizations. And we also seem incapable of presenting the Christian faith as a whole. Campus Crusade concentrates chiefly on evangelism, Wesley Foundations on social issues, Inter-Varsity on Christian maturity, and so on. No wonder the image of campus religion is one of confused irrelevance.
Not since the period around 1910 has an entire institution been the object of Christian witness. That was the heyday of the intercollegiate YMCA, and various denominational ...1
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