WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–College and university students — one of the largest unreached people groups in the United States -– face increasing estrangement from the Christian faith, said Lee Sullens, campus minister at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with Baptist Campus Ministries.
“The predominant religion of college students is secular humanism,” Sullens said during a meeting of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s board of visitors. “They say that instead of God creating man, man has created God.” In this worldview, everything is morally relativistic and there is no point or purpose to life, Sullens told the group of Southeastern supporters and donors. “It’s the antithesis of Christianity.”
However, Sullens said students know that secular humanism is unable to answer their most important questions.
When they ask, “Who am I?” secular humanism responds, “A cosmic accident,” Sullens said. Students also ask, “What am I here for” and “How can this world be fixed?” — to which this worldview says, “You’re here to ‘get yours'” and “The world cannot be fixed.”
The message of Christianity, Sullens said, is that each person is the crowning glory of creation with inherent value, made to reflect the glory of the King and to take the Good News to the nations. Instead of saying the world cannot be fixed, Sullens said the response of Christianity is “an empty tomb” and Christ’s substitutionary atonement for sin.
“We’ve been silent long enough. It’s time to fight for the hearts and minds of our students,” Sullens said.
In a series of talks on the topic of reclaiming the academies for Christ at Southeastern Seminary, ministers and college pastors gathered to discuss the evangelization of America’s campuses as part of the board of visitors’ Oct. 15-16 meeting in Wake Forest, N.C.
Southeastern’s trustees approved a new master of divinity degree in collegiate ministry during their spring 2007 meeting; enrollment in the program began this fall. The seminary intends to partner with local churches and campus ministries by sending out graduates and placing interns intent on raising up a generation of leaders to “reclaim the academy.”
Southeastern alumnus Jeremy Chasteen, associate pastor and college pastor at Crosspoint Church in Clemson, S.C., said the key to campus outreach is faithfully teaching the Bible.
“That is our niche at Clemson,” said Chasteen, whose church is situated strategically near the center of the campus of Clemson University. Rather than “the bells and whistles,” Chasteen noted that “theology drives our methodology, not vice versa.”
David Nelson, Southeastern’s senior vice president for academic administration, asked the attendees to “imagine a world without the Gospel. Imagine a world, in all its fallenness, without the Gospel. In a very real way, universities across this nation are without the Gospel,” with students being “told there is no god and that they are bodies with brains -– not people with souls,” Nelson said.
If Southeastern were to abandon the academies, the seminary would be abandoning the Great Commission, he said.
“[The universities] are great big mission fields. Let me just suggest that we have an opportunity to train students to propose the Gospel to the world ‘God so loved,'” Nelson said in reference to John 3:16.
Dennis Darville, Southeastern’s vice president of institutional advancement, said American culture is “largely the way it is because we’ve lost the campuses. If America is to be reclaimed, it will not be apart from reclaiming our campuses.”
Southeastern graduate Dave Owen also spoke about the reality of lostness at the universities. Owen, college pastor at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., ministers to 500-plus college and university students at his church.
“There’s a reality out there, and I want you to feel the weight of this reality,” Owen said. “This problem is massive and intense. So what should we do? If it’s in the Bible, we teach it. [The Bible] penetrates and collides with the secular worldviews. It destroys them.”
Owen noted, however: “Be encouraged, because God is raising up this generation who not only love God, but who love the church.
“Jesus and the church together … It’s glorious.”
Lauren Crane is a writer at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.