I spent 14 years in university ministry. I eventually got out because I believe that the ministry needs to take place from within the church itself…not as a para-church offshoot. There are so many things I could say about this reality, but what is important here is our specific failure to really impact students when viewed in contrast to a group on campus that successfully transformed our entire culture.
Probably as early as 2002 I was telling pastors they needed to be ready to deal with gay marriage in a costly way. This was a pressing issue, and as I narrated it an already nearly lost cause for orthodox Christians. I was already touting separating Christian marriage from civil union–arguing for refusing to be a minister of the state in a legal exercise. They looked at me like I was crazy. After all, at that time not even the most extreme liberal politicians were willing to sign on to such an idea. But my eyes had been opened. What had I seen?
The reality that hit me early in my ministry path was that while we were doing an OK job of making more campus ministers, a small group was radically remaking the campus culture in its own image. We considered ourselves successful if we gathered 200 disciples into meetings…on a campus of 20,000+ students. The less than 200 in our opposing, transformative group would not be satisfied with anything less that the entire culture. That group was the BGLTSA (Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Strait Alliance).
While we were holding pizza socials and spring retreats to attract a few more people to hear the gospel and join our group, they were effectively taking the positions of influence. They were pursuing top student government and student life positions. They were writing for the campus paper and broadcasting on the campus airways. They were inviting campus sponsored speakers and planning major week-long campus awareness events. While we were worried primarily about making a few converts, they were committed to reshaping the attitudes of the culture.
Students of the BGLTSA worked tirelessly–they were willing to be spectacles and risk the loss of all acceptance from family and friends to make “acceptance” mean approval. Through art and story and personal testimony they finally won that linguistic battle and soon after secured the approval of the cultural majority. All of this was predominately accomplished at the precognitive level. They played on the assumptions of the majority culture–assumptions about fairness and feelings and fulfillment. Meanwhile we as the church largely failed in that time to question those basic assumptions. Rather, we embraced them as our own.