Once again, the campus is buzzing with activity as students stream back into town--to apartments, dorms, sorority and frat houses. Whereas fall denotes an ending of life in nature in anticipation of the coming winter, in the university, it signals the vibrancy of new life. Soon, the pathways criss-crossing our campus will be teeming with students--some filled with ambition and excitement, others with anxiety and apathy--on their way to class, study sessions, coffee dates, or a moment of rest in the lush grass of central campus.
With all of this comes a new season of ministry. A new season to proclaim the glorious riches of God's grace in the gospel. A new season to capture students' imaginations with visions of the Kingdom of God and their callings (from education to engineering, animal science to business and everything in between) to witness to this Kingdom by imaging Christ to the world. A new season to challenge students and faculty alike to consider the big questions of life, to participate in the redemptive drama at work around them, and to engage in practices that will shape their desires and produce habits that both glorify God and reflect Him through their lives.
This is ingrained with me as a reformed Christian, and within our ministry, which seeks to expose students to the distinctives of our theological tradition. It's even in the word reformed; being formed anew by the Spirit of God through (re)newed practices of old. I want students to find freedom and rest in the rhythm and flow of our services of prayer; filled with a wonder and awe of God in our biblical and theological studies. I want students to be challenged to see how they are being shaped by the wider culture in ways that steal their desire and love away from God and His Kingdom towards counterfeit gods and kingdoms. I want faculty members to be encouraged in the work they do for God, and impassioned with new ideas for influencing students and helping them pursue their callings. And I want students and faculty alike to be equipped in their hearts, minds, and bodies with knowledge, love, and habits that will follow them long after they've left the university campus so that they can be lifelong, faithful followers of Christ doing the work He's called them to do wherever He's called them to do it.
All too often, we (campus ministries and campus ministers) fail to ask the big questions. We fail to come alongside students wrestling with such things as:
What is my purpose; where do I find meaning in life?
Why is the world the way it is?
Is there a God?
How can I change? How can I bring about change in the world?
What does my faith have to do with "real" life?
How do I live a consistent life of faith?
In failing to address these questions, as well as others, we rob students, and dance along the surface of the issues pulling at their hearts. And not only this, but we also fail to show them the beauty and robustness of the Christian faith and its practices that could be oh so helpful.
To this end, one of the things we are doing this fall is studying James K.A. Smith's book, You Are What You Love, a book that challenges us to "recognize the formative power of culture and the transformative possibilities of Christian practice." My prayer is that it might lead us towards being a more formative ministry at Iowa State University, instilling a new vision within our students and bringing about a greater influence on the wider campus. It will not be easy, and it will not always be "fun," but the results of such discipleship can be deep, transformative, and long-lasting as we are further conformed to the image of Christ and reoriented in heart, mind, and body towards pursuing the glorious Kingdom of God.
So, will you join our formative community in Christ?