By now, you have probably heard the terms “youth flight from church” or “youth exodus from church.” What does this mean? It means the church is losing young people between the ages of 15 and 30 (the “Millennial” generation) at an alarming rate, due to the oppressive influence of non-biblical and atheistic worldviews at their high schools and colleges. This Five-Part Series by Julie D. Loos tells how the church – from clergy to lay people – can help stop this flow.
College was a defining time for my faith. I distinctly remember the first time I woke up on a college campus on a Sunday morning and could decide for myself whether or not I went to church that day. I chose to go. And I kept going. And I got involved in campus ministry. My heart for college ministry now was likely fueled in my own college years, where a discipline of prayer and Bible study was established and strengthened. My go-to prayer warrior was my grandmother–especially on test days. I found a friend with whom I covenanted to pray each week—and we held each other accountable for dedicated daily prayer on our own.
Four years ago I took what I was learning in my personal study of apologetics and began applying it to my volunteer position with Moms in Prayer International equipping and encouraging college moms to pray more strategically for the college campus. My new-found love for apologetics led me to come on staff with Ratio Christi Campus Apologetics Alliance to share the importance of beginning to train our youth in apologetics even prior to college. With both my sons now on campus, I have a front row seat to the affects of the college campus culture and the role my two spheres of ministry can play in the most influential sphere on our future culture-shapers. As colleges go, so goes the nation.
So what is the church going to do about shaping the direction it goes?
What About the College Campus?
Professor of philosophy J. P. Moreland discovered two very evident things during his time with Campus Crusade for Christ (now called Cru):
1. The university was the most powerful, influential structure in Western culture.
2. The professor had a disproportionately large impact on people and society when compared to pastors and people in other professions.
Consider that the 18 to 23 year olds who roam our campuses are our next generation of leaders around the world in education, government, art, business, nonprofits, film, culture and more. They will shape the worldview of our culture, our churches, and the children who will lead America into the second half of the 21st century. They are the attitude-shapers of how Christianity will be viewed in America in the near future.
As was stated in the outstanding book God on Campus by Trent Sheppard, “Can you imagine the global effect in communications and the arts, in the fields of business and science and technology, and in education and healthcare and diplomacy if a new breed of believers emerged on campus whose entire lives (heart, soul, mind and strength) were fully surrendered to Jesus?” Imagine.
What’s Church Got to Do With It?
What role could, should, the local body of believers, the church, play in what happens on campus? Why even care about it outside of rooting for your alma mater or your favorite state school? Before we can look forward, let’s take a glance backward to a brief history of the “church-college connection.”
Know your Roots—A Survey of the Church-College Connection
Are you aware that there has been a “sacred and ancient legacy of Jesus-centered education” even before America’s nine original Colonial Colleges? It even goes back to Oxford University in 1096. Fast forward to the 1500s when professor of theology Martin Luther’s influence spread from the church to Cambridge University and eventually cross the pond and influenced the founding of Harvard. There was Professor Cartwright at Cambridge whose teaching sparked Puritanism, leading to Puritan reform in England in sixteenth century, which led to the founding of Emmanuel College at Cambridge.
Guess where the majority of early Puritan scholars who settled New England and founded Harvard got their education? Those two schools. Harvard’s first president charged students to use their skills and learning for civic service as ministers and professional leaders of society.
Professor and Ratio Christi President, Corey Miller, PhD, reports in his lecture on the influence of the Bible on the founding of universities that the sacred text of the Bible directly inspired the first 123 colleges and universities in America that taught secular subjects. Of the first 119 universities, 104 of them were founded directly on the Christian faith. He notes that “the modern university owes its existence to the Judeo-Christian worldview. Education is a Christian missionary enterprise.”
That was Then; This is Now.
A quick review of three of our oldest institutions shows what happens when universities and churches no longer honor their ties.
Then: Harvard University’s (1636) original seal was inscribed with the Latin word VERITAS, “(divine) truth.” They later added “for the glory of Christ,” and then replaced it with “Truth for Christ and Church.” By Harvard’s 300th anniversary, it dropped all reference to Christ. You’re hard pressed to find that history on its website. In a recent trip to the Harvard campus, I noted that a tree had been strategically planted by the front gate obscuring the plaque that was inscribed with a quote giving a nod to its Christian history.
Now: Harvard is one of the most anti-Christian universities in America (We’ll look at some statistics about that campus later in this series).
Then: Yale University’s (1701) slogan was “For God, for Country, and for Yale;”and their motto was, “Light and Truth.” Yale’s most famous alum, Jonathan Edwards, went on to become the president of Princeton Theological Seminary and was one of America’s most famous theologians.
Now: Yale for over a decade has had what they call “Sex Week” – and it has spread to other universities where certain feminist professors have been reported to lecture nude.
Then: Princeton University’s (1746) motto was “Under God’s Power She Flourishes.”
Now: Professor Peter Singer teaches there the merits of both bestiality and infanticide.
A Historical Mandate
By 1823, all American universities had been founded through the Church and supplied the next generation of evangelical leaders. The American churches had the foresight to see that these students would be the future of their congregations, culture, and society. Further, they recognized that the direction of their churches and the nation would follow the spiritual bent and character of America’s college students — as the students go, so goes the nation.
What happened on the campus also affected culture on campus and in society as well. One only has to survey the history of the prayer movements, revivals, spiritual awakenings, and student missionary movements to get a taste of the changes that occurred.
Julie D. Loos is Director of Boosters for Ratio Christi Campus Apologetics Alliance, an international ministry that teaches the historical, scientific and philosophical evidence for the Bible as Truth and evidence for Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection. Ratio Christi has over 150 chapters on college campuses, most of which meet weekly, and has now begun outreach to high school students with 30 chapters in the U.S. .