As the college director at The Quest, I oversee, disciple, guide and minister to a large number of college students. Within this ministry I have two interns, one which is in college and oversees our musical worship, and a Fuller student which oversees our women’s ministry. Besides us, we have a servant leadership team of about ten students who oversee vital areas of our ministry like retreats, socials, outreach, Wednesday night set-up and tear down, technical, computer and sound issues, and so on. On top of that, we have about twenty bible study leaders who lead and facilitate bible studies on the campuses of UCLA, USC and LMU. On top of that, we have student volunteers that plug into what areas of need that we have. I say all this to point out there is a lot of structure, but there is also a lot of empowerment and the use of people’s giftings. A certain amount of structure and leadership is vital to our ministry, as well as people taking responsibility and using their gifts.
Within our community we try and create, or allow for a safe place for people to worship, explore, question and affirm their relationship with Jesus Christ. And for those who do not have a relationship with Christ, we hope that they feel welcome and that we can lead them into a relationship with Him. We try to be a community that is life giving, grace giving, and freedom giving, while challenging, encouraging, correcting and pointing people to the person of Jesus Christ. We allow for people to be a part of our community no matter where they are at, but we are encouraging them and teaching them to grow in their faith and to be more and more spiritually formed in the image of God.
We teach the bible, using different methods of preaching, mixing it up with exhortation, questions, small groups, etc. And we hold to a very orthodox Christian faith. Though we are a ministry of Bel Air Presbyterian Church, which is a PCUSA church, most of my students probably do not follow or ascribe to a strict Reformed faith. It is a community of college students from all parts of the country who come to our ministry most likely because it is a college ministry, and not because it is Presbyterian.
I love being the Director of College Ministries, and I love the freedom and empowerment that the pastors and the church gives to me.
So this is what I am wondering.
Can we not be a part of church communities that provide structure and leadership, yet at the same time are very empowering, and encouraging to people to use their gifts?
Can we not be a part of church communities that allow for people not having all the answers, and who are wrestling with God and their own theology, yet still provide them with guidance, direction, discernment, etc. that is theologically sound?
Can we not be a part of church communities that are gracious and affirming, yet challenge us to become disciples of Jesus Christ and be conformed in His image?
Can we not be a part of church communities that are creative and push expression in ways that may not be normative for everyone, but still allow for some type of creativity?
These are some of the things I am wondering about, because I believe that “emergent churches” are lacking in some areas (at least from what I know of them so far). And I believe that some of our more traditional churches, mainline, non-denominational, bible, etc. are also lacking in some areas. I guess that’s a pretty obvious evaluation of anything!
What I admire in “emergent churches” is creativity, space, expression, some leadership styles, empowerment, etc. Things I try to bring to our college community. What I admire in traditional churches is historical faith, committment, responsibility, a developed theology and ecclesiology, diversity of generations, etc. Also things I try to bring to our college community.
I am wondering where we can learn from each other and grow and improve, rather than completely discounting, or throwing the baby out with the bath water.
I have the luxury that many directors and pastors do not have. I am supported, funded, empowered, encouraged, discipled and affirmed by a church that allows for me to think outside the box and to be creative, but still provides a certain amount of structure, leadership and guidance.
The journey continues but this is what I am wondering right now, and these are some of the questions I have.
Closing question: Is Mars Hill Bible Church and Rob Bell an anamoly, in the sense that his style, teaching, questioning, creativity, etc. resonate with “emergent thinking people”, yet he does it all within the ecclesiastical structure of a large and growing bible church?