As a new semester of college begins, it is important to remember the difference between the local church and campus ministry. The local church is the gathered people of God who sit under godly pastors and elders who lead them by preaching and teaching the Bible in a variety of settings, offering the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, encourage them by shepherding them throughout all of life, and keep them accountable. A local church is often, but not required, to be multi-generational.
This differs from the role of a campus ministry. A campus ministry might do many of the actions that a local church does, but it serves as a para-church organization that comes alongside the church to help fulfill its mission. A few main goal of campus ministries include, but are not limited to, reaching students for Christ at a specific campus, discipling students throughout college, helping them get connected to other Christians on campus, and training them to reach their friends for Christ.
There is usually a sense of partnership and mission that are evidenced by the gospel ministry that takes place on campus when the local church and campus ministries are working together well.
I enjoy the way that Matt Smethurst, the managing editor at the Gospel Coalition, once described the difference between campus ministry and the church. He wrote:
“A campus ministry may be a bridesmaid, but only the church is his bride.”
Let’s not confuse the bride and the bridesmaid. Both are important, but one is supreme over the other in a wedding.
Praise the Lord for both local churches and campus ministries. May this academic school year, and every academic school year, be filled with many students putting their faith in Christ and growing in Him on both secular and Christian college campuses.
*Quote from @MattSmethurst on December 10, 2016, on Twitter.
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