Church Planting On Campus

About eight months ago I read Jaeson Ma’s book, The Blueprint :: A Revolutionary Plan to Plant Missional Communities on Campus.

The book, as the title suggests, is about reaching the different segments and population groups of students, or “people groups” as Ma refers to them, that are enrolled at the colleges and universities of our nation, as well as those of the world. Those segments would include, but are certainly not limited to, international students, sororities, fraternities, service organizations, professional organizations, and athletic clubs, just to mention a very few.

The other day I decided to flip back through the book and take a look at portions of it that I high-lighted as I read through it back then. I was particularly interested in scanning through Section Three, “Passion For Planting Simple Churches”, because ta ethne network has a vision for planting and multiplying organic churches at Texas A&M Univeristy in College Station, Texas and beyond.

These statements reflect much of what I believe, am convinced about and am thinking about church planting, organic churches, and planting organic, simple churches on university campuses.

When considering the fact that on any university campus there are “many various kinds of student clusters,” it is important, says Ma, ”to look at each student segment as though it was an unreached people group.” We should then apply missionary methods  and “plant a unique simple church for each of these unreached groups….We need to bring church to them, not bring them to church.” (p.201)

At Texas A&M University there are over 800 officially recognized student organizations that constitute “people groups” that need to be penetrated by the Gospel. There are certainly other groupings of students that have not formed into recognized organizations that need to be penetrated as well. Each of these “clusters’ could potentially have organic, simple church started “within” that reach the members of those “tribes’ and “clans” for Christ. The people within each of the 800+ groupings who become Christ-followers have relationships that extend into other relationship networks that need to hear the Gospel. It is along these relationship lines that the Gospel can travel and organic, simple churches multiplied into other segments of the university population.

Ma goes on to say that …

The power in the simple church-planting model is that students learn to do church where they are. They no longer see church as something they go to on Sundays, but rather, they see it as something they live out daily wherever they may be.” (p.201)

This does not mean that students should not go to local, traditional, program-based congregations in the community, but as the adage that we used to use in the late 1980s to ‘mid-90’s says, “new churches reach new people that established churches may never reach.”

Planting simple churches on university campuses is important because,

The campus is one of the most important mission fields of our day. It is the greatest harvest field. The world-changers and history-makers of tomorrow are on our campuses today…. Also, as we reach the hundreds of thousands of international students in our colleges and universities, they will in turn reach their nations for Christ. If we can change the campus, we can change entire nations.” (p.203)

(Note: see some of my earlier posts on this blog regarding international students in the USA and at Texas A&M University.)

Ma responds to the spoken and unspoken questions that many in our traditional churches ask about the legitimacy of small, organic churches:

But is it (an organic, simple church) a church in the fullest sense of the word? Yes, it is a church in the fullest sense of the word. It is the basic church. You can have more than two or three and it is still a church, but it does not become “more church” because there are more than two or three. It only becomes a bigger church.”

Jaeson speaks about the essential DNA of an organic, simple church, and when he does, he uses the definition that I first read about in Neil Cole’s Organic Church. That DNA is commitment to:

  •  Divine truth (loving God)
  •  Nurturing relationships (loving each other)
  • Apostolic mission (loving the lost).

Ma also speaks about the four verbs that are found in the Great Commission: 

We are called to “Go” to the lost, not say, ‘Come to our church.’ We are called to “make disciples,” not converts. We are called to be baptizers, not wait to be baptized. We are called to “teach” others to radically obey God’s Word, not just receive more theory and theology.” (p.209)

Yes, this is what all churches are to be about, but Ma’s position (and that of Cole and Wolfgang Simon and Rad Zdero and Tony and Felicity Dale, John White, and many others) is that a “church” doesn’t have to be an incorporated entity that owns property and buildings and conduct a full menu of age-graded programs to be a “church” or engaged in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Prime examples from the New Testament would the churches that met in the homes of Cornelius (Acts 10), Mary (Acts 12:12), Lydia (Acts 16:14,15), the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:25-34), Crispus (Acts 18:8), Prisca and Aquila (Romans 16:5), Aristobulus (Romans 16:11), and Philemon.

In the chapter after the one from which the quotes above are taken, Ma addresses the subject of church planting movements and saturation church planting. He discusses the characteristics of Church Planting Movements that are taking place around the world (see my posts on the book Church Planting Movements by David Garrison here and here) and talks about how our understanding of CPMs can influence our strategies for planting churches on university campuses. He also talks about the need to saturate campuses with multiplying organic, simple churches if we are going to truly reach our student population groups with the Gospel. I am reminded of DAWN Ministry’s vision to plant a church within the walking distance of every 1,500-2,000 people in America.

There were many other insightful and thought provoking statements and subjects discussed in Jaeson’s book, The Blueprint, that I found encouraging as we pray about how to most effectively reach university students for Christ.

If you share our heart for Christ, the “nations,” and church planting, I believe that you will enjoy and benefit greatly from The Blueprint, Jaeson Ma’s contribution to the organic, simple-church planting discussion.


Note: This article was originally and posted on another blog I have been writing, taethnenetwork, on October 8, 2009.

Explore posts in the same categories: Books, Church Planting, Missional Living, Simple Church, Uncategorized

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