While serving as a college pastor at a church I was encouraged to also be a chaplain, supported and affirmed by my church. This was a great opportunity to be on campus with the students to support and encourage them. There were several chaplains from different denominations and religious backgrounds.
By the way, if this is the first post you’re visiting on my missional journey, feel free to start at the beginning here
I quickly developed respect for one Christian Chaplain, Michael Wagenman*, who invited me to a meeting he was hosting. So, there I was, in the chaplain’s office. The attendees were not who I would have expected: the head of the campus police, the fire chief, the head of the students’ council, the head of the residences, the ombudsman… those carrying the responsibility of the university.
Now from my Christian upbringing, anytime a Christian called a meeting it would be for a Bible Study or prayer meeting or something. This agenda was very different.
They were there to discuss issues on campus, further the priorities of the university president and share any issues that required networking with each other. It was fun to see the interaction. The head of the residences were informing the campus police of some issues they needed help on. The fire department chief discussed some upcoming changes relating to fire safety. These people were working together – he was simply providing the safe context for people to work together in a way that they might not without him. He was doing nothing but he was building shalom on campus! (And that’s something!)
It was so amazing to see this chaplain support cross department communication and collaboration. In a world where most people look out for advancing their own priorities – include their Christian ones, he was using his position to help others and help them connect for the good of the campus.
I was amazed at how different this approach was vs some campus ministries who, in their eagerness to evangelize, were creating tension on campus. I remember as we were passing by a booth, this chaplain asked the Muslim Student Group if any Christians were being idiots. I didn’t understand it then but it reflected his theology of how to approach a pluralistic culture. Is the point to evangelize and convert at all costs?
To clarify, this wasn’t a chaplain from some liberal branch of Christianity. He believed in salvation by faith in Christ alone. Perhaps he realized that building good will on campus was part of his greater Christian responsibility and witness. More recently I’ve observed a whole Biblical theology around the need to do good in society and its importance to the churches’ advancement (more in an upcoming post).
When we push the gospel too hard we become just one other sales voice is a world that is already cluttered with noise. When we support people in their important tasks we become a trusted and respected voice of healing and hope. And we all know the world needs more of both.
Live it Out:
What groups of people are in your sphere who have tension against each other? Is there a way you can provide a safe context for support and collaboration? What are some priorities that other people have that you could offer support or collaboration? Who are those people with differing priorities? How might your support show them a different better way of living?
*Michael Wagenman is involved in the Kuyper Centre for Emerging Scholars (www.kuypercentre.ca) which is heavily influenced by the work of the Paideia Centre for Public Theology (www.paideiacentre.ca).