A colleague and I were discussing roles of collegiate ministers in the lives of students. One metaphor meaningful to her was the African tribal elder who can point out to younger travelers the signs, footprints, and stories of the animals and plants that have left their mark in the veld around them. These signs point to a larger, richer world.
That reminded me of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and two places which correspond to collegiate ministry; the House of The Interpreter and the shepherds of the Delectable Mountains. During his journey, Christian comes to the House of The Interpreter. There he sees images with the Interpreter which help him understand his journey. Christian then leaves the Interpreter's House and continues on his way. Eventually he comes to the Delectable Mountains. There they meet the shepherds Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere, and are given a "perspective glass" so that they can see the Celestial City from the top of Mount Clear.
In both of these encounters, Christian is shown images and helped to understand how they make sense and direction for his journey of faith. During the college years, when most students encounter critical thinking along with the greater diversity of of the world, collegiate ministers help them interpret the images and experiences they are encountering through the lens of Christ. The students are assisted in their meaning-making and reframing of their personal stories in light of their educational banquet at college. In college they are shown the signs which point to a larger, richer world. Collegiate ministry helps interpret them.
This is evangelism, the sharing of the Good News of God in Christ Jesus. It is not quite the same sharing that Evangelist does during Pilgrim's Progress. Evangelist directs Christian to the "Wicket Gate," where the straight and narrow highway begins.
There are some college ministries which have as their primary goal the making of Christian converts, getting students on the King's Highway. For Presbyterian ministers in Validated Ministries (such as campus ministers and chaplains) the encouragement and discipleship of students is possible, but their baptism and profession of faith must occur within a congregation. Because of our Presbyterian emphasis on "loving God with our minds," the primary service we do for the Church is in interpretation and encouraging students while we encounter them on their journey.
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