As you may know, evangelism is a core value of InterVarsity, and InterVarsity’s Graduate and Faculty Ministries (of which ESN is a part) has named “Evangelism and Service” as one of its four core commitments. But several of us within InterVarsity have been discussing the unique challenges for faculty who want to share the gospel with their colleagues. By extension, these challenges apply to those who want to become faculty, as well. Evangelism by an undergrad who expects to graduate within a few years, or by a campus minister who is already an outsider on campus, is one thing, but evangelism when you hope to spend your career at the university – a career which might be considerably shortened by your evangelism! – is something else entirely.
(BTW, I’m thinking primarily of sharing the gospel on secular campuses with faculty peers – sharing the gospel with students, or with faculty on Christian campuses, are important topics for another time.)
Some of the challenges we’ve identified include:
- Philosophical assumptions in the academy that privilege naturalism, humanism, or anti-realism, but exclude theism
- Sociological attributes of faculty that make it difficult to talk about the gospel
- Poor perceptions of Christians and Christianity within the academy (both fair and unfair)
- Trends within American Christianity that ignore or condemn the life of the mind, the profession of science, the importance of the university, or other values held dear by academics
- Reductionistic presentations of the Gospel within American Christianity (or gospel presentations that are based on assumptions, evidence, arguments, etc., that are easily countered by intelligent faculty)
- A high sense of risk to one’s career or reputation, especially for untenured faculty
InterVarsity Faculty Ministry has created an anonymous survey about sharing the gospel on campus to find out what faculty think about this important issue, and I encourage you to take a few minutes to share your perspective. In the meantime:
What are your thoughts about sharing the gospel with faculty colleagues? What are the challenges and risks that you have seen? Are there ways of sharing the gospel with colleagues that seem especially appropriate to the faculty context? Do you have any stories to share – either positive or negative?
P.S. Because this is a sensitive topic on many campuses, feel free to use a pseudonym if you leave a comment. Just be sure to include a valid email address, which will never be published or shared on the blog. Check out our new commenting policy if you’re unsure how to proceed.
P.S. #2: Anticipating that at least one person will mention Francis of Assisi’s “Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words,” check out this challenging column by Mark Galli that notes that Francis likely never said those words, that the saying radically misrepresents Francis’ “hellfire and brimstone” preaching ministry, and that the saying, while well-intentined, is too often misunderstood or misused. (HT: Andy Crouch)