The following is “An open letter to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod Concerning Campus Ministry” written by a LCMS college student at the University of Tulsa. Phillip Fischaber, a member at Grace-Tulsa, is a representative of Lutheran Student Fellowship, was a participant in the January Think Tank on Campus Ministry, and is also a member of the planning committee for Unwrapped 2013.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In the last chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Peter, “Feed my sheep.” This is the mission of the Church. She exists to proclaim the Word of God to those who do not believe and to feed believers with the precious Word and the Sacraments. Every Christian needs these precious gifts, and every unbeliever needs to hear the gospel of salvation found in Jesus Christ. Just as the Great Commission applies even to babies, so also it applies to college students. We need God’s gifts just as much as everyone else. If anything, we need them more, because most universities concentrate the attacks of the world. Many liberal professors, in all fields, attack Christianity. Some universities actively fund programs encouraging promiscuity among students. Universities across the nation are attacking Christian and pro-life groups. We need to hear the right preaching of the Word and to regularly receive the Sacrament if we are to resist these attacks.
Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matt 18:20). God is everywhere, yet it is at church, where we gather for Word and Sacrament, that He gives us His special gifts. The Word of God is always powerful, even when read alone, but God commanded us to meet together that we may hear the Word preached and receive the Lord’s Supper. At church, we not only hear the gospel of the forgiveness of our sins, but we also taste and see that the Lord is good. This is why we need campus ministries, that we may not only read the Word, but see our salvation and feel it on our tongues. It is to church that we go to receive the forgiveness of sins, the strengthening of our faith, and life everlasting. Without these blessed gifts, how can we hope to resist the assaults of the world, the devil, and our very own flesh? Apart from these, how can we remain in the faith?
College students need churches. Even more wondrous than having a church to go to is having a church on campus to go to. Colleges seek to fill us with knowledge and make us grow. This knowledge is good, but it does not bear fruit for salvation. The vinedresser gave fertilizer and tender care to the fig tree, so that it would bear fruit and not be cut down. So too do we need pastoral care and the preaching of the Word, that God may give us growth. Without the Word of Truth, we too are in danger of being cut down. Is it not fitting and proper that alongside the knowledge school teaches us, we should receive Him who is Wisdom incarnate? Many wolves love to gather on college campuses. A campus chapel is the sheepfold in the midst of the wolves, and this sheepfold is watched over not by hired hands but by the Good Shepherd. Though every congregation has problems, it is churches that are the green pastures and quiet waters where He restores our souls. Protect our campus chapels that we may have these green pastures and quiet waters in the very midst of the prowling grounds of the enemy. That we may flee from those who would attack us, cling for mercy to the altar of the Lord, and receive the body and blood of the Shepherd who laid down His life for us.
Campus chapels are a wonderful blessing from God, because there we may receive His gifts in the midst of those who attack us. There on campus, we can behold the font and make the sign of the cross in remembrance of our baptism. We can see the altar and recall Christ’s sacrifice. In the middle of a hostile university, we can hear, see, and taste our salvation. Glory be to God for gifts such as these!
We go to college as adults, yet we are still learning. College is some of the most formative years of our lives. Though we are adults, are we not still your children? Though we are not little, let us your children come to Him. Please do not hinder us, for the temptations of this world are new and many, and the way of righteousness is narrow. Do not cast us out alone into the darkness, but send us pastors who give us the word that is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.
Though many of us leave behind our earthly parents, do not take from us our Mother the Church. The gates of hell shall not overcome the Church, so may it be also for us. When the assaults of the world, the devil, and our flesh assail us, let our Mother be near at hand to tend us. For She does not merely give kisses and bandages to our wounds. She gives us eternal life and salvation through Christ’s own true word and His holy, precious body and blood. We need the Church to care for us more even than a newborn baby needs his earthly mother.
The closer we are to a church, the easier it is for us to be cared for. Though God is always watching over us, His pastors cannot be. If you take from us our campus chapels and draw our pastors away from us, the harder it is for them to tend us as their flocks. That is why campus chapels are so important. Though the Church is not a mere building, the building is the heights on which the watchman watches. If you remove the heights, the watchman cannot watch as well. We are sheep most apt to stray. When we have a pastor on campus with us, it is much easier for him to go after the lost sheep. I beg you; do not let Satan use distance to keep us from church. Preserve it in our midst.
It is not professors or textbooks, but Christ alone who has the words of eternal life. Let us hear these words, for Paul says in Romans, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (10:14-15). Do not draw pastors farther away from us, but send them ever closer. Do not make them go far to reach us. Instead preserve our campus ministries, so we may sit at those beautiful feet and hear the good news that preserves us in the faith.
All people are like sheep and apt to stray, yet we college students are even more apt. The temptations are so great that over forty percent of youth leave the Lutheran church between confirmation and college graduation. A few will go to other denominations that do have strong campus ministries, but most will leave the Church altogether. How many more of us will be lost if we are without churches for four years? I beg you; give us pastors to guard us. Satan prowls like a roaring lion. The world hunts us like a pack of wolves. Our own flesh seeks to kill the new man within us. Protect our campus chapels and promote our campus ministries, that our pastors may guard us well. For what use is a guardian who is not present when someone needs protection? Do not let distance harm us and keep us from the Church. Instead come running as anxious as the loving father, to rejoice that we your prodigal children have returned unto you and to give us your gifts.