So i have been doing a lot of thinking about this over the last several years and i think that a public journal is the best way to get this off of my chest. I am one of those people who did drink the punch of a ministy called campus outreach for several years. After lots of deep thought, painful learning, and frustration... i believe that i might actually be able to articulate my deepest thoughts on the issue. Before I go into all of my issues with the ministry i think that it is important that i first dialogue about some of the good things that Campus Outreach did.
Campus Outreach was a bunch of young leaders who desired to for people to walk with God. And i believe that they really did intend well. I have never thought differently. But like any para-church ministry good intentions can still have terrible consequences. Campus Outreach was really focused on sharing the gospel (which is an amazing thing and something that should be a real focus of any so called church ministry), Campus Outreach was focused on teaching people how to walk with God (another great thing), Campus Outreach (which from now on in this blog i will refer to as C.O.) desired for their to be accountability in their ministry... both with the local church and within small groups of people. Campus Outreach in wanting to teach people how to walk with God... showed and still shows people how to used different tools in their study of the bible. They place lots of emphasis on cross referance, concordance use, and the lexicon. All of these are wonderful tools when their is the appropriate respect and knowledge of how to use them. So i say all this on the front end so that it is easy to see that there is good in this ministry... but my question is at what cost?
So i am going to give the rest of this blog in more of an outline format so that facts and commentary are a little easier to see:
1. Is Campus Outreach a Cult?
a. I believe that we first have to define a cult
1. A group of people who seek out those who are in a place of vulnerability for membership
2. A group of people who create a method of advancement through achievment, expectations,
responsibilities, and demonstration of overall worth
a. which is set by the leadership, and is subject to change on certain favorites or special values
3. A group which at some point fully indoctrinates one into its fold after they have gone "far enough"
to handle the real framework and knowledge that the group wants to bestow upon them
4. A group that will remove and have nothing to do with those that after being shown the "light"
decide not to follow or advance further.
5. A group that has a history of jaded former members that actively can articulate problems back to
to that group.
So i believe that 100% C.O. meets all of these requirements. C.O. has a mission statement that is really not known until one goes on an overseas project (usually three years into the ministry). Usually at this time, C.O. knows enough about you to show the entire picture to you. They will then test you on this in your 4th year to see if you are worthy to go on staff (be a leader). So the picture that they paint is lots of the following. They do this to an extent that I personally have literature showing that this is what they believe. C.O. targets freshmen dorms, Greeks, and Athletes. Then inside that frame they specifically target leaders within these groups. They do this because you can get the most numbers if you convert someone who is "valued" as a leader, verse someone "valued" as a nobody. At this point we can already see some very large contradictions to scripture. Jesus was from a group of very marganlized people, who weren't seen at the time as a very powerful force (the Romans at the time had much more difficult nationalities to control). Jesus selected uneducated people who were not considered to be "valued" by societie. If Jesus followed the C.O. method than He would have chosen pharisee's, saducees, and wealthy business owners with many workers. Not tax collectors, fishermen, and young men.
Next C.O. chose freshmen for the specific purpose that they were on their own... figuring life out for the first time (therefor easy to manipulate). When i say that they targeted freshman dorms... this is an understatement. It was a major achievement to see how many freshmen one could get to become membership. It was like a screwed up pyramid scheme.
After people were recruited they were put into discipleship groups (nothing wrong with discipleship till you use this model). The people who lead these groups were people who were usually second year C.O. and had grasped the first years learnings. Now understand that this was a ministry made up of people who on leadership were of the average age of 25-26. These people were leading 18-21 year olds and purposefully placed themselves in extreme leadership roles. If you did not respect these roles and see these people as the leader that they were... then you would be extracated quickly... they might let you go through year one of training over and over again, but you would never go farther. C.O. would also use pressure and air lifted scriptures (scripture just air lifted for guilt purpose) to convince people that they were in sin if you didnt go to the sacred camps (summer beach projects and Christmas conferences). Every year i heard staff people explain that nobody else could give the training that C.O. could, and that since that was a fact, that if you didnt go... then you were in sin. I can give dates, times, who gave the talk, and even what room on the campus it was said in. I have been an avid journaler for years and i look back on that stuff and said things like... "God __________ really brought your Word to life tonight by explaining how people could get no better training than at beach project/Christmas conference, and even explained how they were in sin if they didnt." Well i am here to tell you that if you were a devoted member of your local church for a summer, then you were better off probably than C.O. . What kind of pride does it take to say things like that?
Next... now you got to drink a little more punch every year that you were in the ministry until you got to your third year. At this point you were probably discipling several people yourself (which now that i am a little older, can say that what we were really all doing was feeding people the same shit that we had been fed, and hoping that they believed it... because if they didnt than it left us insecure.... but if they did, than we felt justified and right in our heads). Now they would make sure you were out of the country on a mission trip before they brought everything to life for you. Now when you are in another country... where you are supposed to be sharing the gospel and changing the nations for God (and all the other rhetoric)... we would spend the first 5 hours of every day in "training" and that was their word for it... not mine. It was during these daily sessions that the total idea of the ministry was unfolded for you. It was here that the idea of targeting popular people, and targeting freshmen was brought to fruition. It was here that you saw that it was about a numbers game. We litterally had diagrams of how all the small fish swim next to the big ones... so if were going to be working for God then we have to go after the really big fish so we can get all of the smaller ones. Anyone seeing a pattern here???
Now in the fourth year they wanted to see you take this information and lead the campus as an aide to the staff. Here is where you real worth was proven. Did you drink enough to really put the time and energy in to making your campus a place where staff was kissing popular peoples ass (literally) and getting everyone who wasnt "cool" to follow since the "cool" people went. Now at the end of your fourth year you were supposed to lead the Beach Project. It was here that staff would leave you for 6 weeks and let you as a senior organizational member run the project. The project usually had 6 leaders and 1 head.
My next part will answer the problem of jaded members (of which there are many, navigators and campus crusade have the same problem, just not as extreme) and will show the damage that some of this does.
You must understand that to be on "staff" it means you graduated from the 4 year plan of C.O. yet if you have noticed there is no theology classes, there is no real requirement for being involved in a church (and they will say there is but that is shit, i caught hell for being to active in my church and not enough in the campus ministry, also there are many former staff and team leaders who have horror stories of being young and not knowing what to do when real life issues with 18-21 yr olds came up, and they talk of being absolutley stranded). So its like the blind leading the blind. One of the most damaging things that happens... is that people who are really adapt and into study of the bible... will be totally screwed by the method of study that C.O. recommends. First off their are a group of pastors who are idolized by C.O. (when i say idolized they are quoted more than scripture... literally) i sat through many talks where John Piper, John McArthur, Tim Keller, and the pastor from Briarwood Pres (Harry Reeder) (where C.O. was founded) were quoted more than scripture. Notice none of these men are theologians, none of these men have opinions that have changed academic thought, all are reformed, and only one of them can actually defend reformed theology in debate (Tim Keller, look at debates if you dont believe me). Also Piper and McArthur write books like they are theologians... when all they do is regurgitate the ideas of C.S. Lewis blended with Edwards and through a little legalism and dispensationalism in and you have the extent of their knowledge. Both men are quoted as saying Covenant Theology is worth churches dividing over (by the way would C.S. lewis and Edwards ever want their ideas blended with the other?). *Last little point on the pastoral exaltation issue would be that you will be failed in any major seminary in the country if you refer to either of these men as theologians*. I say all this to bring up the point of how people who really study and want real answers are done a diservice by givng them the tools that they are given without better knowledge before hand.
The bible for 1500 years was read by community. Thank God that we have the bible in a language that the lay person can read. The problem is that when the uneducated lead the uneducated... you get the idea that all we need to have to interpret the bible.... is the bible... you get this position because you can teach the lexicon, concordance and the cross reference in a matter of weeks/months. But for you to be able to teach the history, culture, themes of the bible, overall narratives of the bible, and humility to understand what major theologians have come to the conclusion of (the idea of respecting where we as a church ((catholics included C.O.)) then we are in a very dangerous place in saying now you can interpret everything. Litterally if the pastoral names i gave you dont show a lack of depth, (almost all of these men think they can tell you what the real, true definition of every verse in the bible is). Which is crazy because thats like telling all painters to put down their brushes because you have perfected art. This messes people up and jades them because at the end it cant make sense if you just have those tools. If you have those tools, then you come to the fact that predestination has to be true... but what about the fact that if it is... then God had to ordain sin (sorry no way around it... and the whole Perfect will vrs Desired will argument is shit.... show me where in scripture... more than one or two air lifted places... and show me why in debate when Piper uses it, it looks like his copout for getting himself out of every jam that serious theologians box him into). Now if you give me history, themes, some humility to accept that its a gray area, and the real narrative that the bible is ( because in C.O. the bible becomes your science homework and loses the aspect of "narrative") then i can actually come to somewhat of a confident place where predestination might be true. My last point on C.O. as i have now rambled for God only knows how long... is to say this.... i have seen people come off of staff at C.O., Navigators, and Campus Crusade... so burnt out by the shit they were fed... that they look at people and say... i dont know what i believe... i want to be a Christian, I love Jesus, but if anyone else uses me as a ministry tool to teach others some plan... than i am done with the faith. Those are powerul words.... so here was my first rambling.... i am sure i vomited and offended all... but if were not real in expressing our feelings and what we believe is truth... what else do we have... in humility and willing to be shown the light if i am wrong.....
Just a place where I can journal and ramble about anything.