LIBERTY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF DIVINITY
Book Critique: College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture by Stephen Lutz
Submitted to Dr. Brandon Travis,
CHPL500 – B01
Introduction to Chaplaincy Ministry
October 9, 2018
TOC o “1-3” h z u Book Critique: College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture by Stephen Lutz PAGEREF _Toc527019712 h 1Introduction PAGEREF _Toc527019713 h 1Summary of the Book PAGEREF _Toc527019714 h 2The Critique PAGEREF _Toc527019715 h 3The Overall Look PAGEREF _Toc527019716 h 3The Book’s Content PAGEREF _Toc527019717 h 4Conclusion PAGEREF _Toc527019718 h 7Bibliography PAGEREF _Toc527019719 h 8
Book Critique: College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture by Stephen LutzIntroduction
College student’s today are embarking on an incredible shift. They are balancing critical decisions about life and significant changes while dealing with the world around them. Today the world is full of many different religious practices as well as the different cultures and religious groups. However, in a culture that no longer cares about Christians or Christian values, the Christian college students find it challenging to connect with non-Christians and other groups on a mission level. Stephen Lutz’s book, College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture, renders detailed insight of what the missionary field looks like and how to equip pastors, staff, “churches, and student leaders to minister effectively to today’s college students.” This book is an excellent resource for the Christian college student – who wishes to go beyond the borders of what is comfortable. It is for the pastors and leaders who dare go beyond the four walls of the church into the Great Commission – the instructions given to the disciples to spread the message of the resurrected Jesus to all nations of the world – to include colleges. Lutz’s stated in his thesis that “college students are harder to reach than ever, and many leave the church upon reaching college, never to return.” Lutz’s book is informative and insightful and will challenge Christian college students as well as church leaders to venture into more profound things of God.
For this book review, I have read and evaluated Lutz’s work, College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture, published by House Studio. Stephen Lutz’s purpose for writing the book is to challenge the Christian college student to maintain their faith as well as become missional during their college years. He also attempts to teach leaders to effectively work and minister to college students as well as apply the missional theology. College students who are not rooted and grounded in their faith will often walk away from their commitment to God during their first year of college. Therefore, I will summarize the book’s contents and survey its significant strengths and weaknesses to determine if Lutz has accomplished his goal.
Summary of the Book
Lutz’s attempt of using the metaphor of a huge tree where the roots run deep paints an accurate picture and take the reader on a journey to what mission field in college ministry is about – the Gospel. Lutz groups the entire book using the tree metaphor into three categories – the root, the trunk, and the fruit, which he connects to the scripture reading in Psalm 1:3. He also compares the tree in our relationship to Christ when he said that we are “being grounded in the gospel, growing in community, and giving in the mission.” He portrays a picture about the landscape of college ministry on campus as the “wasteland.” How do leaders minister in a wasteland?
Lutz’s main idea is that church leaders and parachurches must shift their thinking from religion and relationship to preaching the Gospel. He argues that “whether it is religion, relationship, or some other faith, the faithful ministry doesn’t let anything threaten the central place of the gospel.” The second idea in Lutz’s book is about making strong disciples who make other strong disciples. Therefore, part two of Lutz’s book talks about growing the mission. Just as the trunk of the tree is strong, so Christians ought to be strong in winning the non-Christian to Christ. He makes that connection by starting chapter eight with a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer which says, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” The quote summarizes the second half of the book which deals strictly with discipleship and reaching the different groups on college campuses. The last part of Lutz’s book he attempts to give the strategies for mission work which he demonstrates by talking about the fruit on the tree. His idea is that Christians should produce fruit that will last so that the world could be impacted. The third part of the book Lutz also defines unity as well as obstacles of unity and how many campus ministries are not unified. Lutz also talks about how important partnerships such as churches and parachurches are in reaching college students. He also takes a snapshot of the ministry at the global university. For example, Lutz said that “we stir the world by stirring the campuses, and we do this by starting missional ministries and churches that reach college campuses.” Finally, the book closes with what Lutz calls “marching orders.” His goal imitates Christ’s Great Commission to the twelve disciples to go out into the world to “preach the kingdom of heaven in Jesus’ name taken from Matthew 10.
The CritiqueThe Overall LookI started the review of the book by looking at the overall first-glance and content of the book. If I were to pick up this book at random to find out what the book was about would I want to read it? In my opinion, Lutz did a poor job in the “first-glance” test. For example, the dark brown cover is a poor choice. Although the reviews and content were great, the brown background, small font size, and the font color make it difficult for the reader to glance at the contents in the book quickly. My suggestion would be to change the background to a lighter color, enlarge the font size and change the color to a black font. The overall book cover is not appealing in my opinion.
The Book’s Content
Stephen Lutz is a proven author, speaker, pastor, and coach who bridge the gap between church ministries and the Christian college student. Lutz did a suitable job when he starts the book by telling the audience why he chose to work in the field of college ministry. By doing so, he showed me what makes him the authority on the subject matter. His theses statement, “College students are harder to reach than ever, and many leave the church upon reaching college, never to return,” made me want to venture further into the book. He also did a good job defining the purpose of the book as well. I think the book is an easy read because the chapters are short so that the reader is excited to dig even deeper into the content of the book.
The organization of the College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture allows the reader to follow the flow of the book. For example, Lutz breaks down the book in three parts as noted in the summary using the “tree” as a metaphor. Lutz also had an unusual task of breaking down each part of the book so that the reader could grasp, but he accomplished this when he grouped each chapter into subsections. For example, the first part (the roots) is broken down into elements that describe the foundation of ministry. He displays his ability to connect the reader and draw them into visioning the roots of a healthy tree and how strong and powerful its roots are. Then he skillfully moves the reader into the next part of the book (the trunk) which I thought transitioned well. As the tree needs a strong root system, it must also be given nutrients that will help the tree to thrive. Lutz takes the reader into the meat of the book by talking about evangelism, being disciples in the community, and how to reach people for Christ through our relationships. Not only did the author draw me into the heart of the message, but he also made me question my motives to make sure I have embraced Christ’s method and not my own. I think that Lutz’s ability to make the reader take inventory is one of the strengths of the book. The scriptures said in Proverbs 21: 2 that “every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart” (ESV). Therefore, Lutz’s book does a phenomenal job at making the reader take a more in-depth look within oneself.
In chapter seven, Going outside the Camp, Lutz describes what he calls the “m2, m3, and m4 groups.” From Lutz’s account, these groups of college students can be difficult to reach. He asks the right question when he said “how do we speak to a group that isn’t listening?” He did not leave the reader hanging and looking for the answer. Lutz said:
Rather than speaking our foreign language over and over, we have to speak in a language they understand. This is where our nonverbal witness and example become very important. When we join God in his redemptive purpose, we do things for the good of our school, our community, and our world.
I liked that Lutz gave solid examples in his personal life as well as experiences from working on the school campus to illustrate his points. He also backs up his argument with solid research from other authors such as Jeffrey Arnold’s book Small Group Outreach when he talked about problems with small groups. In Lutz’s research, he quoted Arnold when he said that “the cultural impact of small groups has been relatively weak.” However, although his argument makes sense and it does persuade me, I think Lutz should use a few more research examples to support his argument in this area.
The final part of Lutz’s book using the tree metaphor moves the reader into the “fruit on the tree” and teaches about unity and what the Bible teaches us about being united in the Body of Christ. There were a host of subsections that taught about what unity is, what the Bible says about unity, why we need unity and many of the obstacles to unity. After teaching us what unity is, Lutz topped it all off when he said, “To apply the gospel to our disunity will mean dealing with our heart motives.” It left me thinking and checking the intent of my heart. I enjoyed the fact that after he closes his thoughts on unity, he did not leave me hanging. He gave me the solution to becoming more unified in the mission of God. For example, Lutz gives the reader a list of ways that one can “contribute to the kingdom-driven mission on your campus.” Lutz ties in the remaining subsections when he spoke about how parachurches and church leaders can make a difference because they are part of the universal church. He makes his argument that the church should be the bridge between church and campus so that college students can form a stronger connection to their local church.
Finally, Lutz ends his book with the challenge to the readers to accept their “marching orders” for the mission of which God has called. I think this was a brilliant topic to end his book. In the last chapter of College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture Lutz did an amazing job of challenging Christians to seek God in prayer as well as challenging those people who have a passion for college campus ministry.
Conclusion Overall, College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture, by Stephen Lutz is worth reading. The construction of the book worked well with its organizational structure and the main points linked together in a meaningful way. The recommendations are to change the cover background, fonts, and font color to make the book more appealing and add more research examples to support his argument on page 107. Nevertheless, the author’s enthusiasm and excitement for the topic is apparent throughout the book. After reading the book, the reader had a clear view of how to get Christian college students to strengthen their relationship with God so that they do not walk away from their faith during their college years. Church leaders and parachurches also get a clear understanding of the challenges of campus ministry and how the mission on college campuses looks. Lutz accomplished his goal, and he offers readers some of the best insights for anyone interested in the college mission ministry. As evident by the many real-life experiences, Lutz’s brought life to the pages that left the reader wanting more. I would recommend this book because many of the principles taught can easily be applied to my ministry. Therefore, I would also acclaim this work as a credible research source.
BibliographyLutz, Stephen A. College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture. Kansas City: House Studio, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-83412-765-4.