The challenges raised to the Christian faith are at an all–time high. Today’s society view it as irrelevant in the midst of our ‘progressive’ movements and even if elements of it could be relevant, it’s still not able to stand the test of truth.
At university, these objections and challenges come to a head. Yet, we’re not called to shy away from accusations thrown the way of our faith but to ‘have a reason for the hope that we have’. Not only that, we have the opportunity to present the beauty of the gospel and its hope to a world that thought it had ‘outgrown God’.
For the past 10 years the Equip programme has run on Monday evenings after Queens CU. This has equipped generations of students with vital Biblical answers to real questions they face on campus, and taught them how to wrestle with the worldview issues that underpin them. And every week this programme offered those who do not yet know Jesus a rich, warm gospel of a God who is fully engaged with his world.
Equipping Christians is good. But it is not enough. It is vital that we learn how to engage with students who have completely different worldviews. We need to learn the skills of reasonable, courteous dialogue. And the best way to learn is by doing.
This is why we’re starting Engage. As students we want to engage our friends’ questions with quiet confidence, prepared to push into how Jesus offers a hope to them in whatever circumstance or situation they’re in. Through a cycle of learning, discussion and practical outworking, we want to see a generation of students confidently engaging with their university campus.
Engage builds on the Equip programme. We intend to take some of the big topics Equip dealt with, and then we’ll learn how to ‘downstream’ that learning into our conversations on our university courses, on sports team or with friends. To do this we’re going to trial a new format which will operate a three–week cycle: each chosen subject is tackled through teaching, discussion and practical mission.
But we mustn’t run ahead of ourselves. There is a foundational issue which must be thought about before we begin the Engage cycles. So in the first term we will open up the ‘Theology of Evangelism‘. Evangelism is so much more than inviting non–Christians to hear a Gospel talk. We need to think deeply about our responsibilities to understand non–Christians, listen to them, and dialogue with them. Only then will the vital message of Christ crucified not ricochet off but get under the skin.
Once we have laid the foundations of true, Biblical, evangelism, then in the final cycle of this first term we will take a specific topic as a case study.
In the opening week, we will unpack what it means for to be on mission as Image Bearers of the living God. Evangelism is a whole–life activity; it isn’t something that just happens at religious events. So we will examine the strategic importance of building real, abiding friendships with non–Christians, interacting with them in our studies, sport, and leisure pursuits.
Monday 14th October: Talk | Hub | 10pm
Monday 21st October: Discuss | Hub | 10pm
Week beginning 28th October: Engage | tbc
University campuses care about academic excellence. So it is important that Christianity is presented in a reasonable way. An infantile, formulaic presentation of Christianity will only decrease its plausibility in the eyes of most non–Christians on campus. So how do we learn to love the Lord our God with our minds? And how so we then show that the Christian worldview can better explain reality than opposing worldviews?
Monday 4th November: Talk | Hub | 10pm
Monday 11th November: Discuss | Hub | 10pm
Week beginning 18th November: Engage | tbc
In this three–week cycle, we will tackle our first big question of life – the question of suffering. How should we talk about suffering to our friends? What is the reasonable response that Christianity gives to suffering? Why are its answers superior to those suggested by other worldviews?
Monday 25th November: Talk | Hub | 10pm
Monday 2nd December: Discuss | Hub | 10pm
Week Beginning 9th December: Engage | tbc
We’re going to be running the first two weeks of each topics teaching and discussion on Monday evenings in The Hub and then the 3rd week of practical mission will happen in each CU on every campus across Belfast as they think best fits their context.