Not a Christian Bubble

Some people, including students and faculty, describe the Christian University as a bubble. I’ve done it myself at times. I heard it again this morning from a visiting speaker in our chapel service, but the term needs serious reconsideration.

Let me explain … and be brief.

Christian Bubble1. The Christian campus is not isolated.

Beneath the bubble-language lies vague parallels with monasticism. “The Bible College, Christian College, or Christian University seeks to withdraw from society, train its students in isolation from society, before they return to society — wildly unprepared for the secular realities they’ll encounter.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Students on Christian campuses work in the community, commute from the community, and are connected constantly to the community through social media and electronics. There’s no withdrawal possible!

The safe and protected bubble is a myth from past generations.

2. The Kingdom of God is not the bubble; secular culture is.

Perhaps more important, from my perspective, is that bubble-language suggests a distorted view of the Kingdom of God.

Our minds immediately think of a small enclave, an outpost of spiritual focus tucked away from the “real world.”

In reality, Christian Universities do not form safe-zones in an otherwise dangerous world that dominates everything. On the contrary, they represent incursions of the Kingdom of God (which really dominates everything) into the bubble of a tiny secular society!

We’ve been thinking far too small. The bubble is not the University, but society. The Christian University is a glimpse of the greater (and far larger) reality.

3. The Christian University is a beachhead, not a retreat center.

This statement forms a corollary to the last. The Christian University exists, if it understands its purpose and mission correctly, as a beachhead.

Those who would disparage Christian education and Christian institutions accuse them of irrelevance, isolation, and fortressing. Unfortunately, that may be true in some instances. But so many Christian Universities I know provide powerful thought-leadership, civic engagement, and cultural encounter. They exist to participate in the transforming work of God to redeem culture, not hide from it.

I don’t often write about institutional themes like this. It struck me again this morning, however, that careless language diminishes us and minimizes the Kingdom of God. I’m guilty of it. And this post is part of my effort to repent of it.  🙂

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9 Responses to Not a Christian Bubble

  1. Barry Thygesen says:

    Good morning David, Very thought provoking. Has caused me to think a bit more as I have often thought similar. There was something that used to irk me somewhat was not the isolation but the people who the college accepted would come straight from high school yet were very vocal with little the community they were going to lead. Is there a need for colleges to explore this aspect? I was blessed when I went to college having two different pastors I was responsible to and they exposed me to a wide range of experiences with Churched and unchurched community. That was certainly no “Bubble”. Have a great year and I encourage you to keep teasing our minds, I appreciate your ministry to us.

    • David Timms says:

      Barry, thanks for the note. The issue of “readiness” for ministry-training is an important one. We’re seeing very few 22 year-olds heading straight into senior ministry positions, and that’s surely a good thing. I haven’t kept up on the trends in Australia. 🙂

  2. Dan Gonzaga says:

    I appreciate your reflections on this question. The themes that you brought up would be a good launching place for re-visioning the place of the Christian university. They would be helpful conversation kindling for parents who are considering a Christian university for their children. Thanks for putting it out!

  3. Graydon Jessup says:

    Good post David.


  4. Marica says:

    It is obvious to me the person that makes this statement has never attended a Christian university. I attended two in two different states, and I can empirically say that there is no bubble.

    Where can one go and find a place where there is no sin that taints the hallways and classrooms? I used to sit in chapel and weep because of what I experienced when I moved from the secular college I was attending to the Christian university. I received more disrespect and rudeness from the children of Christians, and staff, than I ever received at a secular university. The only thing I can liken it to is when I went to Israel and was spreading the Gospel in the streets. A Jewish woman ran up to me and yelled at me with a look of disgust, “We have God! God is ours!”

    There is a pride, arrogance, and blindness that I experienced that felt very much like heartlessness when I went to both Christian universities. It helped me to see what the Lord was battling with the children of Israel. It was the soil of believing “We are God’s chosen people” that the spirit of arrogance took root in. When the old sinful man has not been put to death through true conversion, the exclusivity of Christianity fills our hearts with pride. What sets us apart as God’s truly chosen people is the real, and genuine love of Christ in our hearts that we receive at conversion that loves everyone, not just the attractive, cool, comfortable, and acceptable people. No program, concert, church meeting, or degree can give us that. It takes going to the cross and dying to our agenda, our desire to be liked, accepted by the masses, and recognized, which is so important to this generation.

    I understood what Jesus said when he told us that many are called, but few are chosen. I was constantly reminding myself that I was dealing with fallen men that Jesus died on the cross to save, including me. No matter where we are, we always fall short. The expectation is that Christian organizations are different, but they are not because they are filled with sinful people that need an abiding relationship with Jesus.

    • David Timms says:

      Marica, you are quite correct that our fallenness and brokenness impacts every place we go. The hope for Christian community definitely depends on the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit within each (and all) of us.

  5. markskrause says:

    Well, don’t invite that person back again. 🙂
    All colleges and universities could be called “bubbles” in some senses. I think that Christian colleges are much less like this than they used to be, and less than “secular” colleges. I lived in a fraternity house for two years when I first went to university, and if you don’t think that is a bubble removed from the real world, you don’t know what a frat house is like at all.

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