Observations on RUF at a southern campus...
(Nathan Miklovic, a member of Christ the Word PCA, attends the University of Alabama where he is active in leadership of the campus Reformed University Fellowship--the campus ministry of the Presbyterian Church in America. Nathan will begin his junior year as an accounting major this fall.)
For the past two years, I have been involved in RUF on Alabama’s campus. There are several solid ministries on Alabama’s campus with Reformed leadership including Navigators and Campus Crusade (or “Cru,” if you prefer). Over the years I have observed the work of all three of these ministries, being good friends with leaders and participants in each. I have found that RUF has definite strengths as well as several troubling weaknesses:
Strengths of RUF (especially at Alabama):
- I greatly commend Ryan Moore, our campus minister, for paying for Covenant Eyes for the guys in RUF and for preaching against sexual sin in sermons that were uncomfortable to sit through but vitally necessary (especially on a college campus). Ryan also fights drunkenness among RUF students--a prevalent sin on our campus.
- As an ordained minister, Ryan answers to a church’s session. Thus RUF leadership is directly accountable to the discipline of a church, unlike other ministries whose leaders could potentially teach heresies completely unchecked. Fortunately, at Alabama both Navs and Crusade are blessed to have reformed leaders but this is certainly not the case elsewhere in the United States.
- The worship music is what initially drew me to RUF over other campus ministries; most of the other campus ministries have very “contemporary” worship (i.e. wishy-washy and effeminate). At RUF, we love (perhaps even too much) our hymnody which has decidedly more meaningful lyrics than the average contemporary worship tune, not to mention a more scriptural foundation.
Weaknesses of RUF:
- Trinity PCA, my Tuscaloosa church home, hosts dozens of mission groups which come to help with tornado relief (a huge tornado tore through Tuscaloosa last May). The mission groups come from churches around the south, as well as from campus ministries at various southern schools. One assistant pastor at Trinity noticed a contrast between the RUF’s and the other campus ministries that Trinity hosts. His observation, which I wholeheartedly agree with, is that a “subculture of license” seems to accompany RUF. This especially manifests itself in the topics of conversation and language used. Students in RUF do not give a second thought to using crude language and crude jokes. I have seen this firsthand at Alabama’s campus, but in talking to my pastor and others it seems to be a problem ubiquitous in RUF. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in The Cost of Discipleship, discusses the necessity of simple single-minded obedience: “We are excusing ourselves from single-minded obedience to the word of Jesus on the pretext of legalism and a supposed preference for obedience ‘in faith.’” Even though Paul commands that “there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:4), we in RUF suppose that it’s acceptable to swear as long as we “don’t cause anybody to stumble.” After all, we have the “freedom in Christ” to make crude jokes. We say it is legalism to demand the elimination of impure language from our vocabulary, but all along we are simply trying to avoid the obligation of literal obedience.
- Another observation is that RUF kids don’t know their Bibles as well as they should. The Navigators demands a deeper knowledge of scripture than RUF. Most of my Navigator friends spend time in intense scripture studies and dedicate serious effort to scripture memorization in ways that RUF students don’t. One would expect the only specifically reformed ministry on campus (i.e. RUF) to take the lead in this area, but the non-denominational Navigators have showed us up.
I love RUF at Alabama. I think we have one of the best RUF ministers around and I hope to see us grow in holiness in coming years.