Expanded Description, Rick Mattson Campus Work, 2020

Hi folks. Some have asked for more detail about my work on campus that goes beyond the usual brevity of my posts. Here it is:

The Mission: There’s an old saying that still rings true: “Change the University and you change the world.”

Colleges and universities are the thought-shapers of our culture. They are the upstream source of all that flows into the valley of our society. Any change made in the University affects everything downstream: our schools, government, marketplace, even churches.

A parable of how the system works: A PH.D. professor, herself a product of the University, stares at the ceiling of her office in about 1985. In the back of her mind the voices of Nietzsche, Freud, and Sartre still speak. In her academic context the writings of Derrida and Foucault seem to be framing a whole new way of viewing reality.

The common thread of these diverse sources? Loss of meaning, loss of a single fixed way of seeing the world. In short, loss of truth. There is no Truth, there is only experience and perspective.

Loss of truth is a double-edged sword. One side of the blade eliminates the professor’s own ideas of truth. But the other edge slices through the competition, especially that of the Bible with its rigid, oppressive categories of gender and sexuality.

A radical thought comes to the professor: If there are no “true,” fixed definitions of gender and sexuality, then a person could, theoretically, be man and woman at the same time. Or neither. You could “identify” as masculine or femine or neuter. And you could change your mind at any time and even deny that any of these identities have any meaning at all. Even little kids could (and should) choose their own gender and sexual preferences.

Over the next couple decades, the idea of gender fluidity migrates to the various sectors of the University, and by the mid-2000s hits American pop culture. Eventually it evolves into a doctrine of academia and is carried into local public schools by many (not all) university-educated teachers and administrators. They believe gender is a social construct, with no basis in objective reality as defined by God or any other power.

And even though there is no objective truth about gender, activist educators establish the rules regarding gender simply by designating their own views as representing justice, with contrary opinions dismissed as representing oppression.

Conclusion: Campus ministries such as InterVarsity (and FCA, Cru, Navigators, Chi Alpha, etc.) work at the very source of ideas in our culture. They work not only to evangelize, as important as that is, but to influence the influencers, shape the shapers, proclaim a biblical worldview in an increasingly resistant environment. Think Acts 17, where Paul delivered the gospel message to the pagan thinkers of Athens. That’s today’s university context.

Speaking to a hundred graduate students at Harvard on how to find God

My Job: Friends, I am one of the proclaimers.

In non-COVID-19 years, I have the great privilege of speaking to graduate students around the country – in Chicago, Ann Arbor, Cincinnati, Boston (see photo above), Atlanta, Houston, and of course at schools here in Minnesota. I give calls to faith and hands go up to receive Christ, though not every time. I walk in the footsteps of Paul and Peter in the NT, and Daniel in the OT. They are my heroes. They declared the truth of God in places of godlessness and idol worship. I wish to emulate them.

Evangelism coaching:  You may know that in addition to being a traveling evangelist/apologist, I also serve as an evangelism coach in InterVarsity.

Currently, I coach graduate students from six different campuses. Some are PH.D. students in the sciences or humanities, others are MBA or law students being trained for their professions.

Melissa at a school in Chicago is one of the PH.D. students. She is a quiet evangelist. She does Bible study with fellow graduate students who are not Christians. One just came to faith a few months ago, though the battle is not over. “T” has a new faith in Christ but has refrained from entering Christian fellowship. Honestly, evangelism is difficult at the graduate level. I’m proud of Melissa and her efforts. She and I and other students pray together, talk strategy, listen for the voice of God – then step out in faith, taking significant relational and professional risks in the process. Graduate students can actually forfeit their academic careers by standing for Christ.

Black Campus Ministry: Sharon and I are very concerned about the well-being of the black community in America.

The past few years we have volunteered our time and resources with a low-income African American family in the Twin Cities. That’s been great, but I want to do more. I want to help on a large-scale exponential way. That’s why I support Black Campus Ministry, a division of InterVarsity. BCM is reaching 4500 black college students who are meeting Jesus, earning academic degrees, and finding economic stability in the marketplace. I can’t think of a better way to support the black community. Thus, I transfer a small portion of every dollar I raise for my own budget over to BCM, for a total of $25k/year. Some might think this an extra burden of unwanted fundraising. But I think of it as both privilege and duty.

Thanks for your help: I serve as a missionary in the university world because . . .

. . . I feel called to influence the influencers, change the changers, speak the gospel into the very epicenter of secularism. Jesus is already there, doing his work. When you send me to campus, I’m simply following his lead. He is the chief evangelist, I’m the junior partner. Why he uses fragile human instruments like myself, I don’t know. But he does.

So I hope you’ll be generous in your giving. Sometimes I ask for a lot. But there’s a lot at stake: not my career or survival or happiness (though I’m not against those!), but the salvation of students and faculty, and, through the work of all campus ministries: the entire direction of western society.

You can give to organizations that counter the negative effects of secularism, such as Christian schools. Awesome! Sharon and I do that. But I’m asking you to also give to the gospel mission that counters the source of secular ideas, through your support of me and my fellow campus missionaries. Remember: “Change the University and you change the world.” Let’s change the world together.

Donate here: https://donate.intervarsity.org/donate#198

Cell: 651.295.5814

email: rick.mattson@intervarsity.org

blog: rickmattsonoutreach.com


Rick Mattson ministry shorter summary version