Apr 20, 2015


4 Collegiate Takeaways from the Gospel Coalition National Conference

Stephen Lutz shares four takeaways from the 2015 Gospel Coalition National Conference that should interest, affirm, and encourage collegiate leaders.

Last week, a few of us from the Collegiate Collective team had the privilege of hosting an ice cream social for people in collegiate ministry at The Gospel Coalition’s national conference in Orlando, FL. As you might expect, the conference was a powerful, head-spinning, heart-filling event. Leading voices like Tim Keller, John Piper, and D.A. Carson expounded on biblical texts pointing us to the New Heavens and New Earth—and that was just the first afternoon!

Our college ministry social also was a smashing success. We gathered about 65 collegiate leaders from around the country, and representing a massive number of different ministries. As a bonus, nearly all of them were hearing about the Collective for the first time—I hope some of you are now reading this because we met last week! Special guest J.D. Greear, pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, spoke powerfully at our gathering—thanks J.D.!

At any conference as densely packed as #TGC15, takeaways are numerous. But I’ve distilled it to four:

1) Theology Matters

The unifying theme of TGC15 was “Coming Home,” as each speaker pointed us to the hope of Christ’s return and what that means both now and forever. The speakers were rigorously theological and biblical, yet engaging and pastoral. The crowd was quite young (many under 30), which belied the notion that young people don’t care about theology. In fact, they do (as Thom Rainer also noted this past week). Many younger people have grown up in churches where theology and even the Bible was simply assumed, not explained. Or they’ve never heard it at all. We’re at a moment now where the younger generation is hungry for deep, robust theology that also makes a difference in us and in the world.

This should be an encouragement for collegiate leaders to continue engaging the deep truths of scripture with students. As Peter Krol recently noted here on the Collective, bible studies are the one college ministry method that should never change!

2) Race & Justice Matters

Race, mercy, and justice were prominent themes for TGC15. This was evident in the speaking lineup and in main stage panel discussions. These conversations were heartfelt and featured speakers who have disagreed with each other on issues like the protests and riots in Ferguson. The conversations helpfully reminded us of how important issues of race and justice continue to be, regardless of what the headlines happen to feel like covering on a given day. They modeled a gracious and humble form of dialogue, despite differences. This is an example college ministries need to follow.

College and university campuses continue to be some of the most diverse places in America. Collegiate leaders can play a pivotal role in bringing the Gospel to bear on these matters, with hope that our students will go forth and be change agents in communities around the world.

3) Unity Matters

If we’re going to see the Kingdom of God come in greater power on our college campuses, Christians of various tribes and streams need to work together. If we’re going to see greater impact, we need to break out of our ministry silos and partner together. We need to let our name and reputation decrease, in order for Jesus to increase. This is easier said than done. To break down those walls, we need to build trust, and trust needs face time. Thus the reason for our ice cream social.

I would love to see every major national conference feature time for people from various college ministry tribes to come together outside of our silos. We have far more in common than we have differences. Let’s celebrate that—and see that unity translate into more people knowing that Jesus is the Son of God (John 17:23).

You don’t have to wait for a national conference to embrace that unity. Find ways to partner with other churches and ministries in your campus community. And continue interacting with the Collegiate Collective as we seek to be a platform for interactions between leaders in various collegiate ministry streams.

4) College Ministry Matters

I was a little disheartened to see that there was nothing on the TGC program specifically for collegiate leaders, so I reached out to their staff. They enthusiastically allowed us the space and time to create our college ministry social. Hopefully we’ll see more events like this at TGC and other conferences in the future. There are many people in college ministry, so its not just good business, but good for the Kingdom to cater to them just a bit, to let them know you know they’re out there.

How about you? Did you attend or stream TGC15?

What were your takeaways?

about the author

Steve Lutz

Steve Lutz is the lead pastor of Wellspring Church in State College, PA Penn State University. He is also the author of two books, King of the Campus (2013) and College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture (2011). He frequently speaks and writes on college ministry-related issues, and consults with college ministries across the country.