What Is a Study Center?
The phrase “Christian Study Center” (CSC) is generally identified with a building that serves as a space for individuals associated with a university—students, staff, or faculty— in pursuit of ways to “think Christianly.” For millennia Christianity has shaped the minds of Christians and given them a unique perspective on their place in the world; a Christian Study Center is a place for followers of Christ or others with questions about faith to explore and grow to understand this perspective.
Study Centers might host lectures, discussion groups, seminars, or film viewings; they might conduct Bible studies, offer a library, or simply be a place in which students can study and reflect together. Despite the variety of forms Study Centers take, the following three activities are the marks of most Christian Study Centers in America today:
Discipleship of the Student, Faculty Member and Administrator
Every human being has a view of reality, which controls what they do, think, say and even feel. These views vary widely. Christians are committed to the belief that the Christian faith best expresses the reality which is actually there in the universe God has created, and believers who work at Christian Study Centers work to help individuals be transformed by that truth in their individual lives, as well as in their corporate lives as members of society, the family, and the Church. A great deal is done at many CSCs on an individual level, helping people understand themselves and their place in God’s world and helping them solve the problems that arise in the daily world of the university. Christian Study Centers are places for the discovery of a Christian meta-narrative by which to make decisions, which lead to a well-ordered life in the fullness of God’s revelation. Members of the university community, especially students, often get only pieces of information from their university classes, but they are given few answers to the big picture questions, which provide purpose and meaning for the acquisition and integration of all this data. Helping individuals along the road to formulating a properly comprehensive, cohesive, and Christian understanding of the meaning of things is a major task of many Christian Study Centers.
Salt and Light in the University Community
A second purpose of Christian Study Centers is to be servants to the thought-life itself of the university. Christian Study Centers can and do stand alongside university departments in the providing of lectures and discussions that add to that body of knowledge the university is responsible to provide for our society. Many Centers regularly co-sponsor gatherings with friends in their respective universities’ humanities, hard sciences, engineering, and other undergraduate and graduate departments, as well as Law, Business, and Medical Schools. This demonstrates what the Biblical picture of the Christian being “salt and light” in the world should encompass. Response to the Christian faith in universities is sometimes initially combative, but CSCs seek to overcome that initial response by love. This counter response involves denial of any false charges that the Christian faith necessarily involves “fundamentalism”, “isolationism”, “outdated attitudes” and the like by demonstrating the CSC’s love for learning and willingness to work with any and all university personnel to achieve the common goals of education and other benefits to the society at large. More and more Christian Study Centers are being invited to participate fully in the life of the university and are having a more profound effect not only on its individuals but also on its structures and institutional character.
Servant and Unifier of the Church and the Parachurch
A third major impact of many Christian Study Centers is the way in which they can unite the parachurch and the Church, and both of these with the university. This takes a great deal of care, especially if the Center is attempting to be deeply involved in the secular university community as described above. Some parachurch organizations and some churches contribute, sadly, to the misconception, described above and widely held in the university community, that Christians are essentially anti-intellectual and unconcerned with knowledge and its pursuit. Nevertheless, Christian Study Centers seek to counter this misconception by friendly interaction with all in the university, while at the same time standing alongside their fellow Christians in the parachurch and the Church. CSCs often provide for both parachurch and Church increased resources of Christian education, ministry, and fellowship, as well as office space and meeting places for both. Churches and parachurch ministries, which have a healthy respect and love for the university and its practices, while acknowledging the unique additions the Christian faith has to bring to those practices, find a welcome home in the Christian Study Center.
The Consortium of Christian Study Centers exists to serve Centers, which affirm any or all these values.