Student Leadership

Jacob’s probably leading a game of mafia in this picture…but it sure looks important.

This is Part 5 in a six-part series on [cf]’s emphases and distinctives. See Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4.

Theology: We believe that student leadership on campus is important because Jesus develops people by giving them actual responsibilities to serve, lead, and teach others. The student years are an excellent time to participate in advancing God’s kingdom now and develop those leadership skills for the future. Leadership provides students with the much-needed training to continue in Jesus’ mission to the world long after graduation. Many HRCF alumni (and more broadly, alumni of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) have already publicly expressed gratitude for the experiences and training they received while students.

Biblical basis: Jesus said, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…’ (Mt.28:19 – 20) When Jesus said this, he was telling his disciples to teach others what he taught them, as they called others to also become disciples of Jesus. We believe that this responsibility falls not simply on pastors or professional campus ministers, but on all Jesus’ disciples, including students (cf. 2 Cor.3:1 – 3; 1 Th.1:6 – 8; 1 Tim.4:12).

Practice: Learning to shepherd others is a great journey. We train student leaders to lead in all aspects of the life of the fellowship.

Student leaders, especially bible study leaders, are trained to appreciate the cultural, historical, literary, and theological background to the passages we cover and the principles we follow. In a small group Bible study, student leaders come prepared to guide other students if they get stuck in the passage.  The focus is on accurately grasping the biblical text and the overall biblical story, and then responding with actions appropriate to the passage.

We also train students to be evangelists: to know and to articulate the reasons for their belief, tell the story of their faith journey, and witness relationally and intellectually. We train students to acknowledge and articulate how faith informs their lives.

Students lead worship, and we work to train student worship team leaders who will remind others of the spiritual importance of worship, the cultural aspects of music and the attentiveness necessary to work with a variety of song and worship-leading styles.

We train exec team members to care for the whole fellowship and to develop student leaders within the fellowship. Exec members also are trained to develop and articulate the vision of CF, to be strategic, choose content, and develop relationships within and outside of the fellowship. Student leaders grow in skills and character qualities. They work to understand and articulate their faith. They become better listeners than they were before. They grow in empathy, compassion, and patience. In short, they become better leaders, thinkers, speakers, friends, and better disciples of Jesus. Just as when the twelve disciples helped Jesus feed the five thousand (Mt.14:17 – 21), their baskets are fuller than when they started.


Social Justice

This is Part 3 in a six-part series on hrcf’s emphases and distinctives. See Part 1 and Part 2.

Theology: Jesus is restoring us to God’s creation order, so we emphasize Christian restorative justice. We hope to honor the dignity God has given each person, since He made us all in His image. We also honor the creation order as the normative state of relations between persons.

Jesus’ vision for relationships is not necessarily reconcilable with socio-political interests, cultural trends, or short term self-interest, but we are called to pursue his standards above these other considerations. His vision testifies to the coherence of Scripture.

Biblical basis: Genesis 1 – 11 narrates how God’s concern for each human person is higher than any given social order.

Shane Claiborne speaking at a Veritas Forum that HRCF co-sponsored at Harvard in 2009

Shane Claiborne speaking at a Veritas Forum that HRCF co-sponsored at Harvard in 2009

And God in Christ Jesus, in his life, teaching, example, and atonement affirms the extraordinary worth and value of each person to himself (1 Jn.2:2; 2 Pet.2:1; 1 Tim.4:10; Ti.2:11; 1 Tim.2:3 – 4; 2 Pet.3:9; Ezk.18:23, 32 – 33). Regarding relationships, Jesus restores people to God’s creation order in marital relations and sexuality (Mt.19:3 – 12), in economic relations (Mt.19:13 – 30), and in relations of power (Mt.20).

Practice: We appreciatively critique other forms of social justice – meritocratic, distributive, libertarian – as being helpful but incomplete forms of justice. In particular, we critique the penal substitution atonement theology for elevating meritocratic or retributive justice to the highest justice within God.

We are also concerned about the conflation of nationalism and Christian faith that exists in the political right in the United States, and the pressure of individualistic, secular liberalism upon Christian faith from the political left.

We seek to tell a broader story. Hence, we consider the global church and the global context, not just the American church and American context. We value the witness of the global church wherever we see Christians attempting to live according to Christ-centered ethics. For example, we frequently mention the early church’s categorical stance against war and their radical ethic of giving, the medieval Catholic critique of slavery, usury, and the ‘free market’, the Anabaptist critique of the union of church and state, the contemporary Catholic social teaching about Christian ethics, the witness of the European church in human rights and the Black American church in civil rights, and the insights of evangelically-oriented liberation theologians.

We contribute a biblically Christian critique of the structural and institutional inequalities within various fields (e.g. health care, education, business, finance, law and policy, international relations, the modern prison system) as we perceive biases against the poor, weak, foreigner, enemy, and stranger.

Evangelism–and some atonement theory

One of our public interactive displays

One of our public interactive displays from last year when the Science Center Plaza was under construction.

This is part 2 in a six-part  series on HRCF’s emphases and distinctives. Part 1 is here.

Our understanding of Jesus’ work is ontological in its foundations, not merely juridical. We stress that Jesus came to cleanse evil out from human nature in his own person, and share with us his new, God-soaked humanity by his Spirit, so that we might also be cleansed.

We use public interactive displays on many different topics that invite people to reflect on whether human nature needs healing, whether God is good enough to do that, whether there is any other solution to the problem of evil, and whether anyone compares with Jesus in healing and transforming human nature.  This has led  to many long, thoughtful, and wonderful conversations over the past few years.

The atonement theology we emphasize is called ‘Physical Redemption’ or ‘Recapitulation’ (in the earliest, classical patristic writings and the Eastern Orthodox tradition (in C.S. Lewis and in the Reformed stream of Karl Barth and T.F. Torrance Catholics like J.R.R. Tolkien, Hans Urs von Balthazar, Thomas Weinandy, and Elenore Stump).

In HRCF, you will frequently hear said:

•      Jesus shared our diseased human nature so we could share his healed human nature.

•      God is solving the root problem of evil in the world at the deepest level—in each one of us—by calling everyone to Jesus.

•      God wants to undo and remedy all human evil (not just some) at its source in each person.

•      God’s wrath is aimed at the corruption in our nature—at human sin—not at not our personhood.

•      God will not be ‘satisfied’ until all the corruption in us has been burned away.

•     Hell is where the transforming love of God has become torment for those who refuse to be transformed.

•     God unequivocally loves every single person, not just some.

•     God loves you, and will always love you.

•     Hence, we invite everyone to receive Jesus’ new humanity, by his Spirit.

Biblical basis: In the person of Jesus, the Eternal Son of God took human nature to himself to cleanse it of the corruption of sin (‘flesh’, Jn.1:14) that dwells in each one of us (Rom.7:14 – 25). Within his own person, and throughout his life, Jesus realigned that human nature with the love of the Father, by the Spirit (Lk.2:52; Mt.3:13 – 4:11; Lk.4:1 – 13; Rom.3:21 – 26). Simultaneously, he poured out the wrath of God upon that corruption, ultimately defeating it on the cross (Rom.6:6; 8:3). In his resurrection, Jesus was raised to be a fresh, cleansed, healed, God-drenched, God-soaked human being (Jn.20; Rom.5:12 – 21; 1 Cor.15:45; Eph.1:15 – 2:10; Col.1:15 – 20). By his ascension and Pentecost, he shares the Spirit of his new humanity with anyone who believes in him (Jn.20:22; Rom.8:5 – 11). He actively and unreservedly wants every person to be saved from sin (1 Jn.2:2; 2 Pet.2:1; 1 Tim.2:3 – 4, 4:10; Ti.2:11; 2 Pet.3:9; Ezk.18:23, 32 – 33), for their healing and transformation which he will complete when he returns to renew the physical world. Hence, we say that the work of Christ is the person of Christ.

On Distinctives, Emphases, and Christian Unity

Over the last few years, HRCF has been discussing our “Emphases and Distinctives.” Now we’ve written them down to clarify and publicize a sense of what our theological tendencies are and what is important to us. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting about each of these distinctives.

HRCF’s Emphases and Distinctives: Evangelism, Social Justice, Multiethnic Ministry, Student Leadership, and Gender and Ministry

We call these our emphases not because not everyone in HRCF holds these views, or must; but because they are what tends to be taught. We call them our distinctives because our emphasis and perspective on these issues is a major part of our answer to the question, ‘How does HRCF differ from other Christian fellowships at Harvard?’

We believe that HRCF is doing and saying things that Jesus has entrusted to his church that no other fellowship at Harvard College is doing.

HRCF’s first existence at Harvard College can be found in 1936. When HRCF was founded, there were no other Evangelical Christian fellowships at Harvard. Since then, we have welcomed the ministries of other fellowships and organizations. We have even planted the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian-American Christian Fellowship in 1994 and the Harvard College Black Christian Fellowship in 2008.


In HRCF, we believe that we are already united with other Christians—in fellowships at Harvard and churches around the world—as the body of Christ by the Spirit of Christ. We do not believe that this spiritual reality is best reflected by a single organizational structure.

While you might expect an organization with a predominantly Protestant heritage to say this, please do us the honor of reading on.

Biblical basis: Unity is a spiritual reality in Christ (Eph. 2:11 – 22). We are already one body, called to live in peace with one another (Eph. 4:1 – 6). Jesus prayed for unity among believers for the sake of mission, defining unity by the standard of the relationship between the Father and himself (Jn. 17:20 – 26). Thus, in the New Testament, unity is not located in terms of who you call your human leader (1 Cor. 1), your physical proximity to other believers, or even a common gathering point, but by commitment to the apostles’ teaching, healthy relationships, reconciliation, and even financial sharing across the world (Acts 2:42 – 47; Phil. 4; 2 Cor.8 – 9). Jesus said that whoever is not against us is for us (Mk. 9:40, Lk. 9:50)—certainly an unusual statement to be preserved into the New Testament if organizational loyalty was a preeminent concern in the early church.

We heartily want you to know that HRCF brings content and activities to Harvard College that no one else does, even among all the Christian organizations on campus. HRCF is at Harvard to bring the whole gospel to the whole campus to transform the whole world, and we’re excited to continue doing ministry here.

If you have any questions or want to talk more, our leadership and staff love to talk about all these topics.