It doesn’t matter how many times it happens, I always flinch: Someone says “para-church” and “TSCF” in the same sentence, and their innocent remark sets off an internal hashing-through of the relationship between the two. It’s a petty bugbear, but the end of that train of thought is a worthwhile destination – not because the definition of TSCF is important, but because the definition of the Church is. The rest of this Canvas takes a shot at defining it, and explaining what its purpose means practically for those of us who call ourselves Christians.
TSCF exists for the Church and only operates thanks to local churches. It’s really an inter-church organisation. Many Christian leaders over the past eight decades have credited their brief time of involvement in student ministry for significant spiritual formation, and TSCF is fuelled by the hours, prayers and donations released by congregations here and overseas.
God created the Church for many good reasons, and the diary of its infancy in the book of Acts records them in beautiful detail. We see how, through the Spirit, the care and sacrifice of its members and the knowledge, perseverance and wisdom of its teachers turned a group of outcast Jews into a bold and attractive community. It grew, against all odds, so that we might know God fully and care for each other the way that he does.
During those transient uni years, students leave their native communities and form other communities, for better or for worse. Student groups are among the “better” – engine rooms for biblical teaching, sacrificial care and evangelism on campus. And none of this thrives apart from local churches. TSCF exists to fuel churches as a source of unity and knowledge, an equipper of leaders and a signpost to the lost.
This Church is made up of our imperfect local churches, just as imperfect as we are. So we need constant reminding that Christ’s bride didn’t win the honour like a successful contestant on The Bachelor; she was gifted that position because infinite love chose her. He loves her, so we must love her too.
Maryanne Wardlaw is TSCF’s Communications Manager