From the Dean

A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.

Originally Published:
8th September 2005

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The University has always played an important role in our society. It has been the centre for disinterested research. It has been the educator of future leaders. It is therefore of interest to the society.

Since the 1950's the number of universities and of students has increased. More people are able to go to university. Young people have been encouraged to finish high school and start university. The university is no longer the “finishing school of the affluent”.

It is said that making universities more commercial has brought other changes. Some of the “disinterested” nature of research has been lost. Students pursue qualifications more than learning. Courses are more geared to the market place than education. The universities now seek to attract overseas students.

Universities gather a large number of young adults into one place at one time. In the past this gathering was residential. So many young adults living together created energy and excitement. It also often spawned social upheaval. New movements, new ideas and revolution have been bred and spread at universities.

From the 1960's the university experience changed. The number of students gathered together increased. But the commuter university replaced the residential university. The time to spend socially was reduced. The percentage of women rose. The conservative nature of the training for professional life increased. The radical students became more and more the nostalgia of the baby boomers and the dreams of a few extremists.

Throughout this time Christian witness on the Universities has been maintained and grown steadily. Many of today's journalists were trained in the radical end of the university newspapers. They failed to see what was happening at university. Occasionally they would comment in surprise that religion was so active on the campus. But throughout the last century the evangelical movement of Christian unions has been steadily making ground.

Over winter several thousand students went on weeklong Bible teaching conferences. The growth in their annual “National Training Event” has created real accommodation problems for the organisers. Some of the largest and strongest churches are based upon student ministries. The Bible and theological colleges are full of university graduates.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the first visit to Australia of Dr Howard Guinness. On that visit he founded the Evangelical Union at Sydney University. The Christian unions across Australia are celebrating their 75th anniversary the best way possible—they are running special evangelistic missions on each of the universities in Australia.

Next Saturday night in the State Theatre all the universities around Sydney are combining for a special evangelistic meeting. They are hoping to fill the theatre with their friends to hear the great message of Jesus. They have invited me to speak on this occasion and I would greatly appreciate your prayerful support. I am to speak on the end of Mark chapter 8 about who is Jesus, why he came and what he requires of us.

Pray that many non-Christian students will come. Pray that our Lord and Saviour will be faithfully proclaimed. Pray that the Spirit of our God will open the students' eyes to see, and hearts to obey, the gospel of Jesus.