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Anyone familiar with M28? (Campus Ministry)


turquoise

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My son has been getting involved with a Christian group at his college called M28. Does anyone have any experience with them? I think he goes mainly because he likes hanging out with the people there. It sounds like a few of the leaders have talked to him about being saved, and they keep asking him to go on various retreats.

I have no general problem with him joining a religious group, but would hate to see him caught up in something coercive.

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What I see on their website so far does not encourage me. A lot of talk about how the Bible is infallible, and the importance of discipling (i.e. converting) others.

An interesting quote from a section talking about how to share your story to convert others: "Cultivate awareness when meeting others. Listen for desperation, brokenness, heartache and despair." Sounds to me like "look for vulnerable people and pressure them."

They're offering to let him go on a spring break retreat for half price. I don't think he's convinced by their theology, but I really hope he doesn't go on that trip.

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I had a quick look at their website and it is difficult to tell if they are associated with what at other Universities is known as Christian Challenge, who is affiliated with another organization that organizes spring break conferences and mission trips--however, the M.O. of M28 looks very similar and therefore would have me worried.

When I was in Uni (in the U.S.) my roommate and closest friend became heavily involved with one of these organizations. She started off going every once in awhile and before long she was on all the retreats and then she went on a mission trip. She was reading Elizabeth Elliot books, throwing out clothes that were immodest, getting up early to pray and do bible study, coming home late after meetings with other women and started practising "dying to self" by doing all the dishes in our apartment. The mission trip was to a country that did not allow missionaries and the group explicitly lied calling it a "cultural exchange".

She started getting involved around the end of our first year, by our second year she was doing the above and by our third year she was pretty much never around and when she was she would constantly try to convert her former friends. She broke up with a wonderful boyfriend because he wasn't godly enough and essentially cut herself off from everyone who was not ready to become involved in the group.

In our final year of University she had a severe mental breakdown and spent an extensive amount of time in a psych ward. Her current boyfriend was in the organization with her and the people visiting her tried to convince her that her problems were because she wasn't christian enough. There was a mixture of high pressure for her to become more involved and shunning when she didn't/couldn't because she was in a pysche ward. She and her closest companion in the group were ear marked as the golden girls and were being recruited to stay on after graduation to help lead student groups.

Anyway, it too my friend years to recover. Years. Even now she struggles with some things and I know that many relationships around her were severely damaged because of her involvement with this group.

I'm sorry if this sounds alarmist. Part of going away to University is trying new things, taking risks and meeting new people. However, I do think Universities have organizations that are essentially cults masquerading as young adult Christian groups. I spent a bit of time after University trying to make the power that be at my University aware of this group's activities, but they are unfortunately still there and going strong. My friends close companion in the group still works for them as a bible study leader and every year I see a pile of fresh new faces on their website.

Maybe I'm being a little dramatic because of my experiences of watching my friend go through what was a terrible experience, but I'd be concerned if it were my child. I wouldn't think it appropriate to forbid my child to participate in this group, but I do think I'd want to have some serious chats about it.

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I am pretty sure they are affiliated with AoG and places like 2020Church Planting. I would be really, really worried if my daughter started mingling with such a group. They remind me of the Campus Crusade for Christ, and the ICOC with their love bombing (and subsequent removal from a lot of university campuses). But I may be a bad judge because I would be very worried if my kid was aligning herself with any sort of religious group, however, an evangelical 'campus mission' focussed on discipling would send up red flags in just about every shade possible.

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Thanks for the replies. I wasn't sure if I was overreacting by posting this. Like FairyPrincessK, I had a friend in college who got caught up in the extreme fundamentalist campus ministries. She started off with one of the mainstream denominational groups, then started moving to the more extreme groups. Eventually I lost touch with her. I've often wondered what happened to her, and hope she's okay.

My son and I have talked about this group in particular and religion in general. His dad and I are agnostic, and rarely go to church. We've discussed the differences between various denominations, and talked about what makes a group a cult, as opposed to a more normal church. I've told him about my friend. He's an adult, so I can't forbid him to go, but I really hope he doesn't. Right now, I don't think he's buying into their theology, but I can't help worrying a bit what can happen in a situation with isolation and extreme psychological pressure. Anyone can be vulnerable.

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Hi Turquoise--

This is such a difficult situation, I don't think you're over-reacting, but maybe it is just because I felt for many years, and still feel at times, that I lost one of my best friends to one of these organizations and her subsequent recovery. We are still friends, but not nearly as close as we once were.

I think what made my friend vulnerable is that she wanted to be part of a group. She did and still does show similar behaviour now--getting involved with large groups in ways that seem unusual. This was actually not the first organization she jumped into head first, the other was just a slightly more normal group. Since her recovery she has continued to join groups--i.e. addiction programmes when she had no addiction etc. Unfortunately the support of her real friends didn't seem to give her the acceptance and love she craved. In her case, she had a not particularly healthy relationship with her parents and I think some of it was aimed at either getting their attention or replacing it. It sounds like you have a good relationship with your son, so that alone will probably help.

I've thought about what I would do today--because it is such a tough situation. Not only can you not forbid him to go, but doing so would probably make the situation worse. It sounds like he really wants to experiment with getting to know different people and possibly religions--so in the main, if it were me, I'd try to support that and continue talking about it.

I think in this circumstance I'd try to avoid having the group pay his way. If you have the means, can you offer to foot the bill for a reasonable spring break activity of his choice? If he wants to go on the retreat, then its probably best that he doesn't feel like he "owes" it to the group that helped foot the bill. It might also make him think a bit more carefully about how he spends his time if he feels like he has an option--for example, he might choose a camping holiday or road trip with close friends if the means to do it isn't tied to this particular group. If he does decide to go on the retreat then he'll feel like you're supportive of his decisions, even if you have reservations about them.

I'd also make clear to him that if he feels uncomfortable or wants to leave for any reason that he can contact you for an exit plan. Be aware that some of these groups may encourage members to surrender cell phones etc. as a way to "bond". Try to insist that he keep it turned off in his luggage if that is the case, that way he has a discrete means of contacting you if necessary. My parents had a joint credit card for my brother and I that was for such situations--would that be a possibility? If he got stuck then he could use that to get to a bus station, airport or hotel if necessary. You wouldn't have to tie it to this particular trip--just tell him you want him to have it for emergencies when he travels.

It may also help to insist that he phones you on a regular basis while away. My parents had a policy of once every three days when my brother and I were travelling at that age (we did a lot of international travel on our own) and it could either be e-mail or phone. I found it tremendously annoying at times, but it may help to keep him from becoming fully immersed in the retreat--which is the intention of the group.

Do you think your son is feeling isolated or struggling a bit with the emotional side of University life? It is pretty common. It can be a difficult subject to broach but there are usually numerous resources on college campuses for these sorts of things.

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Thanks for the ideas. I agree that trying to forbid him from going would have the opposite effect (not that I want to do that anyway.) I will try to keep communication open. I don't think he's actually committed to going yet. He does have access to a credit card if he needs it.

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