During his time as a doctoral student at Oxford University, Neil developed a model of ministry – moving from graduate students to undergraduate students within the college system – that has massive potential for growth and gospel impact. In a post-truth era, when persuasive arguments for and against every significant opinion are cheap and available online, students look increasingly to their peers and to their academic institutions as sources of legitimate insight. Opinion-forming moments take place increasingly behind faculty doors and in halls of residence.
Thoughtful and articulate Christian graduate students have an enormous opportunity to mentor, teach, and challenge undergraduates to seriously consider the claims of Christ – as table leaders in discussion clubs, as college helpers during university-wide evangelistic campaigns, as facilitators and encouragers in subject-specific support groups, and in a multiplicity of other ways. In 2021 B-Less will launch a scholarship scheme, liberating select graduate students into these roles across Oxford, supporting them in the background with training and fellowship.
Alongside the clear vision for the B-less ministry model that emerged during Neil’s time as a doctoral student, his experience in conversation with interested and disinterested sceptics over 7 years in Oxford has also yielded lessons for the communication of the gospel. Students today are not always persuaded by traditional apologetic approaches and alternative strategies that move more swiftly to the central gospel issues of sin and our need for a saviour often prove more effective as ways to elicit genuine interest.
Through his work at the Pastor’s Academy in London, Neil now has opportunities to share this perspective not only with students in Oxford but also with pastors on a national basis. Narratival approaches to the Old Testament striving to emulate the model provided by Jesus on the Emmaus Road highlight deficiencies in the organising narrative(s) of secularism. Exegesis of gospels and letters with a nuanced understanding of their original context heightens the sense of their immediate relevance to the hearer – what does this mean in my life?
Through detailed work at the coalface of University life embedded in the heart of the Oxford scene and an imaginative expansion into the larger world of pastoring and preparing pastors for ministry, B-Less effectively calls attention to the credibility and centrality of the gospel at the cutting edge of contemporary secularisation.