Thought on Engaging the Campus…

I love campus ministry – the college campus is exciting…it’s full of ideas, thought and learning.  However it is also, unfortunately, a place where students can hide behind the guise of learning in order to try to escape and delay entry into the “real world.”  There is a fantastic book I love…it has to be up there in my top 10 non-fiction books – called God on Campus by Trent Sheppard published by IVP.  The back of the book sums it up pretty well when it says that it “traces a remarkable legacy of spiritual awakening [on college campuses] that streches from the founding of the earliest colleges in the United States to a global movement of nonstop student prayer.”  Reading the rich history of God moving through college students on campus since the founding of colleges in the America (it began with Harvard in 1636…part of their original purpose statement in the college laws written in 1642 states “let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life.”) gets me excited about what God can and is doing in and through college students.  I read this book a while back…in fact I read it almost immediately after InterVarsity sent it to me, but I felt compelled to pick it up again today and have skimmed and read through the large majority of it again.  You see, I’m preparing to speak next week at large group for OU’s InterVarsity next week on the topic of engaging the campus and this book is chock full of stories of how students engaged the campus and changed the world (hmmm…that sounds a little familiar….IV’s vision statement anyone? 😉  It is an inspiring read!

On page 42 Sheppard writes, “One of the greatest myths and most disempowering concepts of our collegiate years is the faulty idea that real life starts later.  As if the daily decisions that deeply influence our friends, significantly shape our campuses and regularly recenter our lives have no actual bearing in the real world. Had the Holy Club [a gathering that started with 4 student at Oxford in 1729 that lead to not only the first rise of Methodism, but also influenced George Whitefield who in turn helped to bring about the Great Awakening] bought into that bogus belief, the world they would eventually transform might still be waiting for some humble and courageous souls to take the risk of actually doing something in the present, rather than forever waiting for the idyllic environment of the future.”

If that doesn’t smack of the potential of college students I don’t know what does!  The challenge is sometimes getting students to see that potential and see that they don’t have to wait until “their careers” to exert influence and exude passion.  Yale, 1909 – William Borden, heir to millions of dollars from his family’s business, had a passion for Christ and reaching his classmates.  He, along with a couple other students, began running prayer meetings and Bible studies with the goal of inviting every person on campus to join them.  By the time he graduated in 1909 one thousand of Yale’s thirteen hundred students were gathering weekly for prayer.  After graduation he set sail to be a missionary and died at the age of 25 in Egypt while studying Arabic – inside his Bible were the words: No reserves. No retreats. No regrets.  He had a passion to make Christ known and he engaged the campus with the gospel and prayer.

Oakland Community College, September 2011.  Thirteen students that are just getting to know me (some may have known me for minutes and some for a few weeks) took steps of faith to work an evangelistic table on campus where we interacted with hundreds of students over the question of whether or not the Bible was worth studying and invited them in to study the Bible with us.  Those kinds of things excite me as I walk on campus.  To see students willing to engage the campus with the good news of Jesus and students excited and passionate about it!!  William Borden started praying with one friend at Yale…the Holy Club at Oxford started with four students…five students at the Haystack Prayer Meeting (which launched the American foreign missions movement) at Williams College…  There is so much potential on college campuses and I am excited to be involved in campus ministry.  I’m believing God for students who are willing to commit to reaching the campus with the gospel and to take risks to do so not only where I serve at OCC, but at OU and at colleges across the nation and globe.  Indeed it is already happening, but I’m believing for more!

 

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Steady obedience….

An edited excerpt from the planting journal I keep…edited for length:

Today (Monday 9/12) I sat outside the F building at OCC for a while with our “Do you believe in God” board.   I went to campus a bit early to make sure I could get a parking spot somewhere near the building.  As I did some work on campus I had to give myself a bit of a pep talk.  I love planting but the fact is that standing at an information/proxe table for seven or so hours, multiple days in a row can be a little tiring…not just physically, but I begin to run a bit low on relational energy and my ability to engage well in conversation with students begins to wane…especially when it is done largely by yourself.  I have been grateful for Steven’s partnership and his willingness to take time to serve.  But as I sat in building F today getting some miscellaneous work done before setting up the table, knowing I was going to have to set it up by myself, I was a little tired and part of me was a little uncomfortable…I was going to be setting up the board without all the other IV banners and such…just the 4’x6′ board with “Do you believe in God?” spray painted across the top and a place for students to “vote” yes, no or unsure.  Having all the banners and tablecloth and all the other stuff for some reason makes it easier…maybe I think the board doesn’t speak as loud.  Whatever the reason I was feeling some discomfort today.   I thought to myself…well, what if I just don’t set it up…or what if I wait an hour until Steven can come too…then I wouldn’t be alone and I wouldn’t feel as odd, etc.  That’s when I told myself to shut up…ant do just do it…even when I feel some discomfort…so I prayed a bit and went to get the board.  It’s a bit of a chore, but I got the massively awkward (in size) board and bag of stickers from the parking lot, up some stairs and set it up against a pole outside of building F.

Building F is a building with a lot of classes in it, right across from a large parking lot.  From that parking lot students will either go directly across to F or over and down to D so right before and right after classes the entrance to F got pretty busy – or when classes had breaks and the smokers came out to smoke.  As I was carrying this board from the parking lot though, part of me was pretty self-conscious…especially as I set the board up.  There is a road that runs between the parking lot and the building so as people would drive by they would stare at me and at the board – even the OCC police officers would stare.  Admittedly I was self-conscious and a bit uncomfortable.  I had these thoughts and images of the outdoor preachers that would come to WSU (many of them preaching a message that was not Biblically accurate) and how people would ridicule them or how even I would be judgmental toward their judgmental and unloving message as I walked by.  As I stood there today at the beginning I thought of how much easier it would be to pack up that board and drive home – I would save myself from hearing dozens of “no,” “no thanks,” “not interested,” etc.  I wondered how many people driving or walking by instantly labeled me or thought I was a complete nut, or weird, or whatever thing you can think of.  I knew that there were people immediately judging me without coming up to engage with the question or me…and as I stood there the first thirty minutes without any super significant conversations I wondered if I was doing any good.  I had passed out a few flyers…a number of people interacted with our station, but nothing of super significance, to me anyway.  I wasn’t able to get the names of anyone who might be interested in joining InterVarsity or investigating Christianity…so I wondered if it was worth my time and worth my discomfort.

However as I stood there I constantly reminded myself every time the sun was out in full force (which it often was) – that even if I didn’t have any radical conversations…that my faithful obedience was what God asked of me.  That everything I do is for the glory of God…it is to exalt his great name.  We are in the business of helping in the mission of Jesus to rescue people from darkness into light…pulling people from death to life.  This isn’t about my discomfort…it is about my faithfulness in proclaiming the name of Jesus and to see students and faculty transformed by the good news of Jesus, to see the campus renewed, and to see students leaving the campus to go out into the world to do great things for the glory of the King.  Sure people might think I’m a little crazy or nutty for being out there…but that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  I ended up having some decent conversations…nothing earth shaking by what I could see, but some simple and significant conversations.  It wasn’t our largest “haul” of names, but it was formative for me as I took simple steps of obedience to what God has called me to even if I was a bit self-conscious and uncomfortable.

I can’t expect any of the students to do what I’m not willing to do myself…and if that is standing outside the road and parking lot with a big sign asking students if they believe in God then I have to do it as well – even if students don’t join me.  But I’m showing students that we are about engaging the campus with the news of Jesus.  As I hauled the table back to MIVO (my Explorer…short for MobileInterVarsityOffice) I had a student offer to carry the board for me (which I was appreciative of) – as I talked with him he mentioned that he is an atheist, but was really respectful and engaged in a brief, but good conversation with me.

Today might not have been campus shaking but it was a bit Teresa shaking as God challenged me in the places of my insecurity and doubt.  I have the greatest news that can be offered on that campus – the greatest “textbook” to be studied…the hope that no academic subject matter can offer and good news that has the power to change lives.  I read in Acts 4:20 after standing at the table for two and a half hours “for we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard!” – this coming from Peter after he and John were brought before the Sanhedrin for preaching about the salvation that is only found in Jesus.  It provoked me to write down the reflection question “what is it in my life that I have seen and heard about Jesus that motivates me to say ‘I can’t help but talk about it?’ If I can’t think of anything then I haven’t really internalized and grasped the implications of the gospel.”  We have an amazing gift to give the campus and I have the awesome privilege to be used by Jesus to bring the gospel to OCC.  It’s humbling and so exciting…even if I feel a bit self conscious standing by the road.

*My follow up to that journal entry:*

A girl came to small group Tuesday night…I had met her briefly at the table on Monday.  We talked for maybe a minute, but she came to small group and added us on facebook.  As I looked at her facebook wall I saw this post: “Thank God for InterVarsity 🙂 I finally feel connected at occ. Bible study was great, but now I just want more.” THEN another student we’ve connected with replied with “Aren’t the InterVarsity people awesome!!!” – I was super encouraged reading that and felt so blessed…I love my job!!!

On campus the first day of classes (9/1) - the question board behind the table was the one out by itself on Monday!

In the Dirt

I like to think of myself as a tough person…but today I went with a friend to go get her nose pierced and seriously…it does not look appealing.  From all accounts I have heard, it’s not that terribly painful, but still – to willingly let someone shove a needle through your nose?  I think I’ll pass.  I guess I could do it if its something that I really wanted, but it’s not…so I’ll pass!

Wednesday I was in East Lansing with all the other awesome InterVarsity staffworkers from around the state – we met to get info on our fall Compelling conference, to pray for it and to plan out the tracks a bit more as track staff teams.  I’m helping to staff the evangelawesome track…I have to say, I wasn’t the most excited about helping staff and teach a track about evangelism.  I have never viewed myself as much of an evangelist…in fact, I’d sometimes rather leave the “evangelism” to someone else, but as Christians we are all called to evangelism – not that we all have to be evangelists that proclaim Jesus in an open-air setting, but we are all called to evangelism.  We are all called to share Jesus with those around us – in various forms.  Looking over the things we are going to be teaching and doing in the evangelawesome track – I have to say I’m pretty excited about it now!  I may not be gifted certain styles of evangelism, but I see ways God has used me and ways where I have abilities.

While in East Lansing our regional evangelism coordinator – Jessica Fick – led us in a time of prayer.  Without going into a ton of detail, it was an awesome time with Jesus.  He gave me this picture of Him and I in my parent’s garden…not a nice pretty grassy flower garden, beautifully landscaped and all, but our vegetable garden.  Tall corn, massive zucchini plants, tomatoes…the works.  I sat down in the garden…on the dirt and saw Jesus walking toward me.  And He sat with me, in the dirt.  I didn’t want him too…he shouldn’t sit in the dirt, but he sat with me…in the dirt, just to be with me.  It was just a profound picture to me as I thought about Jesus sitting in the dirt with me.  He didn’t need me to engage in word vomit…spewing my thoughts and problems…he just sat with me.  Jesus wants to spend time with me…even when I’m just sitting in the dirt – in the middle of all my problems, my emotional rollercoaster, mental exhaustion, my lack of faithfulness…in the middle of all the dirt in my life, Jesus sits with me.  He’s not afraid to get dirty…he’s not afraid to help me even out the uneven rows in my life, he’s not afraid to rip out the weeds or prune back the bushes to create a defined boundary – he welcomes it.  He so desires to be involved in every aspect of our lives that he will sit in the dirt, love on us and take our hand as he leads us to where he wants us to go. Too often I think I’m not worth enough for God to sit with, that I have to get all my corn in a straight row and the weeds pulled before he will bother with me, but he wants to be a part of that process.  How awesome is that!?