Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Reaching the University Context

I told a couple new friends in Ecuador that I would provide some thoughts on how to effectively advance the Gospel among university students. So this is for them and its for you.

First, lets talk about the need. Acts tells story after story of Paul's missionary journeys taking him to places where he sought to influence key influences in a city. God uses both the uneducated and simple for His glory (the disciples) and He uses those in positions of influence (Paul himself is a great example). So when we think about the university context, we know that there is significant strategic impact for why we should minister to students, professors, etc.

Thinking about OSU...what if student A is a nurse or a doctor and is reached for the gospel. She can then embody the gospel to the sick and hurting she is around daily! Student B is a businessman. If he is reached for the gospel, he can influence his entire business by running it based on integrity, love and discipleship. Student C is an international student from a developing country. Reaching her with Jesus could mean that she will be in the influential 5% in her home country, leading many others toward the gospel. Professor D is reached for the gospel and provides a classroom context that doesn't attempt to belittle faith, but is able to engage intelligently about the validity of the gospel. Jesus wants the universities for his fame.

So here are three important things to think about when ministering to university students.

1. It centers around community.
-Call it busyness. Call it the crisis of the broken home. Call it the curse of the "screen-agers". But culturally speaking, community that is deep, life-giving and authentic is hard to find these days. So university students are on a quest for community. In the U.S. that is why the Greek Life is so huge. Because you enter into life with brothers/sisters and do everything together...eat together...party together...serve together...etc. Unfortunately, this is as deep and authentic as many students' experiences of community will ever go. If you can't foster a place of community, love, fun, purpose, AND FOOD! you won't reach university students.

2. It catalyzes around a Cause.
-Many university students want to live out a story of purpose that is bigger than themselves. The key question that drives many of them isn't "Did I make enough money?" It is "Did I make a difference?" Because of this incessant need to outlive their lives, they are often open to a story that is bigger and grander than their own. This is where the gospel comes in. Serve the poor together. Love the city/neighborhood/dorms/community together. Show a better story and students will enter in. It used to be thought that we had to get them into church...educate them in the ways of Jesus...then when we deem them 'fit' we would send them out on mission. With this generation, the inverse is more true. We invite them to serve in Mission with us. They learn the ways of Jesus through that. Then they come to church to celebrate what God has done.

3. It multiplies through unleashing.
-A movement starts with the turning of one soul. If you relationally invest richly in others and lay a gospel foundation, then you can build up a generation of leaders and influencers. There is a good deal of passion in 20 somethings that just needs to be capitalized on, harnessed and unleashed for God's kingdom. Students respond well to genuine care and those who believe in what God can do in and through them. Let them lead. Let them dream. Let them succeed. Let them fail. But always let them do these things while you cheer and applaud. I love this model of training up new leaders:

I do/You watch. I do/You help. You do/I help. You do/I applaud.

The university context is one of the forefront battlefields for cultural influence. For years the Church has been losing on this battlefield because we are more concerned with opposing things and causes than we are concerned with investing in relationships with students, doing the things of Jesus together with students and sharing in authentic community with students.

They are basic tenets...but when done well, they change the world.

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