The following is an excerpt from my book Campus Renewal – A Practical Plan to Unite Campus Ministries in Prayer and Evangelism.
The Importance of United Events
We cannot grow in the Lord apart from developing our personal relationship with God by studying scripture and seeking Him through prayer. It is equally vital to our spiritual growth to be committed to a number of relationships in a local fellowship where we can worship, pray, and study the scripture together. While these are the primary means for developing our walk with Jesus, there is also a place for catalytic events. These events are less frequent than our personal time with God and our worship together in smaller communities, but they often have a greater impact, and they are used by God to move us closer to Him and closer to community. Most of us can point to some catalytic event that changed our lives. God would not ask us to gather for catalytic events if He did not recognize the life-changing power of such experiences.
Israel’s United Events
“Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the Lord empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you” (Deuteronomy 16:16–17). God asked the 12 tribes of Israel to unite three times a year. He knew that they could not possibly meet together all the time, that even once a month would be too much. Still, God thought it was important enough to meet together that He asked every tribe to travel from distant lands to a place that He chose so that they could worship together three times a year (and not without lugging some gifts along the way!).
I am not suggesting that the same is required for us (to have three united gatherings a year), but I am saying that it is God’s heart for His people to unite regularly. If He wanted Israel to sacrifice in such a dramatic way several times a year, certainly He would like us to do the same. The sacrifice we need to make to meet together is not comparable with the sacrifice they made in order to meet together three times a year.
The University of Texas’s United Events
We have Rez Week on the last week of March every year. We have All Campus Worship and the Campus Minister Luncheon the first Thursday of October that does not conflict with the Texas/OU football weekend (you plan the fall semester around football at Texas!). In addition, the ministries that are part of Renovate UT have a once a semester united celebration to share missional community stories while eating barbecue. Most ministries at UT have these dates written in their calendars as if they were their own events. It gives us enough needed time together, but not too much so as to take us away from the fruitful work we are doing as individual ministries.
Justin Christopher is the director of Campus Renewal Ministries at the University of Texas and author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the misssonal community movement at the University of Texas.