The following is an excerpt from my book Campus Renewal – A Practical Plan to Unite Campus Ministries in Prayer and Evangelism.
Being In The World
“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by your truth, your word is truth” (John 17:15–17).
Jesus did not want His disciples to separate from the world, but to be sanctified by truth in the midst of the world. He wants to transform our lives so that we are in the world, but not of the world.
Yet, so often believers have felt they needed to separate from the world in order to be sanctified. Well meaning parents and youth pastors scare incoming freshmen into thinking they will get sucked in by the temptations on college campuses. They warn them to find a fellowship so that they do not lose their faith.
Of course, they should find fellowship, but they should not, out of fear of the world, separate themselves from other communities on campus by isolating themselves in Christian communities. They need to find fellowships that will disciple them and equip them to be missionaries in their classes, clubs, and residences.
The Christian Bubble
My friend and fellow CRM staffer Raul Garcia tells the story of how he decided to add up all the hours he was spending in the campus ministries that he was a part of his junior year at UT. He was leading a small group, discipling some guys, heading up a missions trip, attending his church’s college worship service during the week and their worship service on Sunday, in addition to coming to CRM’s daily prayer and being on CRM’s Rez Week leadership team.
He calculated that he spent 20 or more hours a week doing “ministry stuff.” When he combined these commitments with his workload as a student, he realized he had no time for relationships with unbelievers. His busyness with ministry had also squeezed out what he loved to do recreationally: Run. As we began to call students to live on mission, he grew increasingly uncomfortable with these facts. He knew God was calling him to make time to build relationships within a specific community of unbelievers at UT.
That year, First Evangelical Free Church was launching its first missional communities. One was to the UT track team. Raul instantly connected with the leader of the group, and they partnered together to live and share the gospel with these elite athletes. Raul describes this as the year that changed his life.
Getting out of the Christian bubble and into the lives of lost athletes showed Raul a whole new dimension of God’s love and the depth of the gospel. He was not the only one changed, however. Several of the guys on the team began to follow Christ too. After graduating, Raul continues to reach out to athletes, as he is now a member of an elite running group in Austin, Texas.
Time To Grow Up
College is the time (if not earlier) to learn to be in the world, but not of it, as Jesus prayed. Imagine if hundreds of thousands of Christian students isolated themselves in Christian communities in college and never learned to integrate their faith into their disciplines of study and among their peers. You would end up with Christian adults in the marketplace and in neighborhoods who also isolate themselves, and our cities and nations would be without Christ.
The Christian community ends up looking more like a club for members only. Some would argue, that this is already happening in our country and around the world. What we need is thousands of Christ followers graduating every year, having learned to walk with Jesus and live on mission among their peers. The student who knows how to live on mission in the engineering school will live like a missionary in the marketplace after school. This is the hope for our cities and the nations — an answer to Jesus’s prayer.
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 Prayerand the misssonal community movement at the University of Texas.