For the next few weeks I will write about the eight practices of missional communities, what Campus Renewal Ministries calls “Spark Groups.” These eight practices are described with greater detail in CRM’s Spark Course, which trains missional community leaders.
Presence In The Community
The fourth practice of missional communities is to be present in the community. You are most able to touch the lives of others by building authentic, trusting relationships with them. Meaningful relationships take time. Thus, they take presence.
In John 17 Jesus prays, “As you have sent me into the world, so I am sending them.” So you should ask yourself, “How was Jesus sent?” Make a short list of answers to that question. Look at what you have written, and that is how Jesus is sending you.
I come up with at least two that question. First, Jesus was sent out of The Holy Huddle (the Trinity), so you need to stop being involved in several campus ministries (the holy huddle) and make time to be among people who are not yet following Jesus. Secondly, Jesus was sent incarnationally, so you too need to go live, work, and play with those outside the Christian community. Go to parties. Host parties. Join study groups. Start an IM football team. Hang out at the places where the students in your people group hang out.
Reorienting Your Life Around Mission
My friend Raul, in his book Sparks, describes a time when he literally counted all of the hours he spent doing campus ministry. He was a small group leader, leading a mission trip, was involved in two campus ministries, went to his church on Sunday and his church’s campus ministry on Fridays, plus much more. He realized he was spending more than twenty hours a week within the Christian community on campus.
As God began to burden his heart for mission, he knew this needed to change. He remembered how he used to love to run track, but ministry had consumed so much of his time that he no longer made time to run. At the same time a friend named Kevin was beginning a missional community to the track team at the University of Texas. Raul reoriented his life to make room for mission.
He continued involvement in one campus ministry, but scaled back his leadership so that he could practice with Kevin and the track team. Soon he was spending nearly twenty hours a week with the team training, studying, socializing, and studying the Bible. His life was reoriented around the mission.
This is what it means to be present in a people group.
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.