Back in 1997 campus ministers at the University of Texas met to talk about what it meant to work together to see the University of Texas transformed by the gospel.
We, Campus Renewal Ministries, had been asking them to consider praying together weekly but the college pastors were reluctant to do this because they had some negative experiences with united efforts in the past. When we met to discuss their concerns and consider our future, three specific questions were raised and addressed.
Over the next few weeks write about each of the questions raised 14 years ago. I believe they will be helpful, because they are the same questions being raised about campus ministry unity today.
I already addressed the questions: “Will we all look alike?” and “Will it all be about events?”
This week I will address the final question: “Is it unity for the sake of unity?”
Is this unity for unity’s sake?
The college pastors felt that unity, in and of itself, was a dead end goal. To some extent, they were right. Unity is a byproduct of having a common goal, not the goal itself.
Let’s look at an example from real college-life.
Uniting a team
If, for instance, Mack Brown (the head football coach of my beloved Longhorns) recognized that the locker room was divided, he would not try to bring the team together by forcing conversations between parties, by hosting social events for the team, or giving stirring pep talks on the need for unity.
Instead, he would continue to call the team to a common goal. He would speak about the goal and elevate the goal above individual parties or factions. He would subject the team tough practices where they would need to rely on one another just to make it though the drills.
All of that to say, focusing the team on the goal (winning) is what brings the team together.
Uniting around common vision
We agreed with the pastors that unity was not the goal. The goal is to reach every student at the University of Texas with the gospel and to see the campus transformed. We were just convinced that we needed to work together in order to see this goal accomplished.
This is not just a matter of semantics. The vision is what unites us. It has to be a vision bigger than any one of our individual ministries. We’re not just working together to feel good about working together or because we sense that we should. The whole reason we should Biblically is because when we do work together the gospel is advanced. This is why Jesus prayed that we would be united.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
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 missional community movement at the University of Texas.