The last few weeks I have been writing a little about some of the difficulties we typically face in trying to accomplish our mission. I wrote about why students don’t live on mission and why students don’t pray. Today I’ll share a few thoughts on why campus ministries are often unwilling to work together.
Pride and Self-Interest
I once heard humility defined as, “God’s revelation of our need for one another.” The Apostle Paul defined it similarly when he said, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3,4).” Humility means putting others above yourself.
In most college ministry situations, however, one ministry does not give thought to another ministry at all. They think only about themselves, their vision, their students, their events, etc. They are not “looking to the interests of other” ministries at all. Often I see ministries come to campus and “get to work” without first considering what others are doing to reach the same students.
We’ve become pretty good at reading these verses and only teaching how to apply them within our individual ministries. We teach students to be selfless toward one another, but never consider a broader meaning and application of this verse between churches and ministries when scripture is full of commands to do so. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I do not need you (I Corinthians 12:21)!” We need each other and need to honor one another above ourselves.
Nothing brings people together like a vision or task that is beyond their ability to accomplish alone. Suddenly a truth sets in: To accomplish that, we need one another. Often ministries are not in partnership with one another simply because their vision is too small. When ministries make it their aim to reach every student with the gospel, to become a missions-sending school, and to see Biblical revival on their campus, it becomes necessary to work together.
Ultimately there are small and large goals. At the most simple and critical level, campus ministries aim to make disciples. Thus, we’re all aiming to build relationships with a small group of students who will take what they have learned and experienced and then “entrust it to reliable men who will also be able to teach others (II Timothy 2:2).” Like Jesus, at the finest level, we’re aiming to make disiples who make disciples.
But this micro-vision of disciple making is just a part of a macro-vision to see our campuses, cities, and nations transformed by the gospel – to make disciples of the nations. What, after all, is a disciple if it is not one who can live and share the gospel in his or her dorm, department, club, or community of friends?
What if ministries made it their aim to see their whole campus as one mission field and made it their aim to disciple the whole campus, resulting in missionaries being sent out to the marketplace in our cities and around the world? Now that’s a vision beyond the capabilities of any single church of campus ministry. If that is our vision, then we better start building relationships with the other campus ministries because we suddenly need them desperately.
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.