I’ll never forget the day a sorrowful college pastor asked for prayer at one of our gatherings. He described how he had just come from his church’s staff meeting where they directly asked him, “Why isn’t our college group as big as theirs? You need to start doing what they’re doing!”
Their staff and elders did not know that he had been praying weekly with the pastor of the church they were comparing him to. Unlike his staff and elders, he was thrilled to see the “rival church” growing. He was content with the mantle of influence God had given him in his church. At least he was trying to be.
How do we learn to “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn” like Paul tells us to do in first Corinthians 12 when describing how the various parts of the body of Christ relate to one another? Paul gives is a few ideas earlier in the book.
“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Cor 3:5-9
Know Who You Are
Who is Paul? Who is Apollos? Who is Cru? Who is Austin Stone? Who is StuMo?
“Only servants.” They are only servants of one Master with specific tasks assigned to each of them. They have different tasks but “one purpose.” They are “co-workers in God’s service.”
We need to see ourselves and our ministries as mere servants. This should be our goal: To be faithful to the task God has given us and be content with the fruit that it bears.
Know Who God Is
“Only God.” God is the only one who can make things grow. The ones who water and plant are not “anything.” God is everything, and only He can produce spiritual birth and spiritual growth.
He is the the Lord who assigns each person and each campus ministry a specific role and task. Since He gives the assignments it is also He who will reward us according to our specific work.
We need to believe that all spiritual fruit comes from God. If your ministry or another ministry is bearing fruit. God is behind it all. We should never feel bad if our ministry isn’t growing and another ministry is. Nor should we feel prideful if our ministry is growing and another ministry is not.
Know Whose They Are
“God’s Field. God’s Building.”
Who do the students in your church belong to? Not to you. Not to InterVarsity. Not to Epic. Not to One Chapel. They belong to God. When a student switches from one church to another, it is helpful to remind ourselves of this truth. They were never “our” students to begin with.
Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Network and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.