I’ve been writing this semester on “killing competition” between campus ministries. If you have been in campus ministry very long, you know there is a subtle (or perhaps not so subtle) temptation to compare your ministry with another, even a tendency to compete with others.
Much of this competition takes place as ministries vie for involvement of the freshman class and older students as they choose which ministry to be a leader with. I am convinced much of the competition problem would be solved if ministries would focus their attention on the lost students instead of the Christian students.
To Win As Many As Possible
In first Corinthians 8-10, Paul is addressing the theological dividing issue of the day: eating meat sacrificed to idols. In Chapter 8 he says that “knowledge puffs up but love builds up” and so encourages the Corinthians to prioritize being loving over being right. In chapter 9, he gives an example of how he, personally, did just that.
He makes the argument that, as an apostle, he could have asked for money from the people he was serving. He gives two Old Testament references, a reason from logic, and a quote from Jesus to make his point. Basically he says, “I can prove this to you Biblically.”
However, if asking for money would in any way hinder the gospel going forward, Paul would gladly give it up for the sake of the lost. His biggest concern was advancing the gospel, so he was willing to put any convictions and personal opinions aside for the sake of the greater good of getting the gospel out.
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.
Bottom line: Paul was willing to set anything aside (besides the gospel message itself) in order to advance the gospel. His heart for the lost was so great that he could not bother himself with petty fights and differences in the Christian community.
I am convinced if we (campus ministries) would focus our eyes on the tens of thousands of lost students on our campuses and make them our primary aim of ministry, then we would not be far less prone to compete with each other. There are just so many of “them” out there, and the task is too important.
Focusing on the Harvest
A business man flew by plane into a farming community once a week for work. Each time, as the plan neared landing, he noticed all the crops and the boundary lines between them. Each property had its own shape and color and the demarkations were obvious to see.
After a few weeks off for vacation he was making another business trip to the farming community, but this time upon descent he no longer saw all of the property lines. He called the flight attendant over and asked her about what he was seeing. She said, “Oh, you must not be from around here. You see, it’s harvest time and the plants have grown up over the fence lines. That’s why you can no longer see them.”
This is why Campus Renewal Ministries aims to bring ministry leaders together to pray for God to do something bigger than any one ministry. When we shift our hopes to growing the Kingdom rather than our kingdoms, it becomes far easier to work together. The task, in fact, is so large that we simply must work together. There is not time for fences and arguments.
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.