I feel like blogs are supposed to be light and fluffy and 3 quick points on how to do something better. I don’t write that way. All I can share with you is my real life experience in college ministry and hope that it strikes a cord in your heart. So without further adieu:
Approximately six months ago, Tech 24-7, the college ministry that I have been leading for the last three years went through a really difficult trial. Doctrines were debated, names were called and friendships were broken. In less than a week, my ministry went from discipling 60 students each week to 4 students, if I was lucky. I lost a really close friend and partner in ministry and several students that had been close companions suddenly didn’t want to get within 10 feet of me. I lost my voice, my ability to speak into their lives. I also lost confidence in myself and in God’s plans.
I asked God a bazillion times if I could quit, but always the answer came back, “Remain faithful.” So I did what any person would do. I over analyzed the situation. I watched every episode of some inane TV show, I did a whole lot of “harmless” self medicating, and I didn’t talk to God. Picture a 3 year old throwing a temper tantrum or a teenager locking herself in her room playing loud music, and you get the equivalent of my last few months. I was faithful. I never missed a week of worship with my students. But, I was miserable, getting migraines every week due to the inconsistencies and stress in my life.
Splits and Divisions
Why am I telling you this? Unfortunately ministry splits and division are all too common in the church. 2 Timothy 3:1 (TMB) says, “Know also that there will be days where the extremities of people’s fallen mindsets will be very obvious; where the gulf between heavenly grace-thinking and earthly legalism-thinking will be most pronounced.” All around us there are 1001 hotbed issues that can draw us into a myriad of debates over some theology or doctrine. Debates like same-sex marriage, spiritual gifts, and abortion lurk in corners just waiting to pounce on people.
So what do we do as shepherds who are called to lead, guide, teach, and exhort our students? Great question. In 2 Timothy, I found some really significant things that would have been super helpful to know 6 months ago. So I thought I would share them with you, just in c=ase you find yourself in a similar situation.
Working Through the Mess
Reading in The Mirror Bible, 2 Timothy 2:14b says, “You don’t need to engage in a war of words to desperately try to defend doctrines and perceptions! Instead of proving profitable, these debates prove catastrophic to the faith of your students.” I am a defender of the truth and a fighter against injustice. This point is really difficult for me. It’s hard to sit, and shut up, and love and not have to be right. It’s hard to trust God and the Holy Spirit t=o do the correcting. But man, not taking Paul’s advice here is certainly catastrophic!
Continuing in verse 24, Paul says, “In your position as someone totally dedicated to the Lord, there is no virtue in winning the argument but losing the person. I would much rather have you exhibit a sensitive courtesy to all people; skillfully educate them and keep your cool under pressure. Your gentle way of instructing those who oppose you will inevitably lead them to see what God believes concerning them and give them the best possible chance to ac=knowledge the truth.
When the moment comes and someone wants to debate, all you really can do in the moment is back away, choose love and pray.
Loving vs Fighting
Maybe you all are more spiritually mature than I am and that information was a kindergarten refresher. You already know not to fight over unimportant things. Great. Even with your great wisdom, I would guess that there is going to come a moment in your ministry where you are going to feel like a failure and loose confidence in yourself and Gods plans. Listen again to Paul as he encourages Timothy in Ch 2:21, “Realize your individual value and stop discrediting yourself! You are indispensable for your Master’s use; He knows exactly what He has in you; be ready for any good work.”
Every time I start to tell God I was the wrong person for the job, He always reminds me of Mary. Unmarried, could’ve been stoned to death, probably brought a ton of shame on her family and town. But her response when the Angel told her she would birth the Messiah wasn’t to list all the things that discredited her, it was “Be it unto me, as you have spoken.” Sounds similar to what her Son said 33 years later in a garden, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Also remember Philippians 1:6, “I am confident of this, that He who began the work in you will be faithful to complete it.” It’s His responsibility, not ours.
Finally and briefly, I want to also say that “harmless” self medication is never harmless. You will reap what you sow. In the midst of what looks like failure, crisis, and death remember Satan is an accuser and liar. He will do anything he can to get you off course. Recite and Remember God’s character: He is faithful, loving, slow to anger, quick to love. He is the one who raises the dead. His promise is “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it will not bear much fruit.” (John 12:24) Fruit is what we want, and much fruit is even better. The road to fruit is Embracing the Cross, it’s the fastest way to the resurrection.
Jill Hurley is the Executive Director of Tech 24-7, a campus ministry at Texas Tech University which has invited students from all denominations and backgrounds to join together in the Campus House of Prayer (CHOP) and pray for our Texas Tech University. We also host a weekly gathering called Ekballo, which serves as a training ground to train students in how to practically do evangelism and discipleship as students. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Religion and Anthropology, and hopes to graduate in the next two years. Jill is single and taking applications for currently unfilled roles as husband and children. If you would like to apply for either, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. She is partially joking.