I was in Bible Study with some of my friends from Agape Christian Fellowship, and we were going through the book of Jonah. When we think of Jonah, we think of a big fish and a raging storm. We think of a man who at first ran in the opposite direction of his calling then repented. We think of disobedience and obedience. We think of God’s compassion and so many other things.
But what about that leafy plant in Chapter 4 of Jonah? The plant that grew and gave Jonah shade but then got eaten up by the worm that God later sent? As I sat there in Bible Study I was reminded of how much this fellowship has grown in the past few years, how Agape Christian Fellowship —or ACF for short— rode a roller coaster ride on many different levels and is now growing in new and beautiful ways.
The leafy plant in Jonah strikes me as an enigma. Whenever I read Jonah, the one part I can never really fully grasp is this plant. Sure, it’s like Nineveh, but it’s also like Jonah. Jonah cares for it but never tends to it. It grows and fades in a short matter of time.
So goes ministry and so goes the ebb and flow of life on our campuses. We see fruit spring up, and then it fades away. We see hopelessness, then hope wells up like a spring.
Freshman year I joined ACF and at first it was a fairly stable and well off community. I was meeting new people and getting connected with brothers and sisters in Christ, but over the course of a year our fellowship of about 20 people nearly vanished and thinned out to no more than five of us due to various personal and unforeseen circumstances. It was bizarre to me. I saw a campus fellowship with a history of solid community suddenly shrink before my eyes. It was an odd feeling to have more people on the worship team than there are in the congregation, something I had never before experienced.
It was during this season of ACF that I decided to join the leadership team. Our leadership team consisted of three people, including myself, where as the team was originally supposed to consist of six. Taking on the responsibilities of six people, the three of us did our best to lead the fellowship. There were some really great moments and many difficult times as well, but for the entire year we struggled week to week just to pull off the next large group meeting, just to make ends meet trying to keep the fellowship alive.
Sure, we were alive, but just barely.
After being on life support for so long, ACF breathed a new breath of life. The Fall of 2014 ushered in the Class of 2018, bright and fresh hearts who became not only ACF’s breath of revival, but William & Mary’s as well. After what seemed like an eternity, people started coming out to ACF’s gatherings. We met together, we shared our stories with each other, we grew together, and we started building family together. Slowly, but so very surely, God was bringing like-minded people together to serve and live as a Gospel-centered community with the focus of sharing God’s love here in Williamsburg, Virginia. We grew not only in number, but in spirit, letting God lead us.
When it was time again for selecting the next leaderships, we grew to a seven-person team — a team that is still serving today and breaking ground for the Lord’s work in our fellowship, a team that I am humbled and thankful to God for the privilege to serve alongside! Again, this Fall we have even more students entering our family, further building ACF in new and exciting ways.
The Point of Pruning
The processes of pruning and growing weren’t so clear. There were a lot of mistakes made along the way, so many miscommunications and mishaps. There was so much grace poured out on us though, as we struggled to find where God was leading us. Even for the things we didn’t know we needed grace for, God still gave it, much like the compassion He showed to the Ninevites, and much like the leafy plant He provided for Jonah.
The point of these seasons wasn’t for the numbers. None of this was to grow a ministry deemed successful by the number of attendees. No, the mission was to remain faithful, regardless our circumstances. The mission was to grow together as family, and to seek the Lord together for His mission on our campus and in our lives, that He may be glorified in all that we do. We learned to persevere through the toughest times and at the end of the day still hear Him say, “I love you, my child.”
Through the seasons of pruning, we have learned to grow, and I have witnessed God’s faithfulness in bringing new and fresh life into a sick and fading fellowship. He is not done! Let us hold fast to God’s promise in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
When no one else will stand alongside us, will we still hold on to His promises? Will we still trust Him? We must! Our mission is to persevere where we are, and as Paul writes in Philippians, to trust “that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” This work that has been started on our colleges and universities is not yet finished! He will see it through to the end, in every season we happen to face.
Jeremy is a senior at the College of William & Mary. He is passionate about music, food, and people, and he is committed to seeing Jesus made famous on the college campus.