It’s funny. You can’t make this up. I just opened my computer to write this article on the power of perseverance and presence, when Facebook kindly congratulated me on 21 years of work for Campus Renewal. It’s May 1st, and I started Campus Renewal upon my graduation in May of 1995.
This will be my final year serving with Campus Renewal. I have accepted a job as executive pastor of my local church, Midtown. The last few months have been full of rejoicing and grieving as I have reflected on the last 21 years of ministry at The University of Texas at Austin. It will take many years to thoroughly process all of my emotions and thoughts.
- I think about how we grew from a small group of 6 students praying daily in the Texas Student Union in 1991 to having a permanent Campus House of Prayer where 300 students are praying more than 100 hours a week.
- I think about how we grew from me leading one missional community (what we then called “Lighthouses of Prayer”) in my apartment complex in 1994 to having more than 160 active missional communities reaching all types of colleges, clubs, residences, and cultures.
- I think about how we grew from college pastors being unwilling to pray together (1996), to agreeing to pray together (1997), to developing a united vision statement (1999), to spiritually mapping our campus (2001), to fully developing the Campus Renewal model of ministry (2003), to our ministry model spreading to dozens of campuses around the nation.
As I reflect on these amazing stories and timelines, I am very humbled. When I think about any “keys to success”, I am ultimately convinced it is mostly about perseverance and presence.
Many people may have quit along the hard path of trying to convince students and pastors that we need to make time to pray and work together – that we can do more together than apart. I simply kept taking the next step and hoping for change.
The Power of Perseverance
“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” – Bill Gates
When I first started with Campus Renewal, I was a sincere, but immature prophetic voice. I tried to win every argument with those who were unwilling to work together. I bullied people into doing the first Rez Week, making them feel guilty if they did not care about unity. I was sure that we could see the campus changed tomorrow if everyone would just get on board with my vision.
I slowly was made aware that I had much to learn, much to repent of, and I had a lot of relationships to mend and build. This took time. I persevered through many difficult conversations, many of which are 15-20 years old yet I can vividly recall.
These were not just difficulties in the early years. These are difficulties to this day. Sure, we’ve created a lot of “buy-in” over the years, but ministry leaders change and new ministries and churches continue to come to UT year after year. It is a constant barrage of trying to convince leaders that God is pleased when we work together, and we can reach more students if we’re in prayer and relationship with one another.
Perseverance is so important. I’ve continued to cast vision and do the slow work of developing relationships and changing ministry mind-sets year after year after year. I’ve refused to be offended, believing the best in every person. I continue to love and serve every leader whether they are for me or against me.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
The Power of Presence
“Showing up is 80% of life.” – Woody Allen
I love this silly quote because I find it to be so true. God is in control. He is the one doing the work. In His sovereignty, He does the work through us. I need only show up.
When I first started with Campus Renewal, I was in a season of depression. I did not know for several years, though, until I went to a Christian counselor. I was depressed and struggling for many reasons. Campus ministry work was the least of my personal struggles, and I was in a pretty bad place. I saw a counselor for a year and a half, and even in the midst of my pain, I simply took the next step.
If there is anything I can honestly say about myself over these last 21 years, it is that I show up. I am present and ready to do or try the next thing whether I am in a time of encouragement or discouragement. I do the next thing.
Presence is so important. I’ve continued to take the next steps and engage in every joyful or difficult work or conversation. Just showing up makes a difference. Before long, you’re the one who knows everyone and makes every connection. Now, people contact me whenever they get to campus because I have been here longer than almost everyone. Presence matters. I honestly feel like showing up for the last 21 years has made all the difference.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. I Corinthians 15:58
For Those Who Follow
For those who continue in this work of Campus Renewal, I humbly suggest these two things:
Persevere: Keep loving people and trying to convince people, no matter their response. It takes time to build relationships and to help people see that they need one another.
Be Present: Keep showing up. Eventually you will see the reward. Take the next step no matter how difficult or positive your situation. People respect and respond to those who have been around the longest.
Justin Christopher is the Campus Director for Campus Renewal at The University of Texas at Austin and the 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 UT.