I thought I had grown out of campus ministry, thought I looked too “adult” now to casually walk into a dorm building or sit down among a group of freshmen and instantly make six new friends. I began to buy into the lie that campus ministry is just a transition between college and “real life.” I spent this past summer in Mozambique training to be a missionary with Iris’ Harvest School of Missions, and what people-group does God speak to me about for two months? College students.
When I reluctantly returned to my Boston home, I found that I was not alone. What used to be the “college small group” at my church was now a handful of us alumni somewhat averse to joining the appropriately coined “grown-ups small group.” But, gravitating towards each other due to an insatiable desire to see a second Student-Volunteer Missions Movement out of Boston, the group of us have not parted ways, whether or not we are still considered students. And to me, this group is God’s unexpected answer to so many of my prayers through years of being in campus ministry.
Acts 2 Community
“ Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:46-47
Every campus small group I have ever led has begun with this passage and the goal to be a community like the one we see in early believers. As a leader, I desired to see the Holy Spirit poured out on my students, and believed it would only happen through a lifestyle like the early church. But how does one foster a community atmosphere like this? I never quite figured it out.
It seems like all of a sudden though, as in within the past weeks, God has supernaturally imprinted this lifestyle into our group. We share meals, pray and worship together, go out, sometimes planned sometimes unplanned, and share the joy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A few are unexpectedly without jobs, and we rejoice to support them as full-time ministers of the gospel on campuses.
People are being saved. Students are being set on fire to see evangelism, prayer, worship, and true community happen on their campus. Why now? Maybe it’s because we have stopped trying to make something happen. When the structure around us was supposed to dismantle, our common vision—a reckless pursuit of Jesus in our lives and community— held us together like glue. And the funny thing is, that man-made structure disappeared and was replaced with that supernatural something we all desired.
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:22-23
This word has eluded me, and I believe it has eluded the Church throughout the ages. Like its more definable counterpart, community trying to build unity affords little fruit. Many leaders have grown jaded even by the mention of the word “unity,” associating it with “compromise” and “pluralism”. When I worked for a particular campus ministry, attempts to gather with other ministries for prayer, worship, or outreach were always met with such spiritual and human opposition that it seemed rarely worth the effort.
I noticed something striking the last time our “student small group” worshipped together though: students came from many different fellowships, different campuses, and even different churches. The local church creates an environment that fosters cross-campus and cross-fellowship unity, but I did not expect to see various churches represented. As it was with community, we did not market the event as a “unity night” for different churches. No, actually, we were just doing our bi-weekly thing, gathering to pray and worship because we love Jesus. It was not marketed at all, but it seems that unity happens when a group of hungry people are all looking to be fed by one thing—Jesus.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6
“…zeal for your house consumes me” Psalm 69:9
What everyone in our group of alumni shares is this: the full recognition Jesus is the pearl of greatest price, worthy of selling everything for. Rather than PSets or papers, our lives are now consumed with hunger for righteousness, and zeal for the house Jesus is building in our city.