Tag Archives: Acts of the Apostles

Campus Ministry Part 7 – Redefinition of Success

The sixth principle is a redefinition of success.  Far too often numbers become the standard by which we determine a successful ministry.  This is not say that numbers are not important because the Bible tells us differently.  If numbers were unimportant, then the Bible would not have mentioned the number of people converted at Pentecost. According to Acts, after Peter preached, “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”[1] If numbers were unimportant, the scriptures would not make a special point of telling them to us.  However, numbers cannot be the sole determiner of what is a successful ministry.  Many churches are full of people but how many of them are truly committed to the cause of Christ and His Gospel.  We all need to be reminded that large numbers in a ministry does not mean that a ministry is doing what it should be doing.  If the deeper life of discipleship is our goal, then we must find a different way for determining whether we have been faithful to our call to call others to discipleship.

Let me suggest another way for us to determine success.  In his book The Next Christians, Gabe Lyons indicates via N.T Wright something of the nature of the church that should help us see more clearly what a successful ministry should look like. Wright states when speaking of the church,

“It’s a place of welcome and laughter, of healing and hope, of friends and family and justice and new life.  It’s where the homeless drop in for a bowl of soup and the elderly stop by for a chat.  It’s where one group is working to help drug addicts and another is campaigning for global justice.  It’s where you’ll find people learning to pray, coming to faith, struggling with temptations, finding new purpose, and getting in touch with a new power to carry that purpose out.  It’s where people bring their own small faith and discover; in getting together with others to worship the one true God, that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.”[2]

Nowhere does Wright suggest that a large number of people need to be assembled together for this to occur.  The question for us to answer is not one that asks if we have a hundred or a thousand people showing up.  The questions for us to ask is does our ministry in our particular context look like this.  Working with college students is a bit different than working with an entire congregation so some of these elements are not going to come into play here.  However the principles at work are true in both places.  Do our ministries reflect these elements?  If not, we need to take a hard look at what we do and why we do it.  If we are in it for the numbers then we have made a serious miscalculation about what success means.  If we are in ministry to see lives changed we will be less focused on the size of our gatherings and more interested in whether are gatherings promote welcome, healing, hope, etc.  If we have three hundred people, that’s fine.  Let us celebrate those three hundred people that God has faithfully provided for us. If we have thirty people then terrific.  Let us celebrate those thirty people that God has provided for us with as much vigor and excitement as we celebrate the three hundred.

This is how redefining success might look on your campus.  Campus ministries can be a bit competitive and often have overlap among students.  Instead of feeding into the competition for large numbers of students, campus ministries should find ways to increase partnership between their ministries to more effectively reach out to the larger campus population.  Campus ministers should work to provide events and gatherings that promote authentic community, hope, healing, and redemption.  Our events should look much like Wrights description of the church.  If lives are being changed at these events then success has been had.  Many times gathering are planned to attract large numbers, but offer little in the way of anything meaningful or discipleship oriented.  If a lot of people are gathered in a big room, it doesn’t mean that transformation or disciple making has occurred.  Numbers look good to those who are measuring, but I am increasingly convinced that most people are measuring with the wrong stick.  Therefore, it is important for us to being using the correct stick.  To measure our success based on the depth of faith of those we do have instead of sulking when our numbers don’t match those of other ministries or ministry organizations.


[1] Acts 2:41 NIV 2010

[2] Gabe Lyons The Next Christians Page 162

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Campus Ministry Part 2 – Prayer

The first principle is prayer.  Paul states in Colossians 4:2, Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Prayer was an essential part of Paul’s ministry as we see in book of Acts, and in the letters he authored, we see his commitment to be in prayer for others.  Here are just a few examples of his commitment to prayer:

  Acts 20:36 NIV

“When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed.”

 

  Philippians 1:4 NIV

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy”

 

  Colossians 4:4 NIV

Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.

 

In all sorts of different situations and circumstances Paul found it important to be in prayer with

 

and for others.  In fact he reminds us in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica that we should “pray continually”[1]. As a missionary, Paul understood the value and importance of prayer.  To be a minister on a college campus is a great deal like being a missionary.  A missionary generally goes into a foreign culture to share the Gospel.  In many ways that is what happens in campus ministry.  The university setting is unique in and of itself and each university has its own unique individualized culture.    A campus minister must learn the culture of the campus as any missionary in the mission field would and figure out how best to share the Gospel with those people who are native to that environment.  College ministry is truly a missional endeavor.  The great missionary Paul was committed to prayer and we need to follow in his example of prayer if those of us who work with students are going to have success in disciple making.

If we believe that prayer makes a difference, that it changes things, then Paul’s words to the Thessalonians should be adhered to without abandon.  Martin Luther King Jr. also  reminds us of how we should think about prayer when he said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”[2] We should pray as often as we can for campuses, students, faculty, staff, and other ministers as if it is as important to us our next breath.  We must pray for the Christian to hold fast to their faith in an arena were temptation is never far away.  Prayers should be said for the non-Christian to find the good news of Jesus Christ.  It should be prayed for that faculty and staff would make decisions that will help affect students in positive ways.  Campus Ministers should pray for one another out of a spirit of cooperation and unity.  After all, it is more important that disciples are made, not that one program or organization has more students than another.  The prayer request list could go on and on, but I think the point is made.  Prayer is essential to campus transformation.  It should always be our first movement in any circumstance.

This is how a commitment to prayer might work itself out on a campus.  On any given campus there is typically a number of campus ministries at work. Organize a weekly prayer meeting between campus ministers.  Be in prayer for all of the things listed above, but because we are specifically addressing discipleship, agree to spend significant time praying for clarity about how God wants to make disciples on that campus.  Pray that God would raise up disciples who would be willing to disciple others.  Pray for discernment about how principles of discipleship might work themselves out on that particular campus.  A meeting like this serves to help show students that as ministers we are much more interested in being united in sharing the Gospel than we are in being separated by organizational lines or theological differences.  It also demonstrates our commitment to prayer as an effective and useful tool in personal and communal transformation. I recognize that not every campus is going to have multiple ministries.  This is where context comes into play.  In a case like this, perhaps you can find other churches or ministers in your community who may not be on the frontlines of campus ministry, but who never the less have a concern for college students and would be willing to partner with you in prayer for them.


[1] 1 Thessalonians 5:17 NIV 2010

[2] Martin Luther King. (n.d.). Great-Quotes.com. Retrieved December 20, 2010, from Great-Quotes.com Web site:
http://www.great-quotes.com/quote/898909


The Conversion of Saul

Conversion of Paul sketch

Image by bobosh_t via Flickr

I have been reading through Acts over the last couple of weeks and was recently reading about the conversion of Saul in Acts chapter 9.  If you want to check out the story scroll to the bottom of this post.

The story of Saul’s conversion got me to thinking about how the churches I have been apart of in the past talk about conversion.  We used phrases like,

“accepting Jesus into our heart’

“asking Jesus into our heart”

“saying the sinners prayer”

I could go on and on, but my point is this.  We don’t see any of those kinds of things here in Saul’s story.  Saul is going about his daily business of persecuting Christians and in so doing persecuting Jesus himself according to the text, and has a unique encounter with Jesus. Jesus asks him a question about persecution and then sends him on to Damascus blinded where he meets Ananias.  Ananias prays and something  like scales fall from Saul’s eyes. He rises, is baptized and then eats.

There is no mention of Saul accepting Jesus into his heart.  Saul does not say the sinners prayer.  As far as I can tell, Saul had a transformational encounter with Jesus and from then on he lived differently. As I think about it, the same is true with the disciples.  We don’t see the typical churchy language at their conversions either.  There was a call to follow Jesus and they did.

With this in mind, I have these questions that I am currently wrestling through. Does the way we  talk about conversion in the church today match the experiences of conversion in the early church?  Should it match?  Have we added some things that shouldn’t be there?  Are we not talking about things that should be?

1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying,12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized;

19 and taking food, he was strengthened