This past October, I had the opportunity to gather together with a number of other leaders from Campus Outreach teams across the country. In our first session, Kent Bailey asked all of us, as we slowly move out of life dominated by COVID, are we “starting back or starting over?” The power of the question is that it forces you to consider what our new reality will be. Will things be similar enough in our culture and on the campus to go back to doing things the way that we did for the decades previous? Or, will things be different enough to demand that we reset our expectations, attitudes, and approaches to ministry?
Certainly, there is much that is and will continue to be different: declining church attendance, a growing lack of biblical familiarity (let alone literacy), the rise of the religious “nones” (unaffiliated with any faith), pastoral burnout, political and religious divisiveness, and continued changes to social life in the wake of the Pandemic, among many things. But, we also know that Christ has not changed, the Scriptures are still trustworthy and true, the gospel is still our great hope, and people still need the love of Christ and Christian community that will point them to Christ.
The main emphasis of our time was that we might not be entering into our biggest years (think huge conferences, largely attended beach projects, or huge classes of new staff hiring). But, we have a great opportunity to enter into our best years. I am reminded of Jesus teaching, in John 15, that God prunes every healthy branch so that it might become even healthier and more fruitful. We are trusting that God is taking the American church through this pruning season, so that we might experience our best days head of us.
Of course, BEST
is a great acronym to help us remember the things to focus on. We want to be:
Biblical - our source for life, wisdom, and godliness!
Evangelistic - winsomely engaging the lost with the good news of the Gospel
Strategic & Shepherding - we are called to be wise and intentional, caring and kind.
Teachable & Tough - we want to deepen in humility and listen and learn well, but also embrace that ministry will take a humble confidence in the face of an increasingly post-Christian culture.
We are already getting to experience so much of the fruit of these types of choices. Our team is far from perfect, but we are healthy, unified, and growing. We are seeing God do great things in students' lives, and are really seeing students investigate the gospel, grow in their walk with God, and own their faith in college and beyond. Thank you for partnering with us in this work. We are so grateful for you, for God’s goodness through your friendship, prayer, and giving, and for allowing us to be a part of his Kingdom on the campus. We are praying for you, also, that your best days in the faith would be ahead.
With thanks and in Christ,