There's always alot of "hype" this time of year, alot of anticipation for the new year ahead. Freshmen are seeking to find their way around a new, scary place, away from their families for the first time. Returning students are reuniting with one another, meeting new folks, and wondering how they'll balance their school load with their social calendar.
Liberty University, where our campus ministry (R.U.F. Lynchburg) will be meeting this year, prides themselves in being "the world's most exciting university." I mean, they offer a year-round ski slope, miles of bike trails, and umpteen million events, Christian concerts, and things to do that would keep any homesick freshman distracted with all the busy-ness! There's always a fresh, new excitement around campus about the next latest and greatest thing around the corner!
As a campus ministry, we, too, feel the excitement, and it's in these first few weeks of the semester that we seek the hardest to make connections with students. We attend Freshmen Welcome Fairs, we pass out RUF stadium cups, we have a pancake breakfast, we meet new students one-on-one and have them to our house. Students are in the business of figuring out where they'll "belong," and we certainly want RUF to be a community for them.
But what's funny to me is that around RUF, we aren't necessarily seeking to be the "world's most exciting campus ministry." We'll probably stand in quite a sharp contrast to what the students are experiencing at LU. There will be no stage, no amplified band, no fog machines, no high-powered speaker to the thousands. No one will manipulate them to walk down an aisle, or raise a hand. (There's obviously nothing inherently wrong with those things, and God uses all types of formats to bring His children to Himself!)
But a new freshman might feasibly come to RUF for the first time next week and think we look a little too, well.... normal.
What students will find in RUF may not be exciting, but it'll certainly be refreshing. They'll find simplicity, and honesty. A relatively small group (50-100 people) that will only impress you with our realness and our desire to glorify God and love others. We'll be belting out hymns and praise choruses to the Lord with a couple of acoustic guitars, and we'll be led through the Sermon on the Mount each week by Marc. We'll turn around in our chairs and discuss implications of the Scriptures for our lives in small groups. We'll be pointed to Christ, and challenged to consider His claims.
Nothing flashy. But radical, nonetheless.
It's not just in the hype and the "mountaintop experiences" when our hearts and lives are transformed, is it?
It's in those everyday, mundane places in life that our hearts need to hear from the refreshment of God's word.
It's when the music stops, and the lights go out, and we're stuck in a tiny dorm room with a person that we cannot STAND(!) that we need to see how the Gospel applies to every square inch of our lives.
It's when we're caught in the middle of addictions, or under the weight of unrelenting depression and anxiety, or feel so lonely in a huge crowd of people that we need to know we're not alone.
It's when the world feels as though it's falling apart and we're burned out with a superficial Christianity we see all around us that we want a safe place to rest and consider what Jesus truly had to say.
That's where RUF really kicks in. In the very real, NORMAL places where our theology and our lives intersect every day.
Last weekend, we enjoyed a downtown retreat with our RUF student ministry team, where we planned and prayed for the upcoming semester. And we'd like to ask for your prayers.
Pray that they would be genuinely welcoming to new students.
Pray that they would find time to invest into others and be intentional doing so. Pray that God would use each of them in relationships to mature, teach, encourage, lovingly rebuke, and serve.
Pray that God will use their time on RUF's ministry team to grow them personally and equip them to serve wherever God calls them in their future.
Pray that the teaching through God's word would be life-changing. Pray that many would get ahold of the Gospel (yes, even at a Christian university) for the first time and experience the freedom that comes with that. Pray that they wouldn't lean upon their own righteousness, but that of Christ's alone.
Pray for Marc and Callie, that they would be able to raise the funds they both need to sustain this ministry in Lynchburg and stay on campus. (think of us as missionaries to our own culture...we have to raise all of the money for our salary, insurance, and ministry expenses each year, so we are always in need of more folks to join our support team!)
Pray for our family, that we would balance family time with ministry time (and figure out what that even means to begin with!).
But above all things, pray first that we would LOVE as He loved us.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.... John 13:35
Here's to a new semester!