Monday, March 17, 2008

Ministering as Jesus Did

Recently, we had the opportunity through our mission to request some college students to come and work here in Metro PoA for a semester. In an admirable attempt to make us fuddy-duddy missys seem more hip, hop, and happening to the "Millenial Generation," we got the following primer on how to word our job requests:

What are they [today's students] looking for?

• For ministry that will help people both spiritually and physically. They really want to see people helped in both ways.
• For an opportunity to minister as they see Christ ministering in the N.T.
• For the opportunity to build relationships with both the people they will work among and with the missionaries they will work along side of.
• For a request that sounds less like a project and more like an experience.
• For ministry reflecting a real cause and a real need - not statistics but a need.
• For specific types of ministry. They respond to ministry with orphans, a chance to help hurting people or projects that require "roughing it".

It's specifically the second phrase that caught my eye: "For an opportunity to minister as they see Christ ministering in the N.T."

Here were my thoughts, in this order:

1. DUDE! wow...

2.I wonder, given the current pentecostaphobic climate of our mission, if whoever wrote this gave any thought to what he was actually saying,

3. That opportunity would depend much more on the student than the job description he came to.

See, I've spend a good many hours these past two and a half years listening to those who regularly see the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead raised to life again. There are some amazing consistencies in their stories:
1. This kind of annointing requires TREMENDOUS amounts of time spent in the presence of our Lord. TREMENDOUS. Like A LOT more than just a WHOLE BUNCH. It also requires a complete sellout to our Lord. COMPLETE.
2. They saw, on average, two full years of TOTAL, COMPLETE, HUMILIATING FAILURE before they ever got any results on this type of ministry.
3. The persecution they have faced from the church is ASTOUNDING. For a few, the scars still show.

See, I'm still trying to figure out if I'm up to/called to/brave enough for that kind of ministry. I'm pretty sure that, even if I am, I won't be up to leading college students in it by Spring of 2009 and I'm definately sure they can't get there in 4 months.

Of course, probably what they are talking about is hanging out with friends cooking a few fish on the beach. THAT I can handle. or are they? . . .

Dude. wow.


Bill Cook said...


I think your "mistake" is in reading the second bullet in a Biblical context, rather than in the context of the rest of the list. (Shame on you for actually taking the statement at face value! But I digress...) When people today speak of "ministering as Christ ministered," I think that generally (in this day and age, at least) they are talking about ministering to physical needs in a Christian context: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for orphans, etc., and I get the impression that's what this list really means. And, to be sure, that's one thing that we are to do - in fact, Christ has strong words for those who don't (see Matthew 25:31-46). But most people don't think supernaturally when they think of Christ's ministry - which speaks (I think) to a lack of familiarity with the Gospels, or selective reading of scripture, or just a general unawareness of the reality of the supernatural (which is common in the secularized West - more so than in Latin America).

I think that the list fails to emphasize something that, if you (or anyone else) were to bring in college students for summer work, MUST stress: the physical ministry that Christ did on earth - feeding, healing, etc. - were all intended to point the recipient to his/her true need: spiritual food, healing from the curse of sin, etc. So, if we are to model Christ's earthly ministry by seeking to minister to physical needs, it must not be done merely for its own sake, but for the purpose of sharing the Gospel and pointing people to Christ.

I also see a couple of interesting phrases: "What are they looking for?", "experience," "roughing it." Not only are 'today's students' looking for horizontal outward ministry (physical needs of others), but they're looking for an experience for themselves--that is, for something exciting or meaningful that gets their juices pumping.

The upshot of all of this (I’m rambling a bit, so I’ll try to sum this up) is: when I see this list of “what today’s students are looking for,” I see underneath it all, “What cool experience can I have serving other people (physically and spiritually) that can get me fired up inside?” And I think that’s fundamentally the wrong question for a student (or anyone else) to ask. I say that because it’s entirely focused outward (serving others) and inward (having an ‘experience’) and not focused upward. The right question would probably resemble, “How can I use my summer to bring glory to God? How can I use my God-given abilities to point the lost to Christ?” The center of all ministry and missions (particularly the kind of work y’all are doing in PoA) is the Gospel—it isn’t self-fulfillment, nor is it physical ministry (though physical ministries both can and should be employed to point people to the Gospel). Missions will never be ‘hip’ and ‘happening,’ because the message that missions is designed to deliver has never been ‘hip’ in any generation—it’s always been regarded as foolishness to the world (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

Frankly, I think that the list is a mischaracterization—there are lots of Christian college students who are mature believers unconcerned with personal experience (in an external, theme park-ish, Safari adventure kind of way), who love the Lord and have a heart for the lost. (I’ve encountered a number of them at CHBC.) Personally, I think if you ignore the list entirely, pray, and leave the results to God, he’ll send you some great college kids—and their summer of missions will have a much greater chance of bearing lasting fruit, both in the people they minister to and in their own lives.

Just my $0.02. Love you guys!

Unknown said...

Wow is right. I fear that they mean just what they said. I recently started working in a store with kids 1/2 my age (and I'm not old). They expect very unrealistic things to happen. We just wanted to hang with some folk on the beach, they want to raise the dead. Good luck.

Campbell Dunson said...

Thanks for your comments, Bill.
I didn't realize I had stumbled on some Christian-eze, oops, Christfollower-eze that's fashionable in the states now.
Of course, we wouldn't want to use Christfollower lingo, as that's not seeker-sensitive, oops again, missional.
I do agree with you that this view of Christ's ministry does indicate unfamiliarity with the actual ministry acts of Jesus. I'm still asking myself the question if my ministry should look more like HIS actually did.
As far as their motives go, we see this alot in volunteers in general. You can't really blame them, when you look at the tremendous sacrifice involved in coming. A typical trip involves thousands of dollars (this college student thing is 2600, for instance) and almost all of an average Joe's vacation for the year. So, I think the question they tend to ask is, "How is God planning to use this investment of mine?"
BTW-Jeff had written the request prior to the team's arrival, and we didn't get the memo until earlier this week. So, we actually did do what you recommend.

Bill Cook said...


As a follow-up comment: Sorry to be so long-winded - brevity has never been my strong point. :)