Jan 30, 2020 | Andy Smits
In recent months, we’ve been seeking to find fresh language to describe the work to which we’re called as Power to Change – Students. We realize that during seasons of change, fresh words have an ability to keep us anchored to our history while also pushing us to dream together about the future.
One of the ways in which we’ve begun describing our work is this: Power to Change forms diverse communities that help students discover the relevance of Jesus for all of life.
We start with diverse communities because we recognize that in a hyper-individualistic, isolated world, more than ever, we all need a place to belong. We form communities of students because we all need places where we can be seen, welcomed, and understood. Places where we can make sense of faith, together. Places where the gospel can be experienced in dynamic relationships with real people.
We also recognize that those communities ought to be diverse, reflecting the diversity of the students that we’re seeking to reach. We know it’s more comfortable to be with people who are just like us, but we also see how Jesus has called us to a community of radical inclusion. Something that set the disciples apart was their belief that the good news about Jesus breaks down the dividing wall of hostility, bringing diverse people together as fellow image-bearers.
That diversity is also reflected in our belief that serving students will require us to form all kinds of different communities. College and university campuses across Canada are so large and varied that we need different kinds of communities to effectively serve students. One way we’re already doing this is through Agape Impact / Kingdom Come, our culturally-Korean ministry, to better engage with some students. But P2C also forms communities of international students, purpose-built to serve that population. In some places, we’re forming Missional Impact Houses, where our ministry to students takes place in communities that we’re building off-campus. In other places, we’re empowering communities of students who want to do evangelism and discipleship through worship and the arts, through House of Worship. And for many students who are connected to P2C, it’s through what we might call our classic campus model: groups of 15-150 students who gather together on campus for discipleship groups, weekly meetings, and events.
All of these communities exist because of a shared calling to do evangelism and discipleship among university students, and yet they are also diverse communities, reflecting a desire to contextualize our ministry to the complexity of the student world.
Discovering the relevance of Jesus for all of life:
At the heart of what we’re seeking to do with students is the desire for them to see that Jesus has something profound to say to the challenges and opportunities of our modern world. We form these communities because we believe that discipleship means realizing that Jesus doesn’t need to hide out in one part of their life, but that Jesus has relevance to all of life. As we follow him, our hope is that he will use us to speak into our world in a compelling and attractive way.
Barna conducted a study* of millennials a few years ago. One of their conclusions was that millennials are four times as likely to stay in church when shown how their faith has relevance to all of life.
Jesus has relevance: We want students to discover Jesus, whom John describes as a source of life (cf. 1 John 1:1-3). Well, to be even more precise, Jesus describes himself as the source of life (cf. John 14:6)! We’re convinced that Jesus brings life to all who would draw near to him, so our heart-cry for students is that they would come and find life in his name.
Relevance for all of life: We can be so tempted to compartmentalize our lives into different boxes. Perhaps there is a nice clean box in our lives labelled “spiritual,” which feels like a nice, tidy place for Jesus to be. But what about the complicated boxes, like sexuality, or racism, or depression, or climate change? These can feel like boxes that are completely disconnected from faith in Jesus. But we want students to see that Jesus wants to meet them in those boxes, too. In fact, we think that showing the relevance of Jesus for all of life results in Christians being encouraged and skeptics being made curious!
Life beyond school: We’re also convinced that by helping students see that Jesus wants to meet them in “all of life,” we are equipping them to navigate the place of Jesus in the next season of life. The purpose of our work with students doesn’t just apply to the few years that we’re together on campus, but extends to a lifetime of navigating the complexity of life with Jesus at the centre! As we think about this work to which we’re called, the work of forming diverse communities that help students discover the relevance of Jesus for all of life, my eyes can’t help but drift towards the future. Because this work that we do, while noble in itself, is ultimately done because we want to participate in the work that God himself is doing in our world. Somehow, we get to co-labour alongside God in the work of renewal, restoration, and transformation that he is doing in our world!