Undoubtedly you have seen that Canadian culture is changing rapidly all around us.
Yet, we still need to continue to bring Jesus into the conversation of the day. The power of the gospel has something to say to every issue our society could face. We believe this with our whole hearts.
In order to connect Jesus’ life-changing message to the issues of our day, we must follow him into the uncharted territory of this generation.
We are in a season of adaptive change, where we are seeking to effectively fulfill our mission: helping students know Jesus and experience his power to change. We want students to know Jesus and experience him in such a way that their whole life, and indeed their world, is changed. And we’re learning how to do that all over again in this new generation.
In a season of adaptive change, there is a lot of ambiguity. We are exploring new cultural realities. We are creating and trying innovative ways to help students know Jesus, and that process of innovation is always done best with open hands, and open minds. But in the midst of ambiguity and changing tactics, it is essential that our mission remains clear.
When seeking clarity of mission, it’s also helpful to be clear about what the mission is not.
Students are the mission.
Students are not… the conduit of the mission, although they are very much participants in it.
Our mission is not… students becoming more productive.
Our mission is not… getting as many students as possible through a P2C program.
Our mission is not… planting the P2C flag on every campus.
In a time of adaptive change, we must remember that our mission is centered on people. It is not centered on executing a particular program with high efficiency or profitability. As I follow Jesus through the gospels, I am constantly challenged by his extraordinary capacity to notice a person and have compassion on them. Those are the moments of transformation.
Recently one of my teammates, shared a quote with me from the book, Deep Mentoring by Reese and Loane. It challenged me.
“Psychologists tell us that much pathology and mental disease result from the experience of being unnoticed, especially early in life. Our communities, in their many forms, somehow do not notice and care for the person in the way he or she is designed to be noticed. Consequently, early on, people internalize the pain of this unnoticedness. Over time they learn to compensate for this pain in many different ways. Some become high achievers. Others become very skilled at entertaining or pleasing others. Some withdraw. Others addictively attach themselves to someone else. All of them ache for someone or something that will address their deep sense of unnoticedness. We have to wonder, as we sit in church or a coffee shop or as we walk through the supermarket, how many of the people around us feel isolated and overlooked? That is, inwardly, do they seemingly lie facedown on the tile for hours ignored by everyone? Are they longing for someone to pay attention in simple and very human ways?”
In my life, I have learned that it is easy to see students more for their strategic influence and the potential impact they possess over a lifetime, than to notice who they truly are. Certainly, ministering to students is strategic. Certainly, they will have an impact on the world over their lifetime that exceeds what we can realistically imagine. But I have learned that if I see students primarily through the lens of potential productivity, then their current problems, sin issues and brokenness becomes a barrier to my ministry, rather than an opportunity for them to experience the transformative presence of Jesus.
I have found that the more concerned I am about a student’s productivity, the less effective I become at helping students know Jesus. It is only when I notice the person in front of me in the way that Jesus notices them, that mission success ( ie transformation) is possible. Again, as I follow Jesus through the gospels, I observe that he rarely sees brokenness (other than pride) as a barrier to his mission. In contrast, he sees brokenness as the path of transformation and the fulfillment of his mission.
What does this mean for us?
Clarity around our mission should guide the way we spend our days. As we muddle through the ambiguity of adaptive change, one question should be top of mind each day: How have I loved the students around me today? Have I noticed them, and have I helped them experience the transformative presence of Jesus?
We are ministering to a generation of students who are profoundly aware of their own brokenness and are looking for someone to notice them. Jesus notices. May we join him in that as we pursue our mission of helping students know him and experience the transformative power of his gospel message.