Pastor Joe Fant, Pastor at Community Baptist Church in South Bend, IN
Summer is just around the corner! For most of us, the word summer is synonymous with vacation, sleeping in (finally!), extra time hanging out with friends, and other activities that the school year’s schedule limits. For many, summer means working at a camp, going on a mission trip, or doing a required internship. Sadly, for some Christian college students, the word summer is associated with the reality of spiritual failure, lack of accountability, and reduced time in the Word, in prayer, and in church life.
As you head out for the summer or make plans for this summer, I would encourage you to keep three things in mind:
Stay in the Word!
It sounds like a basic given for any Christian, but this part of your life often gets thrown out first. You must plan effectively and be intentional if you want to keep your relationship with God vibrant throughout the summer months. Take a vacation; just don’t take a vacation from God. Sleep in; just remember to spend time developing your relationship with your Father. Use a little of the extra time that you have to keep your relationship with God thriving. Cleanse your way this summer by paying diligent attention to the truths of the Word and applying them to your life (Ps. 119:9). You are going to spend time developing and deepening relationships with friends and family this summer. The God of the universe wants to deepen His relationship with you. Give Him the time He deserves.
This summer, look for areas to serve. Just because your personal responsibility of school is on break does not mean that Kingdom work takes a break! Plug in and help with the VBS at your church. Teach a Sunday School class. Help your youth pastor with the teens. Seek out godly leaders in your church and ask them to mentor you. Make it a priority to be a blessing to your pastor by asking him how you can pray for him. Guys, maybe ask to meet your pastor for lunch every couple of weeks to just talk and pray. Girls, seek to do the same with your pastor’s wife. This next suggestion may sound silly but try to establish an exercise routine—bodily exercise profits a little and reminds us that spiritual exercise profits for eternity (I Tim. 4:8). Stay active in your church attendance. Every one of us needs to gather together with our church family on a regular basis for worship, spiritual accountably, discipleship, and fellowship. Don’t neglect gathering with the body of Christ. You need them and they need you.
In my years of working with college students, I found that the hardest time for young men and women to stay pure was when they left the discipline of their daily routine. The routine you have developed at college is in for a summer shake up. Expect to struggle! Have a plan. Stay accountable. Know the friends that you are going to have to avoid and have a plan to talk to them about what God is doing in your life. Know your danger zones and discuss with a spiritually-minded friend how to avoid sin and temptation. Above all, PRAY! Pray that God would deliver you from temptation. Pray that God would allow you to have ministry opportunities like you have never had before. Pray that God would give you the grace to stay pure.
What a wonderful blessing it would be for you to look back on summer 2019 with joy and no regret. Let this summer be a summer of spiritual victories!
Jordan Baun, Coordinator of Outreach & Evangelism
Have you ever wondered what God is calling you to do with your life? After all, no one wants to be a ship without a sail. But sometimes it seems like there are a few good options or even a world of possibilities from which we can choose. For me, it was two years ago. I was wrestling with what the Lord would have for me long term. Should I pursue international missions or continue to walk through open doors for ministry here in the States? Through the course of a 6-week mission trip, the Lord used His Word and the many encounters with missionaries and pastors to give me some clarity on the future.
I had been asking the wrong question. I had been so focused on the ‘what’ that I hadn’t been listening to my own teaching on the Word. The ‘what’ was decided for me the moment I decided to follow Jesus as his disciple. The what is the great commission. In short, make disciples (evangelism) and teach them to observe everything the Lord commanded (discipleship). The questions that I wanted answers for were ‘how’ and ‘where.’ I haven’t figured out where I will be long term, but for now, God has called me here to Greenville and my church in Hendersonville.
So, what does this have to do with you? How does my story intersect with you as you go home to work for the summer? Well, you may want to be headed home for the summer, or you may be wishing you had the finances to work at a camp or take a mission trip, but God has called you to go home and work. But just like in my story, as a disciple of Christ, you too have a clear calling for what to do this summer: evangelism and discipleship.
Don’t be the student that waste their summer on Netflix and video games or other time-wasting frivolities. I know because I was that student. My one summer at home was a wasted summer. I don’t get it back, and one day I will give account for it. Make your summer count for eternity. Get engaged in God’s mission for you.
Your summer will probably look quite a bit different than almost everyone else’s summer, but you can take advantage of different avenues for evangelism and discipleship there in your hometown that you would not have otherwise. I am going to separate some possible opportunities into two categories: work and church.
You can be strategic about the job that you take this summer. There are many factors that influence our decision for work: Location, salary, and job description to name a few. Of course, for some the decision is made for you or you may not have options. But if you do have a choice, what if you also considered the role you could play in evangelism in the job you choose? One of the biggest hurdles in evangelism I continually hear from students is they don’t know unsaved people. This summer you could build meaningful relationships for gospel advancement that perhaps you have never experienced before. Just imagine how rewarding a summer at home could be if you were having natural gospel conversations regularly!
As you make your decision, could I plead with you to also consider how your job might affect your church attendance and participation? Sometimes life is tough and takes our church attendance out of our own hands. However, when given a choice, Christ is always most glorified in our faithfulness as a part of His Bride.
As you find time to invest in your church, let me suggest a few ways that you can have an impact this summer. This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully, it will get your brain engaged in thinking through opportunities you may have.
First, ask your pastor and youth pastor. They probably know the church and its needs better than anyone. Tell them you want to make your summer count and ask them how you can best invest time into the growth of the church, both externally and internally. After they answer, be ready to serve! One of my close friends continually reminds me, “Everyone wants to be a servant until they are treated like one.” Be prepared to serve in whatever way you are called upon to do so. Remember that when we dictate how we will serve, we are only serving ourselves.
Next, volunteer for VBS. Lifeway Research revealed that 60% of adults in America attended VBS growing up. Their research also found that “78% of churches say they use VBS as their largest outreach to unchurched kids in a given year.” VBS can leave a lasting impact on a church and the community. If your church has VBS, be the first one in line to volunteer!
Finally, know and be known. What I mean by that is find someone to disciple and find someone to disciple you. Maybe you have a high school student or students you can spend time with regularly. Look for those opportunities, invest in their lives, and help them to take the next step spiritually. And then find someone that will do the same for you. At the end of your summer, you might find that you don’t want to leave your church and that’s a good thing.
How will you spend your summer? You only get one summer 2019. It will be here before you know it and will be gone before you realize it started. Don’t waste it. The world will tell you a million ways you should spend your summer. It will tell you that you have worked hard this year and you deserve some Me time. But consider your life as Paul does in 2 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Make this summer count for Christ because, after all, this summer is not yours but Christ’s. Enjoy your summer at home and glorify God through the way you spend it.
Jordan Baun, Coordinator of Outreach & Evangelism
This Christmas everyone in my family received a $50 Walmart gift card from my grandfather. That card opened up a world of possibilities for my 10-year-old cousin. On the way out the door, my uncle gave explicit instructions that we are to spend it “judiciously.” This semester you have a limited amount of time. Your possibilities are nearly endless. My challenge to you is to spend your time judiciously this semester by being a faithful church participant.
Why get involved at church this semester?
Because Jesus Died for the Church.
This summer I had the privilege of preaching through the book of Ephesians at church. Through my study, the Word was reinforcing and strengthening my view of the role of the church in the believer’s life. Growing up in a home with both parents in full-time ministry, it was never a question of, “Are we going to church tonight?” I understood that if the doors were open, we would be inside, khakis, collared shirt, and all. The question I had to work through after four years at BJU was, “Why?” Why do we go to church on Wednesday nights and Sunday nights or even at all?
Over the past couple of years I have come to my conclusions, but Ephesians 2:16 helped me to give proper Biblical support. [He] might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. The church was established through the cross of Christ. In other words, one reason Jesus died was to launch the church. That is the whole idea behind Ephesians 2. God took the people who were once enemies with his people and through the death of Jesus brought them into a new union where enemies would become brothers and sisters. It’s a beautiful picture, but it also has tremendous implications for the believer.
If the blood of Jesus Christ is what established the church, then the church is precious to Him. And if the church is both his possession and precious to Him, then how Christ expects us to be a part of the church is incredibly important. At this point, I don’t think anyone would disagree with what I’ve said, but let’s move it a step further.
Christ died for you to be a part of the church, not so you could get a degree, have a nice job, start a family, have lots of friends, or vacation on a tropical island once a year. Is there anything wrong with any of those? NO! Most people reading this article should have some of those goals. However, none of those are my top priority, and they shouldn’t be yours either. Because the church was instituted through the death of Christ, we must give our lives for the health of the church.
Because our Spiritual Maturity Depends on it.
Flip over to Ephesians 4 and you find that not only are we motivated to love the church because of the sacrifice of Christ, but our spiritual maturity is dependent on church involvement. Paul’s encouragement to us is that we need the leadership that comes through the church to keep us from being tossed around by errant doctrine and philosophy (4:14). College is a time when many students turn away from the biblical truths they grew up hearing, reading, and singing. Could it be that there is a correlation between college students turning from their Bible and the plummeting church attendance from American college students?
There is a danger of living in a bubble. No, not the BJU bubble, but rather the college student bubble. In reality, most students at BJU live in a dorm of college-age students, go to class with college-age students, eat with college-age students, work primarily with college-age students, hang out with college-age students and philosophies with college-age students. College is a unique phase of life, but in its uniqueness, the church is the God-ordained institution to guide you with intergenerational relationships. It’s not always easy or comfortable, but you need the older men and women in your church to guide you into maturity in Christ (4:12-13).
How should I get involved this semester?
The first step to getting involved this semester is to be there! Your presence in a church building can have a tremendous impact. However, don’t stop at your required two services per week. Last semester one of the men at my church in Hendersonville, NC prayed something I will never forget. “Lord, I thank you for these young men that drive all the way up from Greenville to pray with us every week. It’s convicting to think that a lot of us don’t even want to drive across town to be here.” I was blown away at the positive impact we had by merely showing up.
Did you know you are a hero just because you are in college? All it takes is for you to kneel down next to a toddler and take an interest in them for that toddler to feel like the coolest kid in the world. It’s not just kids either. Get to know some of the older men and ladies. A 5-minute conversation before you run off to lunch can make their day. Invest in the life of a teenager. You may be able to connect with them and be the godly influence that answers the prayers of their parents.
Engage your brain!
Every week we should walk into church thinking, “How can I serve this body of Christ today?” You can do this in your own God-gifted ways, but be looking for opportunities. Too many students walk in just before the start of the service, plop down in the back, endure the singing and preaching, and scurry out the back to resume their lives. You have the tremendous potential not only to serve your church but also to enjoy it! This summer we had some very rainy Sundays. Instead of complaining about it, we gathered some teen guys and started what we call our “umbrella ministry.” Engage your mind in looking for opportunities to serve. Small efforts can make a lasting impact.
One of the most significant benefits of being an engaged church member is that you will learn. Certainly, you will learn from the preaching and teaching, but the more significant impact may be the knowledge and insight you gain about the Church and your spiritual condition. If you are here studying to go into ministry, the best training ground is the local church you attend. Your classes will fill you with a lot of knowledge, doctrine, and helpful instruction, but the church is where you will see this in action. Even if you are not planning to be a pastor or a pastor’s wife, the church habits you establish now will likely continue after graduation. Use your college years to learn how you fit in God’s plan for His Church.
I wanted to end with this. I’m sure it’s not original to me, but I tell my teen leaders this all the time, “Saying yes to one thing means saying no to others.” What does that mean for church participation? Saying yes to being at church for you might mean that you don’t get to participate in something on campus you would like to. It might mean you have to give up other hobbies to make some space for the homework you normally would complete during that time. Saying “Yes!” to being social is going to cost you your comfortability at some point. Getting to know people that you have little natural connection with is uncomfortable, but in the church, it is worth it!
So, in a semester with limited time and seemingly unlimited opportunities, how will you choose to invest yours? Don’t just survive another semester. Enjoy it and make it count for Christ by prioritizing church participation.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.