“Sorry I’m so tired,” Tito told his discipler. “I was up until 4am last night.”
Tito is a senior on the football team, and a member of our sports ministry there, called Athletes in Action (AIA). He’s the kind of guy who always has a question–something he is ruminating on–but he has struggled in the past to move from thought to action. When challenged to lead the weekly Bible study, Tito has declined every time. When challenged invite his teammates, he rarely did. Tito has been thrilled to grow in his faith at AIA, but has stopped short at sharing this faith and community with others.
That’s why what he said next surprised his discipler so much: “I’m glad we’re having lunch today, because I ended up talking about faith and God and stuff with my suitemate and another good friend from the football team. It was wild. But I actually really enjoyed it and was so surprised at how much they wanted to talk about it.” He had the biggest grin while saying all this.
Please pray that Tito would continue to feel a growing sense of God’s pursuing love for his friends, and an increasing boldness in lovingly sharing his relationship with Jesus during his final weeks in school and for a lifetime after graduation. It is such a blessing to help build these communities where students learn to become missionaries to their friends and family in every area of life!
According to Pew Research, the percentage of Americans who consider themselves Christian has dropped 15% in the last 15 years, while those who say they have “no religion” have grown by about the same amount. So, is the Church falling apart? The newest series of sermons at our church (on doubting and “deconstruction”) has been possibly one of the most important we have heard there so far. The pastor quoted Dr. John Marriott of Biola University: people who doubt their faith have experienced that “the stories in the Bible about miracles, witches, giants, demons, etc. began to feel as out of place as Santa.” This escalates for those whose parents pretended to believe in holiday fairy tale characters.
This kind of gap or “cognitive dissonance” between what we see in the Bible and what we experience in our daily life is something that most Christians wrestle with. As CS Lewis says, “it is all but impossible to believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before [our] eyes.” Wrestling is not unhealthy, though. It is wise to doubt and question and even to run away from the false teachings about God that are often taught. On the other side is a deeper, more mature faith. Just ask Descartes.
A bigger danger comes from feeling forbidden to ask honest questions without being cut off from God’s community. One ex-churchgoer put it this way, “I spent years pretending to believe because the fear of losing my social network was greater than really examining what I actually believed. In the end, it just made me resent people who did believe, and left me feeling more and more empty.”
Several of the disciples went through their own period of doubt, but Thomas’ story (John 20:24-29) illustrates how being honest and exploring doubt while still committed to fellowship opens the door to see Jesus meet us right where we are.
If we think of the video game community on a campus as an unengaged people group, there’s a lot we can learn that will help us better bridge the gap between them and the Church. One step that is always helpful is finding expert guides. Enter Nick & Jessica! Among their many skills, they are animators, game designers, and screenwriters who have partnered with our Jesus Film ministry in the past. Like us, they’re also totally geeks!
Jessica wrote a fascinating research paper on how the average geek is wired compared to an average churchgoer. Some things that make it hard to connect are the fact that Geeks tend to always want to casually explore new ideas and ways of expression while modern church culture tends to draw those who prefer structure, tradition, and social norms. Like Jesus, we’re called to meet the outsider where they are, bringing hope only the gospel provides. Click here to find out more about what we’re doing.
All over the country, (while many college students spend their Spring Breaks in ways that can damage their bodies, hearts, and minds) many Cru students have been investing in their walk with God and joining in His rescue mission. After 2 years of being unable to host such events due to Covid, it has been powerful for these young people to experience missions again, many for the first time. One group of 100 students from Kentucky, came to Destin, FL for a chance to spend some significant quality time with each other and the missionary staff.
Cru leaders were able to speak about and model an identity in Christ. Freshmen got to learn from Seniors over “family dinners.” Bonds of friendship were built during city-wide scavenger hunts. Here’s what some of them said:
“I didn’t believe God actually liked me.” – Brady (freshman)
“This week was hard for me because I don’t know how to rest. I need to yield that control in my life.” – Mackenzie (sophomore)
“Everyone here has accepted me in ways I couldn’t have imagined before coming on this trip” – Ornin
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by all the things that have to be done all the time? For years, we’ve struggled with the fear of “out of sight = out of mind,” that we’ll forget to do something important if we don’t leave it out until it is complete. This is a very real thing, especially for many with ADHD. Those things pile up, and the unfinished tasks seem to call out, yammering for our attention wherever we look in a vicious cycle. In recent months, however, God has been doing a lot to clear both our home and our minds. Among the things God used, there was a message by Pastor Joshua Becker, who shared from Luke 3:10-14, where John the Baptist had been preaching a hard message about what it takes to prepare the way for the Lord. When asked what people should do, John told tax collectors to not over-collect, told soldiers to be content with their pay, and told anyone with two coats or extra food to give it away. This had obvious benefits to the poor and oppressed, but Pastor Becker pointed out that it also frees the giver from the grip of the world, and causes us to really wrestle with God over the decisions we make in our lives (including what we bring and keep in our homes). Though it is more convenient in the short-term to simply check religion boxes and move on to what we’d prefer to think about, God wants intimate, transformative interaction (Genesis 32:24-32). Hebrews 12:1 says to throw off every entangling sin AND every “ogkos” (a word that gets translated as weight/encumbrance that slows/hinders). Ogkos isn’t sin, but it’s simply in the way of our running the race to the fullest. It isn’t a sin to enjoy the things God has provided for us, but everything we have has an ongoing cost in time, energy, space, and thought life. Giving things away has been an opportunity to bless others (and build relationships) and it has also freed us to run better and be available for the good works God has prepared!
Karen and I were blessed to be part of a global prayer call where we heard live from multiple Cru staff and students in various parts of Ukraine, some in real and current danger of attack. I’ll share some greater and heavy detail below but, for brevity, I’ll list their requests first:
Pray from 7-9 EST each night (2-4am Kyiv time), because that is when attacks are strongest, while people are groggy with sleep.Pray for sleep and perseverance, as residents describe their utter exhaustion, many having traveled for days and under nighttime bombardment as well as fear and stress.Pray for heart change for the president of Russia. Only Putin has the power to put an end to this, they report that Russian soldiers don’t even necessarily realize what they are doing.Stand with them publicly, working to persuade other nations to step in and posting #myzvamy – which means “we are with you”Give as God leads to the Emergency Fund that is helping our 120 Ukrainian missionary staff as well as refugees.
A group of students shared from the darkened basement of their apartment building because air sirens were going off. Their internet went out in the middle of sharing, but one of them came on later to reassure us they were still okay. In tears, Yaro pled for prayers that he would survive the night (stuck on the 24th floor in the #1 targeted city). He also worries for his parents, who live outside the army-protected cities while lines of transportation are cut. Natalia exclaimed how utterly exhausted she was and how life felt like “literal Hell.”
There were over 300 of us on the call from all over the world. It was especially powerful to hear Russian staff apologizing on behalf of their government, saying that citizens feel like their president is ignoring them and fighting a war of one. As prayers rained in from South Africa, Brazil, Korea, and the Balkans, it felt very much like we were a united and precious family. I’ve never been so close to such suffering and fear before, but I’ve never been surrounded by more courageous faith, either.
May we feel this pain alongside our brothers and sisters, and may we all be willing to go, do, say, and give as the Lord leads. But, may we also lay the responsibility and all our lives in the hands of God, who alone is LORD over all.
Please feel free to reach out to us for updates, or if we can help walk with you through this hard time.
As a sophomore in high school, Matthew tried getting his buddy, Nathan, to attend youth group time and time again. What finally got Nathan out was the promise of a popular video game before and after the meeting! Nathan then continued to attended pretty regularly.
When asked to name someone who is a good disciple of something, Nathan spoke up: “I’ve been through a lot this year, and Matthew has loved me. He hasn’t judged me, or acted preachy—he has just played games with me, and loved me.” As tears streamed down his cheeks, he continued: “I lost my dad this summer, and ever since then I have felt like there is a hole in my heart. The only time that hole feels full is when I am here, around people who love Jesus.”
Nathan has invited Jesus into his heart and now serves as a youth leader. Nathan demonstrated the love of Jesus to his mother and now she has her own relationship with Jesus. God used video games as a platform for Matthew to love Nathan, and that love has spread to others.
Watch our video to learn more, and please pray for us as we lead the charge of Cru reaching some of the 3 BILLION video gamers this year!
Winter Conference is one place where, time and again, we have seen students grasp a greater vision for their lives. This December, 2,536 students attended across 4 cities. They worshiped Jesus together, our speakers called them to a life more in line with the Scriptures, and they were equipped to share the good news of Christ in each of the four cities (where 41 people indicated decisions for Jesus)! Here are a few of the things students shared from the week:
“Before coming I had felt very distant from God and felt like I was becoming a lukewarm Christian. This renewed my faith!” -Faith, junior
“At the outreach, while I was sharing what Jesus means to me, I realized I was doing what scared me so much. It was actually very fun to chat with people! It gave me new perspective on evangelism!” -Bethany, senior
“I literally became a Christian today.” -Nate, senior
“I’m eager to go out and do what God has called me to.” -Ayana, sophomore
Please pray that Ayana and the rest would return ready to follow God on campus.
I (Karen) wanted to share something we’ve been learning in church. For 3 weeks, our pastor has been teaching a series on the Lord’s Prayer from Matt 6:5-13. When speaking on vs 11-13, where He teaches how to ask for things, the pastor says to ask our selves three questions related to the three verses.
1. What do I need?
2. Where am I hurting?
3. Where do I need help?
In discussing that second question, the pastor brought up the unforgiving servant parable from Matthew 18:21-35, saying that both the unforgiving servant and the one who owed him in debt ended up in the same debtor’s prison (a poetic example of how we become enslaved to the things we won’t let go of).
The pastor explained that we cannot truly forgive until we have allowed ourselves to experience the hurt that needs forgiving. He quoted Tish Harrison Warren: “Grief is stubborn. It will make itself heard… If we don’t face it directly it comes out sideways… explosive anger, uncontrollable anxiety, compulsive shallowness, brooding, bitterness, unchecked addiction. Grief is a ghost that can’t be put to rest until its purpose has been fulfilled.”
This concept of not ignoring grief, or any feeling, has been instrumental in my growth. We both really resonated with another of the pastor’s challenges too, that though counselors and friends are great we need to be careful not to “outsource” a conversation to them that we need to be having with God.