Have you ever felt kicked while you’re down, judged when you needed encouragement? As brothers and sisters in Christ, it is our responsibility to lift each other up and point each other toward our Savior, but what that looks like isn’t always obvious.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 lays out an interesting guideline by saying to “warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” If we treat someone who is one way as if they are another, we can cause more harm than good (something Christians are accused of fairly regularly). Someone who is lazy or stirring up our trouble needs to be confronted in truth and love. Someone who is disheartened needs to be reminded of the strength they have in Christ, not have their burdens carried for them. Someone who is weak and hurting needs our comfort and help, not a warning, a “cheer up,” or any version of “have faith,” “toughen up,” or “someone has it worse.”
Of course, all of that is easier said than done, but how can we tell which to do when? I believe we first need to remove the logs out of our own eyes to better see other peoples’ situations (Matt 7:3), we need to rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth and the right words and actions (John 16:13), and—as the passage says—not jump to conclusions but be patient and listen to our beloved brothers and sisters so we understand them and their situation.
8,000 people attended our online Winter Conference, and here is how some said they were impacted.
“God has been showing me over this weekend how HE does the work! Its is our job to plant the seeds in people and tell them about Jesus, but the Holy Spirit convicts and puts in the work!”
“Guess who just shared the Gospel with someone, who also decided to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior!”
“Winter Conference allowed me to connect with other people and share my testimony! One person I connected with decided to dedicate their life to Christ and another has started leading a Bible study on their campus!”
“It was hard moving to a new town during a pandemic. Just when I was reaching my lowest and getting weary of trying to find a church, I visited one more. I met a Cru leader there and this week I went to their Zoom Bible study and they invited me to come to Winter Conference this weekend. I really feel like God reached me at the end of my rope and is bringing me back to His feet!”
One group of Cru students partnered with 3 other ministries in their city to host a virtual outreach. “Story of the Soul” looks at pieces of art (poetry, film, music, painting) and asks the question, “What longings do these tap into?” This event has been done by Cru missionaries all over the world, but this was the first time trying it virtually. At the end, we share how Jesus Christ fulfills the longings that these art pieces surface.
That evening four students indicated that they had decided to put their faith in Jesus that night! Please pray for these four students as Cru staff follow up these decisions, and if you’d like to experience this for yourself, it is part of our “Changing Faces of Evangelism” training that is offered to churches and individuals throughout the year. Find out more at ChurchMovements.com/develop/#CFE.
Do you ever struggle to connect with God during quiet times? Karen and I have been discovering how simply have pen & paper ready, jotting out our prayers and reaction to Scripture, makes the encounter more real for us. We’re not the first to do this, of course. In fact, Augustine of Hippo is one of the first attributed with writing a prayer journal back in the early 400’s. In the 1500’s, Ignatius Loyola refined the process with a neat 5-step pattern to follow called the “Daily Examen”:
1. Become aware of God’s presence. 2. Review the day with gratitude. 3. Pay attention to your emotions. 4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. 5. Look toward tomorrow.
Today, author and pastor Paul Miller helped us incorporate prayer and Scripture even better in his book, A Praying Life. He says:
“The key was being honest about what I was feeling and then letting Scripture speak to my heart. By being honest, the real me was talking. I wasn’t trying to be good. When we look at our life through the lens of Scripture, we seldom lose our way. We can be real, but we don’t get lost in our feelings… You don’t have to write well to keep a prayer journal, nor do you have to be consistent. It is just a written version of childlike praying, except more organized. Begin with what’s on your heart, what’s bugging you, what you are thankful for. If you are real before God, then everything else flows. The act of writing out your worries, joys, and prayers helps you focus and keeps your mind from wandering. But the best part is that over time you will begin to see patterns of what God is doing, to pick up the threads of a story.”
Jane picked her name when she came to America for college. Her Chinese name illustrated her father’s desire to have had a son instead of a daughter, but she said that “the whole philosophy of my life was that I can control everything in my life because I am the god of my life.”
God had different plans for her, though, and the roommate assigned to her invited her to be part of our international student ministry called Bridges. She came to a campout and became very curious about God. Even when COVID came to America, and we moved to online, Jane stayed involved.
One Zoom meeting, they went through the prodigal son story and talked about how Jesus can cover your shame. She said, “if God knows about our desires, why don’t I just trust Him to lead me.” She discovered that Jane means “God is Gracious,” and praises the Lord that God has been watching her whole life!
Watch Jane share her own story here, and please pray for the many internationals who are discovering Jesus through Bridges! If you or your church would like to reach international students, please let us know 🙂
Our supervisor asked us all to put out a special call to prayer this month. He quoted Hudson Taylor by saying, “The Lord Jesus, [in] this year of very peculiar trial from almost every quarter, does make my heart well up and overflow with His love. He knows what separations and… He so wonderfully makes all loss gain!” God is the one bringing about His purposes and, while we have seen Him at work, Karen and I long for doors to open that we cannot open ourselves. In this season, students are reticent, confused, or anxious, and restrictions about gathering keep us from some of our traditional approaches.
Would you consider praying with us for these specific requests over the next month?
1. That every one of our campuses would have someone attend our virtual Winter Conference, Feb. 6-7
2. For students to grow in a deepening passion for Jesus.
3. That students would have a greater sense of God calling them to be salt and light on their campuses.
4. For established ministries to see new breakthroughs in evangelism and discipleship on their campuses.
5. That our monthly gathering of leaders for vision and equipping would grow to include most of our campuses.
One advantage to being online has been the opportunity to bring student leaders together from college campuses around the country to encourage one another (a meeting we call Cru Live). Last month, a student named Marveline shared about how God used the Cru Winter Conference to grow her walk with God to the next level. Most of these students don’t realize that they’re part of something much bigger than their own group until they step into a room with a thousand others who are passionate about reaching their own campus for Christ.
Though we can’t gather this year in person, that same online benefit can draw many to the Winter Conference that wouldn’t have been able to attend otherwise.
With powerful speakers, and an incredible list of seminar topics, young people will be able to sharpen each other while learning how to walk with God in the face of temptation, anxiety, social media, etc. They’ll grow in biblical literacy, proclaiming Jesus boldly, and loving their neighbors on & off campus. Pray for these thousands of students!
Karen and I firmly believe that empowering local churches to reach students can do far more than what we missionaries alone can do. I asked Pastor Wilson to tell me about some of the impact his church has had on students’ lives. He told me this story about Phil…
Instead of introducing himself, he asked me if we had any new Christians that he could disciple and that he was a part of [a popular cult name] on our campus. I was preparing my proverbial shotgun when God said, “Hold on. Hear his story.” Phil told me he came from a Buddhist background, joined this cult on campus, and got excited to hear about Jesus and share about him.
We invited Phil to hang out with us [at Epic, Cru’s ministry for Asian American students]. We were going to the beach that week and invited him to come. At the beach, we told him we believed he was a part of a cult and said, “You’re welcome to stay with us but you can’t invite anyone to your cult.”
He was very confused. It took about maybe four or five months for him to fully pull out of his cult because they take over your social life. He became Christian, we baptized him, and he became a leader as well as our greatest evangelist! Over the next four years, Phil brought close to 20 people into the movement. He paid for people to go to retreats with us and, just yesterday, he told me of another one of his friends he led to Christ (and this is now three years after he’s graduated).
One of the friends Phil reached out to, Carl, was going through depression and thought about taking his own life. Phil called him every day, really became a support to him. Carl started coming to church, went to a retreat, to Epic, and eventually I got to baptize him.
If it hadn’t been for God, I just imagine Phil being fully engrossed in the cult and those 20 people going to that cult with him. I think about the faithfulness of the Lord. Phil’s a strong believer now, a small group leader, and just a great part of my church as well.
Karen and I are excited to follow God toward “each student on every campus” by teaching pastors, like Pastor Wilson, and volunteers how to get on campus to meet students like Phil, and we couldn’t do it without you!
God has given me a mind for strategy, and I’ve always been looking at how we could maximize our impact for the gospel. Yes, Karen and I can share the gospel with some students and disciple them to multiply that faith, something we love to do. But, what if we can ALSO teach others to do that? I can teach a handful of people around me and get them taking students out to share the gospel or sit down for discipleship. We’ve done plenty of that. But, what if we can ALSO teach denominational leaders how to teach church members how to reach students like that? Enter Peter and Naomi!
Peter and Naomi (who are expecting their first baby any minute!) have been serving all of North America for the Anglican Church’s college ministries. He found out about what Karen and I do and reached out for what would become an amazing first conversation. On the call, he shared that there are 3 scenarios related to his churches and the local campus:
1. Distant – where churches & campuses are not near each other, they want to send students to our ministries and stay in touch with them from a distance.
2. Mega – big churches hire their own college missionary, potentially also connected and trained by us.
3. Pioneering – church plants or smaller churches can’t hire a college specialist so may have volunteers coached by my team, the Cru Coaching Center.
Please pray for Peter & Naomi, and for partnerships like this with other denominations as well!