Karen and I have always had the heart to bless the united body of Christ, so we are constantly on the lookout for ways Cru can be a resource to local churches. That’s why I was totally thrilled to participate in the Sent 6:7 training program this month. Imagine a team of incredibly experienced missionaries (who have planted churches and spread the gospel in some of the most hostile environments around the world) now dedicating themselves to work full-time with church leaders and volunteers in order to build and rebuild churches right here in the states with that same evangelistic heart. These folks are my heroes!
All of their resources are freely accessible to everyone on their website, but the care and attention they put into the training and the ongoing coaching groups they offer is staggering. While a lot of their material was familiar to me (starting spiritual conversations, relying on the Holy Spirit, discipleship, and multiplication), I learned a lot of new things as well (like 3-Thirds Bible Studies and Oikos mapping). What if every church in the US was trained and equipped like this???
I (Jeff) had the honor to lead a discussion with a church in Brooklyn, NY about how Christians should respond to Halloween. It’s an intriguing topic, and my own perspective has changed over the years, so I was glad to take part and even do a little scriptural digging in preparation. In general, there tend to be 3 typical postures Christians take toward the holiday: reject, receive, or redeem.
Those who REJECT Halloween see dangers lurking under the shiny surface of the decorations and parties. Some have sworn off all secular holidays, while others cite scriptures that warn us against the wickedness and witchcraft of this particular day (for those who’ve experienced that first-hand, I recommend the Steps to Freedom in Christ). They remind us to avoid the appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22), and declare “You cannot eat at the Lord’s Table and at the table of demons, too” (1 Cor 10:21).
Those who RECEIVE Halloween see it as harmless fun at worst and an opportunity to bond with family and neighbors at best. Each has their own line of comfort with candy, costumes, and creepy stuff (usually along an age scale), but those in this camp embrace the celebration, saying “If I can thank God for [the holiday] and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for [celebrating] it?” (1 Cor 10:30).
Those who REDEEM Halloween agree with both the dangers and the blessings. They don’t want to wink at evil, but they believe the light is stronger. They cite John 17 that we are not of the world, but have been sent into it to reach the lost, just as Jesus was (Matt 9:11-13; Luke 5:30-32; Luke 15). Learn more, including resources from this link, and “whether you [do Halloween], or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).
Social distancing has been a challenge for all our campuses as far as keeping a momentum going for meeting, engaging the Bible, and sharing Jesus with classmates; but it is not a new challenge for our Coaching Center (our staff team!) members, who have been connecting with students online and over the phone for decades.
One of the biggest difficulties we face is helping new students grasp the vision to reach their campus for Christ if they have never seen a fully functioning Cru ministry before. Telling people about Jesus doesn’t seem weird when your upper-classmen heroes have already set a culture for it. Raising money to go on a summer mission or to a winter conference isn’t so scary when you have other classmates who have gone before, but many of these students are trying to start a new thing on their campus that they’ve never seen modeled before.
I (Jeff) have been working to fix that with a monthly online gathering that has student leaders from all our campuses sharing with each other and cheering each other on. Our first event (Oct 6th) will feature Rebekah, who feels a burden to speak boldly about Jesus to all her non-Christian friends out of an act of love for both them and for God. Please pray for students to catch her enthusiasm and step out in courage with their own friends.
Have you ever had trouble staying focused while you pray? Attention deficit has been a long-standing challenge for me (Jeff) in a lot of areas, but prayer has always seemed like a particularly difficult time to stay on track. I sometimes wonder if our enemy watches for these times, when we are looking to spend undistracted time with our Heavenly Father, and he seems ready to assault us with a barrage of busy thoughts to take our mind in different directions.
I feel like Elijah, straining to hear the “still small voice” in the midst of earthquakes and storms and fires (1 Kings 19:11-13). I want to follow the command to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) and to meditate on God’s word day and night (Psalm 1:2).
One thing that has really been helping me lately is to direct my imagination to really picture things. Scenes from The Chosen, like Nicodemus on the rooftop with Jesus, really help me to picture Jesus actually sitting there listening to me and reminding me of what He has said to us in Scripture.
When we were praying in a team meeting recently, someone asked us to spend several minutes giving over to Jesus the things we were stressed holding onto. With effort, I imagined Jesus and I in a row boat on a lake, and I took precious things out of some bag (like dolls of my family, my body) and, reluctantly at first, put them in Jesus’ hands. Praying like this has helped me stay focused!
When Jesus prayed (in John 17) that the Church be united as one, He knew we’d each bring different gifts to the body. I am so thankful that we don’t rely only on those “inside Cru” to shepherd students toward God’s mission in their lives. One great example of a powerful partnership is Sherri, who runs CollegeChurchConnection.org. Her organization’s role is to do all the research for parents, pastors, and soon-to-be college students to find out what churches and Christian communities are near each campus that could be a good fit for students to get involved in. Hear what one student’s mother, Anne, had to say…
You said one time that who college students meet their first few weeks on campus can define their experience. We found that to be true and, because I knew where to help direct Katherine (who was interested in getting involved but not necessarily begging for ideas), she was able to plug in right away. We went to church together during move-in weekend and she continued to go there all three years. She has grown tremendously in her faith in college and has been able to get the best of both worlds — the resources of a large public university with a rich spiritual life and Christian discipleship.
A friend shared this free new video series on anxiety with us, and we have been absolutely thrilled with the experience! It’s like having two wise and warm counselors right in our living room. The concepts they deliver in these 8-min videos are an excellent application of psychology research and practical life weighed against the timeless insight of God’s Word.
One of the most powerful moments for me was found in their concept of “the Gap” in episode 5. The fact is that God gives us a certain set of resources and abilities to address the threats and opportunities in our lives, but most of life still falls outside our control (James 4:13-15). When we throw ourselves at this gap, we get frustrated and scared. We fall into the idolatry of trying to do life apart from God’s sovereignty (adopting either a God complex or a victim mentality). The counselors point out that the reality is that we’re not in control of either circle (Luke 12:25-31).
God doesn’t want us to live in constant fear and depression, so He gives us the gift of trust. Jesus said that He his gift of peace is not of this world (John 14:27). As Christians, we can relax in the knowledge that God loves us, is wise, and is in complete control of both our resources and the outside circumstances and results (Phil 4:6-7).
To see Bill Bright, founder of Cru, speak on the faithfulness of God, click on the teaching video at DiscoverGod.com/character/faithful.
Hundreds of thousands of people visited our sites during the event above, and hundreds asked to be contacted. I got to respond to any who were listed as church leaders instead of students, which led to an awesome conversation with dear Ginny (below).
Ginny is not someone you’d expect to see attending a college event or signing up to launch a campus, but God is not turned away by outward appearance, and I praise God He has given us eyes to see the power in people like her as well. Ginny has several grandchildren who are running for Jesus at different colleges. She substitutes in 10 school districts, and volunteers with her youth group.
She has traveled the world with her youth group on mission trips, counseling young ladies who really need a mentor. She also travels the state, ministering to students right in the public schools, and her students form little hearts with their hands whenever they see her. What a powerhouse!
Would you pray for Ginny as she tries to connect her youth pastor to our high school ministry, joins our educators initiative, and equips her graduating youth and grandchildren to be a light for Jesus in college? If you are or know of any more Ginnys out there, let us know!
At the beginning of the month, we were blessed to team up with other ministries and influential leaders to encourage new students in reaching their campus for Christ. One of my favorite student testimonies was from Jabin, the student body president who was inspired to launch a new ministry DURING the quarantine!
Jabin reports: “I always knew that I needed it for myself, but I never thought that I would be the one to start it. When campus was closed, we were all in isolation, so I connected with a few friends and we just started connecting with each other in God’s word. Shortly after we started the group, the video started circulating of George Floyd… Our nation is at an even greater crisis than we thought. One night, we stayed on this call for over four hours, talking about feelings, being in the Word, and seeing what God had to say to us in that moment.
We started connecting with students from different campuses, with friends and family, anyone who needed a group like this. We were able to expand to other cities and states with students who need a community on their campus that doesn’t exist. We’re seeing God’s glory be revealed through all of this.”
During a time when life seems out-of-control, it’s important to remind ourselves more and more often of the truth about Who is in control, what He is like, and how He feels about us. To that end, Karen and I end every night memorizing and reciting these doctrinal affirmations. They are frequently used in Cru’s prison ministry, but we have found them freeing in our own lives as well. Here are a few of my favorite highlights:
I believe God has proven His love for me because, when I was still a sinner, Christ died for me (Romans 5:8). He delivered me from the domain of darkness and transferred me to the kingdom of His beloved Son. In Him I have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14). I am now a child of God (1 John 3:1-3), seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6).
I believe that I was saved by the grace of God through faith, that it was a gift and not the result of any works on my part (Ephesians 2:8). Therefore, I choose to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Ephesians 6:10). I put no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3). The weapons of my warfare are not of the flesh (2 Corinthians 10:4). I put on the whole armor of God, and I resolve to stand firm in my faith and resist the evil one (Ephesians 6:10-17).
I believe that Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth, (Matt 28:18). Satan and his demons are subject to me in Christ because I am a member of Christ’s body (Ephesians 1:19-23), so I obey the command to resist the devil and command him in the name of Jesus to leave my presence (James 4:7).
I believe that apart from Christ I can do nothing, so I declare my dependence on Him. I choose to abide in Christ in order to bear much fruit and glorify the Lord (John 15:5-8). I announce that Jesus is my Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3), and I reject all idols and counterfeit gifts of the enemy in my life.
Though the 200 or so summer mission trips our students usually attend were cancelled due to the virus, the 106k students and faculty involved in Cru haven’t been idle.
Students connected with our missionaries online this summer, learning how to study the Bible, walk in the Spirit, fight for purity, share testimonies, and start spiritual conversations.
Ana from RVCC said, “In the busyness of life, my times alone with God have felt less substantial than before but, listening to the talk, I learned you can’t give what you don’t have. Any moment, I could be called to spread the Gospel in some way, so I need to make sure I’m receiving so that I can fully give to others. Receiving involves resting in a relationship with God and relying on Him.”
During one weekly meeting, they spent time in breakout rooms where they prayed specifically for two of the people they know who don’t know Jesus, and then sent messages to them to meet up (face-to-face or virtually). A great many were able to set up times to share with their friends. For some it was the first time they had ever really done that.
Even while ministering in their homes and online, Cru in the US has seen more than 44 thousand people put their faith in Christ so far this year!