Monday, April 1, 2013

April Update

What a busy month March was!  All of our interns have been selected (9 in total; 4 at UNT).  We had an incredibly successful week of evangelism on our four campuses with the students from Western Washington University.  Now the end of the school year is closing in quickly with just over a month remaining.

The main thing I want to tell you about is what we did with our visitors from Washington.  They came to Texas for their spring break trip to evangelize on our campuses at UTD, UNT, Collin College, and Richland College.  Each campus had a separate campaign geared toward initiating conversation with students.  On top of that we paired Washington students with Texas students/staff and walked around our campuses talking to people about spiritual things.  At UNT we planned a campaign called, "I'm Sorry."  The goal was to apologize on behalf of Christians for the damage we've done in the past in hopes that we could develop real relationships with non-Christians.  And let me tell you, it was an awesome experience!  I'd like to summarize what we did each day and highlight a few things throughout because I want you to really understand the magnitude of it.

Monday and Tuesday we had two large marker boards set up and asked the question: "What is your biggest complaint about Christians?"  We had a lot of people answer the question and recorded their answers so we could apologize specifically for those things.  More than that, we were able to have conversations with these people about their complaints.  Just think about the first step in restoring a broken friendship.  It's talking about it and usually someone taking responsibility and apologizing.  That's how I envisioned this campaign.  Satan has done a great job of ruining relationships between Christians and non-Christians, but we can overcome that through building real relationships like Jesus had.  Jesus accepted people for who they were and He truly understood them.  He didn't see the sin, but rather the person behind it, and He loved them.  How Jesus loved them so.  Isn't it exciting that we have opportunities to love people similarly?

Wednesday and Thursday we posted our written apologies (about a few hundred).  We also asked two new questions.  We wanted to emphasize personal and specific instances and continue to have engaging conversations with people.
  1. How have you been personally hurt by Christians?  
  2. Christians, what are you personally sorry for?  
It was VERY interesting to see the responses.  Some of the hurtful things made me cry.  One girl had written that she lost two babies and her pastor told her they went to Hell.  Another guy I met, who was the president of an atheist group on campus, said that a kid threw a Bible at him in high school for being bisexual and an atheist.  The first response to our second question was from a Christian who was upset that we were "demanding" them to apologize to us.  We had to make it more clear that we were also Christians!  Something further in that regard was that Christians tended to be offended at what we were doing until they talked to one of us more to get a better understanding of our purpose.  One girl told me her Christian friends didn't like it because it made Christians seem like terrible people.  I explained to her that all humans are terrible people and we just wanted to break down the misconceptions about Christians being self righteous through taking responsibility.  Nearly every single person we talked to genuinely liked our efforts once they understood fully.

On Friday we wanted to shift to a more positive note.  We asked two new questions that produced similarly engaging conversations:
  1. What good experiences, if any, have you had through knowing a Christian?
  2.  Christians, what are you sorry for on behalf of the Christian church?

The main result from this week-long attempt at evangelism was our group made several new relationships with non-Christians.  These relationships weren't formed under false pretenses nor were the people lured in by sneaky tactics.  They were genuinely interested in friendship with someone they know is a follower of Jesus.  My prayer is that we can diligently maintain those friendships and reflect Christ to those people without turning them into a project or watering down the gospel.  The only people we seemed to offend were Christians because they either didn't like that we made Christians look like terrible people or they thought we were wrong to apologize because Jesus never apologized.  Like I said earlier, almost all of them changed their mind when they understood our intentions fully.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of this as well if you have any.  I also encourage you to think of ways to engage the people in your workplace with similar questions.  Or at least attempt to get to know them on a deeper level.  One thing I kept reminding students who were intimidated by talking about spiritual things with non-Christians was that spirituality includes a lot more than "religion".  I think Rob Bell hits on that concept pretty well with his movie called "Everything is Spiritual."  There aren't really spiritual things and non-spiritual things.  You can find out someone's beliefs about life simply by asking about their family background and what it was like growing up.  That breaks the ice so you can drill down into other areas by asking more questions.  It's an important skill to be able to lead conversations with people.  That's one of the main reasons we do campaigns like this on the college campuses.  It obviously has a good impact on the people we encounter through it, but the experience for our students receive is even more valuable because it equips them to better reach out to the people around them for the rest of their lives.  We really try to give them a vision for not just their college years, but also their post college years.  What will it look like for them to remain a disciple of Christ after graduating and finding a career?  After moving away from their Christian community?  Getting married?  Having children?

Please be in prayer for us as we finish up the semester and move into the summer.  The summer time usually has a lot going on with SICM (that's our student leader training conference in Washington), School of Ministry (we like do teach some form of graduate level theological class since our students all go to secular schools), and just our summer FOCUS big group meetings.  Also we will need to start figuring out student leadership for next year and think through how to utilize the interns in a way that is best for them to be successful in ministry.

Be in prayer also for one of our students.  His name is EJ and he has a cancerous tumor in his neck.  This tumor has already disabled his vision some and caused him to have severe headaches nearly all of the time.  Currently he is waiting to be scheduled for surgery (which needs to happen soon!).  After that he will have to undergo three treatments of chemotherapy.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers and support!  It does make a difference.  You have made an impact on the UNT campus.

Yours for the Campus,