Saturday, January 9, 2016

It's 2016!

UTD starts back this coming Monday (a week before any of our other campuses!) so our staff and students are gearing up this weekend for another semester as missionaries to the UT Dallas community.

Winter Camp
Our staff created a special music video to welcome student to camp. This was my frightening costume.
A week from now, I'll be in the middle of Winter Camp, our biggest event of the year. One of the axioms we use with our leaders is "Base hits, not home runs." We use it to remind ourselves to do important work that moves the mission forward consistently, whether it's impressive or not. Too many ministries and churches have been the victims of pastors grandstanding. I remember at the church I grew up at, our main worship leader wouldn't lead for crowds less than 1000 people--he only wanted to hit home runs. Jesus on the other hand, worked often with small groups of people who no one had heard of in places no one had heard of. So many of his recorded encounters are with people whose names we don't even know, which just reminds us again that these weren't celebrities or Caesars. He did small, "mustard seed" ministry.

BUT...when the bases are loaded, it's time to try to hit a homer! That's what Winter Camp is about for us. Our student leaders have spent months asking questions, loving their peers, preparing hearts, praying for people. And now we have an event where we are praying for God to show up in a big way, to do things that we simply CAN'T do. I ask you to join with us in praying that this weekend will be a pivot point in the lives of students who are ready for one. Pray for our speaker, Rikk Watts (a professor of New Testament from Regent College), that the Spirit will use him to help us fall in love with Jesus. I look forward to telling you what God does!

Several of our staff had the opportunity to take a class from Rikk last summer, and it was amazing!
Corefa Class

Tomorrow we'll have one of four Corefa Classes of the year, special sessions where we take extra time to teach and prepare our student leaders for ministry. Not to mention that going back to ministry basics is really good for our pastors! Tomorrow we will be teaching on two very important topics.

First, we'll be talking about confrontation and conflict. Jesus was always confronting people, and he was always gentle--gentle just looked pretty different from situation to situation! We know that from our own lives. Gentle when picking up a baby and gentle when spanking a five year old require different amounts of force. Gently restoring someone who is repenting of sin looks different from gently rebuking someone who refuses to acknowledge their sin. Gentle is about using the minimum amount of strength necessary--strength under control.

We'll be teaching our student leaders things like "Seek first to understand, and then to be understood" (thanks to Stephen Covey) and "You can always say more louder later, but you can't take back anything you've already said" (thanks to Ronnie Worsham). We'll show them the Johari Window and how to think about and talk about blind spots with themselves and each other. And we'll teach them how to mediate conflict between others.

The second part will be about ministering in the area of sexuality. We plan to have a question box so the student leaders can ask questions about things they or people in their spheres of influence are dealing with. Our staff will take some extended time to respond and use it as a teaching opportunity. I know this will be really valuable--some of our student leaders regularly hear things that many pastors and counselors never or only rarely deal with. Pray for God to give them a special gift of wisdom!

Intern Sermons

Lastly, I wanted to tell you briefly about the sermons the interns gave to the staff last month. Throughout the fall semester, the interns study through all four gospels in their "New Testament in Christian Ministry" class with Ronnie. At the end, they have to deliver a 20 minute testimonial sermon entitles "This is My Gospel" to the entire staff and anyone else they invite. This was SO ENCOURAGING! Each has a unique story. They come from different states, different countries, different religious backgrounds, different socioeconomic situations. But each of them has experienced Jesus threading their story into His, and has been radically changed in the process.

I wish you could have heard as each of them used the good news to minister back to us, but since most of you couldn't be there, I thought I'd share some highlights:

Danni, reflecting on what God is really saying to us in 2 Cor 12:9-10: "You've got weaknesses? So what? Isn't that why I'm here?" "We can just be us. And He can be our God."

April, reflecting on what God has taught her about Him being the Lord of her mind too: "To rejoice is a choice."

Nicki, reflecting on moving away from people-pleasing: "I can't please everyone, so all that's left is being my best for God."

Albert, in sharing about finding true friends who would speak the truth to him in love, described someone as "one of those friends who will stab you in the front." Ha!

JD shared a parable with us about staying in darkness, refusing to confess and come into the light, and thinking we can handle it ourselves. He said it was like a person going home and refusing to turn on the lights in his house because he thinks "I don't need help from the lights. I can do it myself!"

Nathan shared about the guys who reached out to him as a freshman and the ways they purposefully loved and led him. He said, "They may be things that are expected for corefas, but when I was a freshman, they meant the world to me." He also shared about the bittersweet moment when a young man he led to the Lord later in his college career said, "Nathan, I don't think I need you anymore to understand the Bible." And he didn't!

Carmen described humility as "being willing to be unappreciated, because I serve the most unappreciated Person in the world."

All 14 sermons were powerful, but some were so personal that they sort of defied me reducing them into sound bites. These are just a handful of the young men and women who are sharing the gospel on these campuses. Their stories are powerful in the Lord, and they are only just beginning to understand them and communicate them. It gives me great hope for the future!

Thanks for your prayers and for investing to put ministers on campus. You share in this fruit, and only God truly sees all the connections. I love having so many partners in this grand venture!

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