Sunday, March 29, 2020

Why I'm a Campus Pastor, Part 3

Well, this last month has been unprecedented. I never thought I'd see all of our campuses closed, all of our students sent home to finish the semester online, all of our events and plans for the end of the school year canceled, and so much uncertainty about summer and fall. But it's a good reminder of why it's so important to be doing our best to reach university students with the gospel--our current way of life is unsustainable. It's easy to lull ourselves into thinking that things will simply go on as they have, that we have plenty of time for all that we want to do. But Jesus taught differently. I think his words in Matthew 24 speak well to our current situation:

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I'm not saying I think this pandemic is a sign that Jesus is returning in the next weeks or months. In every generation, some Christians have expected him to return in their lifetime, and every generation has been proven wrong so far. I think it plays especially well to our American self-centeredness to think that, of course, all of those scriptures must apply directly to me. :)

What I am trying to say, is that Jesus calls us to be awake, aware, ready. He calls us to live with a sense of urgency and expectancy. While every generation so far has been wrong about the date of Jesus' return, they have not been wrong to sound the warning that he is returning, that judgment is coming, that all of our "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage" is going to come to a sudden end.

When we get too comfortable, we don't even want him to return! We hope he'll wait until after I get my dream job or my dream spouse or my dream vacation or my dream grandchildren. We've got plans and goals! College students have lots of plans and goals too. Someone needs to be in their lives, proclaiming and reminding them that Jesus is coming back. As he says three times in Revelation 22, "I am coming soon!" He's right at the door, ready to open it and come in at any time. This pandemic is a good reminder to students and campus pastors alike that his return is always near, and we must always be ready and making others ready for that Day.

(If you want to hear my teaching on some of the scriptures around Jesus' return, including what I think Jesus was saying about timing, you can check out this Pizza Theology from 2 years ago.)

Our response to COVID-19


Some events, like our party to end the school year, have had to be canceled, but most of what we do has just moved online and on the phone. Our ministry model is based on relationships rather than events, so modern technology makes it possible for us to keep going! Here are some of the ways we're adapting:
  • Individual meetings - We always meet regularly with students one-on-one for mentoring, support, and discipleship. We've continued these over video chats and phone calls as students have left campus. Some students are easier to nail down now that they have little else to do!
  • Small groups - We use small groups for discipleship, leadership development, Bible study, accountability, and fellowship with our students. Cores and peer teams are continuing to gather on various platforms, some even meeting daily to help provide structure and spiritual direction to their members! 
  • Teaching - We teach our students from the Bible and provide supplemental classes and teachings. This will continue via videos, podcasts, livestreaming, and posted materials as we continue to produce content for our students. For example, we'll be doing a Pizza Theology on heaven and hell in three parts over three weeks starting next Sunday. We are also streaming services on Friday nights on twitch.tv/utdfocus (you can still see the one from last Friday night if you're interested in what we're doing).


Alumnus Testimony!


Every so often, we like to share a story from an alum to see the further-reaching impact of our ministry. I remember James as a freshman at UTD, and it has been so cool to see God's powerful work in him and through him these past few years. Thank you for your prayers and financial investments that make these stories possible!



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