Guest Post by Mike Stohler:
Ten years ago I was a youth minister at a church on the east coast of Virginia sitting in my office with a high school student. Talking with students about what is going on in their lives is a normal part of ministry. This particular student was a strong follower of Jesus and wanted to discuss their future aspirations about college and their life.
There was a season in youth ministry where everyone freaked out about how many students go to college and lose their faith. All the big youth guys talked about it and the answer we came up with out of fear, was to send our students to Bible College for at least a year. In our minds this made sense to get them adjusted to college in a safe place where there aren’t so many temptations or bad things going on. This was the advice I gave.
I realized later that I gave that student terrible advice…
The problem is the Gospel and Jesus call us to do the opposite.
I bought into this thinking and now I am ashamed of myself, as fear dominated my leadership I led students to walk away from the very place God called them to, so that they wouldn’t be tempted or lose their faith in Jesus, and continue to grow spiritually.
Whenever fear leads us, we often go to the place opposite of the Gospel. We go away from where Jesus is actually leading, so that we can be safe. I am not saying bible college or Christian universities are bad. The problem came when I bought into the lie that a university is not a good place for Christian students. Again, the opposite of the Gospel.
Fast forward a few years and now I am in my second year as a Campus Minister at Virginia Tech. Now I walk across a university campus everyday. I spend time with students here, a lot that follow Jesus and a lot that don’t. Now I get to talk to people all the time that think the way I used to think.
Regularly I talk with parents whose greatest fear is that their little sweet baby will fall into temptation at college and run away from their faith. Now don’t get me wrong, I have seen this happen. I have watched students walk down this road and it is heartbreaking. The fear is somewhat justified, but we know the truth that “Perfect love casts out fear…” Our calling is to boldly follow Jesus, no matter what, even college.
I talk to people at churches who wonder if anything good, righteous and Godly happens on a college campus. If I had a dollar for every time people asked me about professors speaking against religion and trying to talk students out of their faith, I would be rich. I think people assume God is not moving and working on these campuses. They say, “Well thank God that the campus ministry is there to bring Jesus to these students.”
God is already here and He is on every college campus. God is moving on the campus of Virginia Tech. I didn’t bring Jesus to this place. I joined God in this place and work alongside Him in what HE is already doing.
I would say to you what Philip said to Nathaniel when he told him he met Jesus, the Messiah. As Nathaniel questions this and Philip simply says, “Come and see for yourself.”
If you come to Virginia Tech and see what God is doing here, you will be blown away. You will notice God everywhere on this campus.
I experience students coming to know Jesus and gaining a relationship with Him for the first time. I watch students who are already followers of Jesus grow and mature way more at this university than they ever would of at bible college. Last week I met with 8 different students who are striving to follow Jesus each day and are living for Him on this campus and striving to love their friends and lead them to Jesus. You don’t hear about that in the news stories from a college campus.
Is there also great darkness here at times? Yes! Emotional pain, spiritual poverty, and relational dysfunctions show up in tragic ways, but there is darkness and pain and struggle on every college campus bible college or public university. That’s why every university needs more students who are followers of Jesus to come and be a light! Light brings hope into the darkness. (Matthew 5:13-16)
The truth is light is not that big of a deal when it’s bright outside. Take a flashlight out during the day and see how that works out for you. At night, though, when you can’t see your hand in front of your face, a flashlight is extremely necessary.
For light to truly shine and bring change, it has to go to the darkness. It has to be bold enough to go and be in the dark. If you really are the light of the world, then you must follow Jesus to the dark places and shine His light there. Will you go?
Grace and Peace,
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