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Campus ministry: plotting out your strategy

February 28, 2011

Tony grew up in Taiwan before coming to the United States as a teenager to graduate from high school and attend college. Although he had gone to church as a boy, he purposed not to listen and deemed it “a waste of a Sunday morning.” As an entering freshman at the University of Oklahoma, he chose to live off campus because he didn’t want to room with someone he didn’t know. Now being away from family, his newfound freedom allowed him to begin drinking excessively with older students. Although he felt miserable, he continued, and his habit became addictive. Late one night, his hands started shaking uncontrollably. As he was desperately looking for some alcohol to calm his nerves, the phone rang, and it was Kevin─a Christian guy he had met who was involved in the OU Baptist Student Union, led by longtime director Max Barnett. The Lord used that phone call to get his attention, and that evening he finally admitted that God was all-powerful and all-loving and wanted to forgive Tony if only he would confess his sin and repent. Ending his session with the Lord, he prayed, “Please change me. Help me to live according to the Bible. Amen.”

Tony stood up a changed man and determined to leave behind his drinking and worldly lifestyle. Kevin introduced him to Aaron, the leader of their weekly BSU floor Bible study. Aaron started meeting with Tony each week, working on Scripture memory, how to have quiet times, and to learn what it means to live like Christ. Aaron also began taking Tony out witnessing, and after realizing how inward and selfish he had been, Tony made a commitment to the Lord to share the gospel with one person per day. Tony says he prays for daily opportunities and sometimes. “God gives me three instead of just one to witness to!”

It is now Tony’s third semester in college, and he has mapped out a plan to impact others for Christ. He saw how Aaron lived in the dorms in order to witness to students, so Tony searched and moved onto a floor in one of the dorms where no other committed Christian lived. His prayer goal is to reach out to every student on the floor, proclaiming that his semester began “the day the freshmen moved in.” Along with his relationship building and witnessing, he has started a small group Bible study on his floor. Even though there has been a lot of apathy and opposition to Tony, two freshmen, Cole and Tyler, have responded and are spiritually very hungry to grow. Tony now meets one-on-one with each of them “just like Aaron does with me.” Tony learned a strategy from Aaron that he is now passing on to Cole and Tyler, preparing them to someday take on a floor of their own to win and disciple. This sophomore from Taiwan wants to be soldier for Jesus Christ and has adopted as his marching orders the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18–20 to “make disciples of all nations…”

To understand the parallels between spiritual warfare and physical, we can look at how combat soldiers prepare for dual impacts:

  1. For the possible life-threatening force that will be waged against them personally as they engage in the battle.
  2. For the carrying out of the mission in hopes of victory.

Both the defensive and offensive positions require hardship, training, and strategy.

Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. (2 Timothy 2:3–4)

Paul understood that strategy is not just for the visible battles earthly armies fight but also for the supernatural invisible war that He has drafted us into. And even though our battle is not of flesh and blood, it is a more significant, more fierce struggle than ever took place in Vietnam. The word soldier in the Greek language is: strata logeos, simply meaning “a word about strategy.” Every soldier of Christ, then and now, must have a preplanned, predrilled strategy if he or she hopes to triumph.

The Desert Storm campaign in 1991 that America and her allies waged against Saddam Hussein was one of the greatest examples of military mobilization in all of history. Months and months of moving hundreds of thousands of soldiers, ships, planes, tanks, missiles, and supplies all for the purpose of quickly and decisively crushing the Iraqi invaders. What if, right before the attack, commanding officer General Norman Schwartzkopf pulled his horde of soldiers together on the Kuwaiti beach, but instead of giving them a detailed strategy on how they were going to attack and defeat the enemy, he impulsively decided to grab his bullhorn and simply yell, “Now, get out there and get ’em!”? I have a feeling our boys would still be out there wandering around the sand dunes trying to figure out what he meant by “get ’em!”

In our ministries, we can choose to discard strategy, saying that we are just “being led of the Lord,” and that may hide our laziness or fear of failure for a time, but it will catch up with us. It’s like the championship intramural football games I quarterbacked each season in college where we always possessed superior talent but then were thrashed by a team who had designed and perfected intricate plays. Meanwhile, I was busy deceiving myself into thinking I could simply gather my guys in the huddle and brashly say, “Get open!” In ministry, vision is what you want to see accomplished, and strategy is how to implement it.

An Excerpt from The Fuel and the Flame
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