Has your ministry exchanged spiritual reproduction for adoption?
Every campus minister faces a fork in the road in his or her ministry mindset.
He will have to decide if he is part of a discipleship ministry that does evangelism OR if he is part of an evangelistic ministry that does discipleship.
Think about it. How would you answer? Does the answer even matter or make a difference?
Does it make a difference?
Many campus ministries on the path of discipleship ministry wonder why they are not making a sizable and sustainable long-term impact.
It’s not that they can’t, but they won’t, unless they take a different path.
Most campus ministries operate like today’s missionary distribution; 90 percent of their focus goes toward the already reached locales while the unengaged and unreached areas get a mere 10 percent of their energies.
Spiritual reproduction has been exchanged for adoption.
Instead of personally raising up laborers from the ranks of the lost world, we bypass this spiritual birth step to raise up another’s spiritual child.
We don’t want to take the time and sacrifice of reproducing on campus through gospel conversion, because we are fine with the ease of raising up the already converted.
We will only ever be surrogate parents who raise up other infertile disciples unless evangelism becomes our primary vision in discipleship.
Does it matter to you?
Jesus said, “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18).
The assumption here is that discipleship starts with the raw material of unbelief. However, our discipleship methods don’t often show it.
If discipleship does not include evangelism then how will we ever make disciples (or better yet make disciples who make other disciples)?
Without evangelism, campus ministries will only be adoption agencies when the church of Jesus Christ desperately needs delivery rooms.
And yet we ask ourselves, “why isn’t our ministry growing?”
How to outgrow the ingrown ministry
Ministries do not grow because the example of growth is not in front of them.
Expecting students of a ministry to do something (ie. share their faith) that has never been done to them is unrealistic. It cannot be sustained long term.
Therefore, the problem is not with the students, but with the staff!
Look at your most current disciples that you have invested into. Chances are they live, look, and labor like you. Why? Because everyone reproduces after their own kind.
If you are unsatisfied with their labors then your labor needs to change.
They are not evangelistically minded because you are not evangelistically minded.
Remember, if you want a different result you must do something different.
Are discipleship and evangelism at odds?
The problem is not discipleship, but the goal of it.
Most of us are far from the goal of Jesus’ discipleship when He said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).
The question begs an answer, “If I’m not fishing, am I really following?”
The relationship is clear: Fishing is the byproduct of faithful following. To follow is to fish and to not fish is to not be following.
Therefore, if evangelism is Jesus’s goal for discipleship then we must follow in His footsteps.
Below are ways I try to keep tethered to the evangelistic path and get my disciples to follow:
I pray for opportunities and boldness to faithfully share the gospel on campus and off. My disciples hear my prayers and they learn what is close to my heart.
I ask them often who they are praying or seeking to share with and we pray together for those individuals privately and corporately.
We even ask God for a chance and the courage to share with the scariest, most impossible, unimaginable convert on the college campus.
What is impossible with man is more than possible with God through Christ (Matthew 19:26)!
I demonstrate a lifestyle of evangelistic conversations.
I believe my men share their faith because they have watched me do it countless times.
We cannot just tell them to do it, but we must show them how. And once we show them how they will begin to do it with us. Just watch.
When you model something long enough it begins to multiply.
In watching me they not only learn how to do it, they also learn how I fail at doing it.
They see my lack of it, misspoken words, my embarrassment, or awkwardness. They see a man in need of the very grace he speaks of often.
I want to raise men who savor the gospel they share!
I commit to putting myself and my men in risky, faith-building, awkward situations that press the comforts of our personality, gifts, or skills with regards to evangelistic encounters.
It makes us rely upon our God and the power of the gospel and not smooth transitions into supernatural dialogue.
There is no easy and smooth transition. The gospel is almost always abrupt, so do not wait for the perfect moment because it will never happen.
Invite yourself into a conversation by sitting down in the dining center with someone you don’t know.
Ask a tough question like “In your opinion, if you died tonight and you were to go before the gates of heaven and God were to say, ‘why should I let you in,’ what would you say?”
Put your disciples in situations where they must do the same and publicly identify with Christ before a complete stranger.
I set up my men to reap in the fruit that I could have reaped.
I give them a chance to harvest lower hanging fruit and receive the joy of gospel sharing ministry by giving them opportunities to finish what I have started.
Often, I might prepare them for a conversation by telling a student they should ask my disciple that question instead of me.
Or I will invite them to evangelistic lunches where I initiate all the conversation until it’s time to share the gospel outright or ask an intentionally deep question. At that point I ask them to jump in on the spot.
I also tell my disciples to look for opportunities to share their testimony with students who have similar backgrounds because their story would be particularly relevant and encouraging.
I bridge students to God by Jesus Christ through illustrating the gospel in a simple diagram (usually on a napkin).
It’s my go-to diagram that easily communicates the gospel and invites the listener to participate in discussion.
The gospel is the power behind its effectiveness, but the diagram is a great entry point for deeper conversation.
I have started a simple website profiling the diagram and its uses here.
Little has been more empowering and effective for the kingdom in my experience.