On February 17, 1994, Robert C. Goizueta, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Coca-Cola wrote in this in his report to the stockholders:
All of us in the Coca-Cola family wake up each morning knowing that every single one of the world’s 5.6 billion people will get thirsty that day...and we are the ones with the best opportunity to refresh them. Our task is simple: make Coca-Cola and our other products available, affordable and acceptable to them, quenching their thirst and providing them a perfect moment of relaxation. If we do this...if we make it impossible for these 5.6 billion people to escape Coca-Cola...then we assure our future success for many years to come. Doing anything else is not an option.
Those in the Coca-Cola family are aware of two things--that everyone will get thirsty today and that they want to be in the best possible position for each of those people to have their thirsts slaked with a Coke. To do this is to accomplish their “scope.” They can’t force people to buy or drink Coke but they can put themselves in a place where Coke is available to every thirsty person.
Our task also is simple. We can awake every morning knowing that each of the 60 million college students, worldwide, will be spiritually thirsty at some time during their college career and we want to be in the best possible position to offer them “living water” to refresh them and give them life. As with Coca-Cola, “doing anything else is not an option.”
THE SCOPE OF OUR MISSION
Throughout the years, Cru has been known for its bold goals--”The Great Commission in this generation,” Turning lost students into Christ-centered laborers,” “Every Student, Every Year,” “...a ministry on 200 new overseas campuses by the year 2000,” “One billion people won to Christ by the turn of the century,” Where do these goals come from? Should we really be taking them seriously? Let’s see if we can make some sense of this and bring it down to the area, campus and individual staff level.
EMBRACING THE SCOPE
The first question we need to ask ourselves is this, “What’s on the heart of God?” The answer most likely centers around people. God’s two greatest acts, creation and redemption, are both centered on man having a relationship with God (John 17:3, Jeremiah 9:23,24, Acts 17:24-26, Luke 19:10). Jesus then entrusted this purpose to His people (Matthew 28:18- 20, Mark 16:15, Acts 1:8, John 20:21, 2 Corinthians 5:15-20). The mission statement of the Campus Ministry, “To turn lost students into Christ-centered laborers” is simply an extension of what is on the heart of God. Every local mission statement should logically, then be a reflection of the mission of our movement. We really don’t have the freedom to have a different agenda than the Great Commission.
PLANS AND STRATEGIES
That brings us to plans, strategies, materials and methods. Local ministry plans should be a reflection of the mission statement. If our plans and strategies don’t involve giving every student the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel during their time on campus student then we are thinking too small.
BONDAGE OR FREEDOM?
There are two responses to this--The first is to say, “That really puts me under the pile and it really won’t change what I do on campus.” The second is to say, “This helps me to do what I came on staff to do.”
I’m freed up to be creative in how I will handle this stewardship. My prayer becomes, “Lord, how can I, in the freedom and creativity of the Holy Spirit be a part of reaching the campus for you this year?”
Freedom to Sow Broadly
The following are some of the reasons we can be freed up to creatively sow broadly:
1. The Great Commission is God’s idea and will one day be fulfilled by a generation who takes him at His word. When our director of India, George Ninan was asked if the task of evangelizing India was overwhelming he answered, “Overwhelming? It almost cost me my faith. But then I realized that either He would have to do it in India or He’ll have to rescind the Great Commission.” Because he didn’t give up on the scope, he was open to the “Jesus” film coming into India. That’s what one observes overseas--staff who are captured by the cause and yet freed from the personal burden of the cause. Many feel a real freedom to try grandiose things even if they fail because the Great Commission was God’s idea. They attempt to be both bold and faithful.
2. The illustrations of evangelism suggest that we sow and throw the net broadly (Matthew 13 etc.). Just as the nets capture the fish that are close to the surface, we need to continually throw the net out broadly simply to see who is ready to respond today. This implies multiple strategies. It takes all kinds of strategies to reach all kinds of students. Some days we use hooks, other days, nets and sometimes we need to use a bit of dynamite. But we’re always committed to fishing. Every student, during his or her college career, will have several moments when their spiritual interest will be peaked, perhaps through loneliness, academic pressure, a failed relationship, etc. We need to throw out the net frequently enough and broadly enough to reach them when they are ready.
3. Evangelism is 90% God and 10% us. Look at the examples in the Scriptures (John 4:34-36, Acts 8 and 10, John 5 and John 15:26,27). When a person comes to Christ it is because God has been working in his or her life through a variety of means. We are the last link in the chain. Sometimes we make evangelism too man-centered and dependent on us. We feel we have to have all of our apologetics down, understand all the world views, etc. But in reality God is the one who convinces the heart (John 16:8). Once we understand this, we are freed up to sow broadly knowing that God has been at work. Our primary job is not to convince the uninterested but to reach those whose heart God has already prepared.
India is a country with very little Christian influence, yet several summers ago our staff and students saw 1,500 college students receive Christ during a 2-3 month period. In April of 1987, Bill Bright preached the gospel to 2,500 Hindus, and guess what happened? Many of them trusted Christ that night. Why? Because God had been at work in their lives drawing them to Himself. Many of you have had similar experiences in Mexico, Hungary, Bolivia, Chile, and a myriad of other countries as well as on your own campuses.
Often we assume that people need a strong spiritual background, knowledge of God, etc. before making an intelligent decision. The “Engle’s Scale” suggests that people move from “-10” (no awareness of a supreme being) to “-1” (decision for Christ). Yet look at the New Testament. Luke writes of the Jews (the most prepared) the words from Isaiah, “Go to this people and say, ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’” Contrast this message to that of the apostle Paul with his ministry among the Gentiles. He longed to preach Christ “where Christ was not known...as it is written (in Isaiah 52:15): ‘Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.’
Evangelism is always a process that includes cultivating, sowing and harvesting but this process can often be very short. Jesus, in John 4, sent his disciples into fields that were already “white with harvest.” He said others had done the hard work (of cultivating and sowing) and they were simply entering into their labor.
4. It’s completely in line with who we are as a movement. We work best as a movement when we as staff major on “proclamation” and minor on “persuasion” rather than visa versa. We will die as a movement if we reverse this calling. Staff probably will never have the time or luxury to major strictly in relational evangelism (although that shouldn’t keep you from an occasional game of tennis with unbelievers). Our job is to reach the interested as opposed to convincing the uninterested. However, this does not mean that staff cannot see evangelism as a process. Continual social contact along with broad proclamation over time is really a process. Relational evangelism should be a part of your personal life but probably not the focus of your personal campus ministry.
Look at the apostle Paul’s strategy. He had a clear picture of what the Great Commission was. Here’s what he did--When he went to a city, he would first go to the synagogue (presumably the most interested), then to the God-fearing Gentiles. He would establish a church, appoint local leadership and then move on. The new converts were built and trained to reach their pagan communities. This is the strategy we use around the world with the JESUS film and Great Commission Training Centers. We go after as many prepared people as possible and then train and mobilize them to help reach their communities.
Staff are most effective when they major on proclamation and broad-sowing strategies and then equip their students to be highly effective in process and persuasion evangelism. Proclamation gets the Word out but historically has not yielded an abundance of assimilated converts. Students are assimilated because of relationships.
We need to meet with all who are interested in order to persuade them but we can probably use evangelistic literature in areas that are out of our range of expertise or time constraints. We should leave every evangelistic contact with something to read, listen to or watch. Give him or her something the Spirit of God can continue to use apart from you. We evangelize the interested and educate the uninterested. The way we find out if they are interested is by sowing broadly. Remember, evangelism, in and of itself, is educational. A few years ago, the Navigators discovered through surveys that the average person had heard the gospel seven times before they received Christ. When we sow broadly, we are breaking up and preparing the hard soil and perhaps giving one of those seven educational opportunities that will prepare others to reap.
In “Operation Desert Storm” before the ground troops entered Iraq, the US forces dropped tons and tons of bombs on strategic targets. This bombing, by itself, could not win the war. We needed a ground war but it would have been foolish to enter Iraq without first “softening up the area.” In the same way, broad sowing, newspaper and media strategies may not directly win someone to Christ but they do soften the turf to prepare a person’s heart. The Ethiopian eunuch was reading something perplexing when Philip approached him and led him to Christ.
5. It is a matter of stewardship. If we, with staff teams of up to ten staff and scores of students can’t reach the campus, how can we ever believe God for the world? “And from everyone who is given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” (Luke 12:48). On a campus staff team of ten, it is not unusual to be raising over a million dollars in support over a four year period, or a college generation. If it costs us a million dollars to reach a generation of students, then we’d best invest our time wisely. This is simply effective stewardship.
Sowing broadly begins with a heartfelt commitment to evangelism. Paul Eshleman, originator of the “Jesus” film, “Football Fever,” Explo ‘72, CoMission, etc. says that every great idea he has had has been born out of the daily questions he asks himself...”How can I win more people to Christ?” “How can I make it easy for someone to share their faith today?” He edited the evangelistic film “Football Fever” in an MTV studio by watching the eyes of the MTV staff. Whenever they looked away, he put in more of the gospel message. The testimonies and gospel message are dispersed throughout the film.
A main barrier to proclamation is the ominous feeling of “more bricks and less straw.” Greater scope and effectiveness doesn’t necessarily mean staff intensive, harder work or more money. Perhaps you could pose the question to your student leadership, “How could we expose 10,000 students to an opportunity to hear the gospel for under $100?” You’ll be amazed at what they come up with. You don’t have to be staff intensive to accomplish much of the scope or your mission.
Think of some things that already have proven effective. Nationally, we had the “Every Student’s Choice” campaign. The Mizzou staff used the “Media Project” in exposing huge numbers of students to the gospel. Dave Dishman wrote regularly for the student newspaper and spoke frequently in classrooms. Many campuses purchased half and full- page adds in their newspapers at Easter proclaiming the evidence for the risen Christ. The great majority of you have brought speakers on campus this year exposing huge numbers to the opportunity to hear. All of you surveyed thousands of students during your first couple of weeks on campus. The possibilities are endless.
Another possibility is (no, this is not a typo) working together with other Christian groups to come up with a strategies to reach your campus. Perhaps there was a day when Cru was the only group on campus but the task is too great to try to do it alone.
BALANCING THE TENSION
Perhaps your movement is small and your campus is large. Do you abandon the scope? Hopefully not. You always need to have as your North Star, the mission of reaching the campus. Here’s the bottom line--If we want to reach the campus this year, God may very well give us the creativity and resources to do so. If we don’t have this as our goal, then we won’t even be open to ideas that would get us there.
REACHING THE CAMPUS
Historically when we have talked about “reaching the campus,” most staff think of sharing the Four Laws with everyone. As we move toward broad media exposures (as measured by “content and opportunity”) we run the risk of not actually talking to anyone. Perhaps a balanced definition of “reaching the campus” would be to give everyone on campus several opportunities during the year to respond to the gospel via campus newspapers, flyers, mail, etc. but we also take responsibility as a movement to personally contact every Freshman every year.
Eric Swanson is a former Cru staff member who now serves as a Leadership Community Director for Externally Focused Churches. He received his Doctor of Ministry degree from Bakke Graduate University.
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