Mega versus Missional

"Who are we going to be as a ministry?"

This question keeps popping up around me.

In InterVarsity in South Florida, we're re-charting our course. Our ministry has been here for a long time. On most campuses, we got there first, have been there longer, have spent more money and time on these campuses than anyone else. But we're still changing direction.

I don't know what the campus ministry scene was like down here 30 years ago. I don't know what the church scene was like. But I've noticed something interesting about the way various ministries are positioned today.

Most campus ministries in South Florida are following a mega-church model. Well-funded, expertly staffed, these ministries are able to put on programming that attracts students. And I deeply appreciate them.

Right now, though we're a big group in the Area, we're the small fish in the pond when it comes to particular campuses. We have less money, fewer Staff and a preference for unreached and under-served students. And God is doing great things through our Groups.

So, we're going to dive in to the missional model.

Our posture will shift from "come" to "go."
Our preference will shift from "building" to "planting."
Our strategy will shift from "attractional" to "incarnational."
Our metric focus will shift from "number of students" to "number of Groups."
Our staffing model will shift from "full time, paid" to "part time and volunteer."

I have no idea if it will work, but it's exciting.

Missional versus Mega
Mega versus Missional - Who will we be?
Right now, we're the blue dot.

Will we go toward the pink, which is where most of the other Groups are?

Or will we head toward the green and the yellow and break into new territory?

Another Side of Jesus

Some of you have noticed that I'm not posting on the YoSteve blog as often as I used to. Thanks for noticing and asking about it!

One reason for the more infrequent posting is that I've had lots of writing opportunities recently (and only so many ideas).

Check out this Short Series from over at the Crossway blog:

The section below was previously published over at the Crossway blog

Ask modern people about Jesus and you’ll hear lots of ideas:
“Great teacher”
“Holy man”
“Misunderstood martyr”
“Liar or Lunatic or Lord or Legend”
Ideas and titles are important. They give us shortcuts, handles and categories. They make the world simpler. And Jesus himself encouraged the use of them [see Matthew 16 for an example of this].

But if ideas and titles are important, so are stories. And the Bible is full of stories about Jesus.

But so many of those stories are so unfamiliar to us. And if they’re unfamiliar to us, imagine how surprising they are to our friends who are far from God?

One of the most evangelistic things we can do is to tell the unfamiliar stories about Jesus that you find in the Bible. People often find themselves drawn to the Jesus presented in the Bible, even if they’re resistant to the ideas and titles we attach to him.

Over the next few days, we’ll post some of these stories, as well as some commentary and some discussion questions to go along with them. Feel free to add your own in the Comments section.

Raising a Ruckus

Keeping the Party Going

Touching the Untouchable

“Neither do I condemn you”

What are some of the stories about Jesus you find surprising?

Not Risking is a Risk

We need to look at risk-taking differently.

I've seen lots of ministries that thrive on building stable systems. The same thing happens week-to-week, year-to-year ... improving over time through cumulative, minor variations.

And this works. When it works.

Stable systems almost always punish risk. Don't fix it if it ain't broken. We know that taking risks can be costly.

But when systems begin consuming themselves, their stability becomes a liability. You know you need to make a change, maybe even a big one. But your systems only allow minor variations.

When weighing the cost of risk, we often forget to weigh the cost of avoiding risk. If your system is spiraling inward, doing the same old thing becomes a huge risk.

Risk-taking may not guarantee success, but when systems are collapsing you can't keep doing what you're doing. And minor variations won't save you.

And ... if you're lucky ... you'll see an opportunity to leap to a place you always wanted to go, but never knew how to get to through cumulative, minor variations.

That's why we need to take risks, think outside the box, try something new.

That's why we're jumping to disciple-making.
That's why we're jumping to community colleges.
That's why we're jumping to volunteers.
That's why we're taking risks.

Walking While Black

The police stopped two of my students the other night. They frisked one of my students, checked IDs, asked probing and intentionally offensive questions. There were no reports of crime in the neighborhood, no particular suspects being searched for.

These students were out for a walk, minding their own business.

We call this a "walking while black."

[For more on this phenomena, check out Tony Gatewood's experience]

This is only the second time I've had my students stopped by the police while walking and I think it reveals how different my two mission fields are from each other.

In Virginia, while I was on Staff at Washington and Lee, one of my student leaders was stopped on suspicion of public intoxication. This sweet woman couldn't walk a straight line on her best day. When she walked down the aisle for her wedding, some of us teased her that she needed to install bowling alley bumpers to get her to her groom. She just weaved when she walked.

The night she was stopped by the police, this woman was sober. Actually, she was always sober. After the incident, she joked that she had three reasons for never drinking. First, she loved Jesus and couldn't reconcile underage drinking with obedience to him. Second, she had enough balance problems while sober. Third, though she was in recovery from her struggle with an eating disorder, she could never justify the calories.

What a difference from the incident this week!

My student at W&L found herself able to laugh the incident off. The police were kind to her and it made a good story.

My students in Miami will carry this frustration and embarrassment for a while. Something like this will probably happen to them again in the future. They weren't treated with respect.

It's tempting to come down hard on the police in situations like this. Or to shuffle around looking for someone to blame.

But incidents like this challenge me.

When my W&L student got stopped leaving her sorority, I found it an opportunity to examine and talk about prejudice against Greek students. Profiling. Perhaps God will use the incident from this week in a similar way.

Police power doesn't corrupt. It reveals. Opportunity for prejudicial action reveals what's really going on inside. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men who, for lack of opportunity, appear holy?

Join me in praying for the students who were stopped for "walking while black" this week.

And, if you get a chance, help me think through a constructive response. At W&L, I could laugh with my friend, give her a hug and it was in the past. In Miami, it doesn't work like that.

I'm trying to find prophetic language, wisdom and compassion.

What would you do or say to help the students who were stopped for "walking while black"?

Reported for Being Too Loving

We got reported to the administration at UM last week.

Students designed an outreach themed around the intersection between pornography and human trafficking. By raising awareness of the trafficking that happens off-camera in the pornography industry, students were hoping to challenge the campus' consumption of pornography.

In the center of campus, we hung a big banner that read "Jesus Loves Porn Stars."

And that banner is what got us reported.

Religious students were offended at the sentiment. Here are some quotes we heard:

"Jesus can't love porn stars."
"They're sinners!"
"Porn stars are going to hell."
"You shouldn't be doing this so close to Easter."

The radical love of Jesus is offensive. He loves porn stars. He loves commercial sex workers. He loves every single person in the LGBT community. He loves people who are being trafficked. He loves the traffickers.

The radical love of Jesus is displayed in the Incarnation, as God enters a world of sin.
The radical love of Jesus is displayed on the cross, as he paid of our sins.
The radical love of Jesus is displayed in the resurrection, as he conquered sin.
Sins, even the really awful ones, don't have to separate us from the love of God in Christ.

And the radical love of Jesus shapes our engagement with the world. Or should.

That he loves porn stars shapes our consumption. That he loves sex workers shapes our language. That he loves the LGBT community shapes our rhetoric. That he loves people being trafficked shapes our activism. That he loves the traffickers ... this humbles us.

Let's always be reported for being too loving. Too often, Christians on campus have been reported for not being loving enough. It's time to take risks in the opposite direction.

Jesus loves porn stars and traffickers and us.

Let's go and do likewise.

Maundy Everyday

Yesterday was Maundy Thursday.

What does "Maundy Thursday" mean? For most of us, if we hear the phrase "Maundy Thursday" at all, think of it as "the day before Good Friday" or "the Thursday before Easter" or "the weirdest named day in the Christian church calendar."

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from a friend who mentioned the background for the phrase. "Maundy" has Latin roots, from "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" or "A new command I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you."

This "mandatum novum" is surprising. I mean, how can "love one another" be a "new command"? Jesus has already talked about the Greatest Commandment ("Love God") and the second ("Love you neighbor"). What makes this a new command?

Jesus issues this command after washing his disciples feet and before heading to the cross.

And guess which day that was?

The Questioning of Jesus

In Matthew 22, Jesus is approached and challenged with these difficult questions:
Should we pay taxes to Caesar?
In the resurrection, whose wife will she be?
Which is the greatest commandment?
These questions represent three dead-end type of questions:
  • Trap question ("Does your mother know that you're stupid?")
  • Trick question ("Can God make a rock he can't life?")
  • Subjective question ("What's the best color?")
We encounter questions like these in evangelism all the time. And we try to answer them. We get into arguments and get ourselves all tangled up, answering questions that take us to dead-ends.

I so deeply admire the questions Jesus asks in response to the questions he's asked. He pries the questions apart, digs to the center, reshapes and reframes. Check them out:
Whose image is this?
Have you not read the Scriptures ... ?
Who proved neighbor to this man?
How wonderful would it be if we were able to ask questions like Jesus?

For more on this theme, check out one of my favorite Christian books: Jesus Asked by Conrad Gempf

Logic and Love

The evidence for Jesus' story is powerful, compelling. History, philosophy, ethics ... these all line up behind Jesus. They create a strong case.

And, for some college students, their faith is grounded in this, this logic. They believe in Jesus, maybe even serve and follow him, because of this logic.

But there's more to Christianity than logic.

The logician can only go so far with Christ. Facts can spark a flame of duty, but not a torrent of joy. Cold, hard facts serve as cold comfort when the cold, hard world hammers on you. And how can you love your neighbor if you don't love your Savior?

Love is a tricky thing.

We want students to love Jesus. But we can't force love. We can hardly hurry love. Love comes and goes, not steady and constant but very, very real. Love is necessary.

How do you help people grow in their love for Jesus?