Why are we so afraid to share the gospel in college?

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Why are we so afraid to share the gospel in college?

This is an important question to ask while any Believer in Jesus is in college. I believe that the university setting is one of the best places to share with people the good news of Jesus Christ, but why is it that we so often do not? Steven Lee, the new lead pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church North Campus, wrote an article called Four Reasons We Don’t Share the Gospel last year, and I thought that it would help explain much of what we students learned this summer at Summer Training Project. 

Steven Lee goes through four obstacles to evangelism for most people, and I will do my best to connect these same points to college students:

1. Lack of Gospel Knowledge 

College students, even at Christian schools, have a huge problem sharing the gospel simply because they do not understand the gospel enough to articulate the truths of the gospel in a simple and coherent way. 

2. Apathy

This obstacle became increasingly evident throughout this summer as students began to look at their lives and reflected on what Christ’s work on the cross actually did. Students are perfectly content making friends and going to dinner with people, but when it comes to sharing the gospel with people, it always seems that we don't have enough time. 

3. Fear 

College age students already have many insecurities. We are still growing and becoming who we want to be, and we are afraid of people rejecting us because we are not enough for them. Sharing the gospel is just another reason for which people could reject us. We do not want to push people away, so we just end up saying nothing.

4. Lack of Compassion

God has revealed to me that in my heart, as in many other college students’ hearts, I do not understand the urgency for those who do not believe in Jesus, and because of that, I, most times, do not have compassion on them as I should if I truly understand the gravity of the situation. 

Summer Training Project has pointed to the good news of Jesus that changes everything. The community that I have gained while being in South Carolina, and the community that many other college students have gained will forever change the way that these students look at the world.

Steven Lee’s Four Steps to Sharing More:

1. Pray Together for the Lost

Throughout the summer, more than 100 students have prayed fervently for the students on their campus to understand that they can be made new through the truth that God sent Jesus down to earth so that we who are sinners could be in a relationship with a Holy God that has come to save us and be in a relationship with us. 

2. Recall the Gospel Together

After going through Ephesians, the students at project were able to not only preach the Gospel to each other, but the students were able to live in a community where each and every person was reminded of the gospel each and every day.

3. Apply the Gospel Together

Throughout the summer, we as students were able to not only remind each other about the Gospel, but we were able to apply the Gospel in real ways. During conflict, arguments, joys, pains, and victories, we were able to see how God has given each of us the ability to live freely in the joys of the Gospel and to unite in the comfort of Christ’s care. 

4. Prove the Power of the Gospel Together

With the believers at project, we were reminded of the sufficiency of God’s word to do his work for his purposes. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that the Gospel saves by grace through faith — apart formworks — as a free gift, and during the summer, many were able to trust, believe, and declare it for the first time.

God’s sweet love has been so evident this summer, and it was my pleasure experiencing the joys of Gospel-centered community with so many college students. Amen.

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Powerlessness of Pain by the Suffering of Christ

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Powerlessness of Pain by the Suffering of Christ

Love is a dangerous thing; real love, even more dangerous, because real love opens the door to a grand world of pain. This week, Harmon Squires, the Project Director this year, led a discussion on Pain and Joy, which is usually a very difficult talk for all of us students here at Project. The more that I talk with students and ask them questions about their lives, the more I understand one simple truth: pain is everywhere. 

Pain is when your parents decide to separate you are only 10 years old, and when your little sister dies. Pain is when you get molested as a child, and when your dad abuses your mom. Pain is when you have never even met your dad, when you have no friends. Pain is when you think you are worthless, and when you can’t stand the sight of your own face in the mirror. Pain is when your boyfriend breaks your heart, and when you have a baby, and the father is not in the picture. Pain is when your mom has cancer, and when you have OCD. Pain is when you have a miscarriage, and when you try to commit suicide because life is just not worth living. 

Pain is real, and pain is hard. 

How can a college student possibly cope with such difficult pain in the midst of such difficult life transition? It seems almost impossible. However, the good news is that it is not impossible. 

I think of the overwhelming joy that I have in Christ. How can I have such joy with such horrific pain? The answer is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in Your book?” Psalm 56:8

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

We do not have a father that cannot feel our pain or that does not see our anguish. We were stuck in the pit of misery and hatred, but God did not let us wallow and die, but he took on flesh, came down to the lowest places (Ephesians 4:9), took hold of us in his arms (Mark 10:16), died for our sins so that we may be alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5), reconciled us with God (Ephesians 2:16), and ascended into heaven to free the captives (Ephesians 4:8). 

Because of this Good News, we are able to be free from our pain and suffering because of the pain and suffering that Jesus endured for us on the cross. This is all that we need. Pain doesn't just disappear then, we still experience pain because this world is not our home (Hebrews 13:14), therefore let us follow the words of Hebrews 12:2, and lift our eyes to Jesus and rest in his unfailing love.

As a Believer, when pain comes our way, it is different. On this earth, God does not necessarily take away our pain, but He promises to meet us in our pain. God promises us that He will comfort us in all our troubles because our comfort abounds through Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3-8). God’s goodness outweighs our pain. God’s glory shines brighter than the darkness of our troubled hearts. Because of that, we can take joy when we go through suffering because Jesus made it possible for us sinners to be with Him in paradise where no one will take away your joy (John 16:22). 

We, as Believers, also have the gift of a Community of Christ. When I feel defeated, I am able to turn to the people that God has provided to me in order that they may point to Christ when all seems hopeless. This is a simple but powerful gift. 

“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).

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Stop your Striving, Rest in Christ

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Stop your Striving, Rest in Christ

By Madeline Heidi Meidt

Week Two After Relationships Week!

Pursuing a man or women and pursuing God have proven to produce an attitude of works based righteousness. The majority of my life has been trying to prove myself. My motives have changed throughout the years out of seasons of insecurity and confidence. Out of a spirit of insecurity, trying to prove to myself that I am worth it and that I am worthy of a relationship. In a spirit of confidence, thinking that I deserve a relationship because of how great I have made myself think I am. Both are seasons of selfishness, thinking I am entitled to a relationship and the pursuit of a man. I am human and deserve nothing but hell. I do not deserve a relationship, but because of the cross and the fact that Jesus is the son of God and died for my freedom, I am able to participate in the joys that this life brings and experience life eternal.

In this striving to prove myself, I become weary. It is so tiring trying to prove that I am worth it. I feel like I am not good enough the way I am, but need to put in extra effort to ensure that I am seen as someone worth spending time with. Laughing a little louder, telling extra funny stories, and perfecting how I look to make myself just a little more noticeable. All of these things are striving, trying to make myself better than I may seem, or than I view myself. At times, I’ve wondered why I go to bed so emotionally drained when I am interested in someone. It is this reason: I strive, and I end up dissatisfied and empty when the attention is not returned. I want to be pursued, I want someone to desire me.

The saddest part is that I do the exact same thing with God. I do not believe that the cross is enough. I pursue God, trying to make him notice me more. I read my Bible, make sure I go to church, and write an extra page in my prayer journal, all with the motivation of making myself seem more desirable to God. I want to gain his attention so I can take from him, not to know his heart more. This is striving. I am striving to gain God’s approval. I want him to look at me and say, “Wow, you are so good. I am so proud of you for doing all of these great things. Great job finding and choosing me.” None of that is true! God does not look at me, proud of my good works. He looks at me and sees Jesus. Meanwhile, Jesus is saying, “Father, I paid it all. It is finished, they are yours forever.” My good works are useless compared to what Jesus did on the cross. Thinking that I can earn God’s approval is saying that Jesus is not enough and that Jesus paid most of the debt, but the rest has to be completed by myself. I did not choose God, he pursued me. He came after me into this world to free me forever.

There is no way I would ever desire to turn from my sin and toward Jesus. It is a miracle that the Lord would enter into my heart and change me forever, so I would despise sin and want to know him more. I am SO unworthy, incredibly undesirable, and the lowest of the low. My freedom from sin cannot have anything to do with what I could do. That does not make sense. It has everything to do with Jesus! Jesus did everything. Jesus came, died, rose again, and conquered death, and now reigns forever in heaven with his Father, having freed the world from sin by bridging the gap. It is finished. The work I do on earth does not change that. Because of that, I no longer have to prove myself to God. I can read my Bible with the desire to know Jesus more and to see more of the Gospel, not because I want Jesus to love me more. I go to Church because I want to be around believers and because Church shows me more of Jesus, not because I want other people to see how good I am. I can find joy where I am because Jesus freed me from my sin.

God doesn’t love me because of the things that I do. He loves me because of Jesus. He is constantly pursuing my heart and has been since the beginning of time as he constantly proves himself faithful, kind, and beautiful. He allures me. “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Heartbreak, a door of hope,” Hosea 2:14–15. He knows me, he created me, and he understands my heart better than I could ever understand my heart. He does not want me tired and worn out in my pursuit of proving myself. Instead he says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” Matthew 11:28–30. How amazing is that? Jesus is saying, “stop your striving! Instead, take my yoke. Take what I have done on the cross and there you will find rest for your soul.”

Stop striving, stop trying to become enough. You will never be enough apart from Christ. Allow God to pursue you and experience that rest. The same is true for our earthly relationships as a marriage between a man and a woman represents Christ and his pursuit of the church. As I said in point one, your relationship status has nothing to do with you. God is completely sovereign, completely in control, he knows what is best for you, what will give you the most joy, and the most growth. Rest in God’s merciful kindness and your identity in Christ.

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Hope Found in Christ, Not in Relationships

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Hope Found in Christ, Not in Relationships

The following two blog posts come from my Fiancée, who was, at the time of her writing, single and in no way expecting to be engaged one year later. Please enjoy her thoughts and be encouraged.

From Madeline,

Last week was the culmination of a long expectant “Relationships Week” at Summer Training Project. This is a week devoted to discovering what is biblically said about relationships involving your family, friends, and significant other. I was excited for this week knowing that our God is a relational God and desires us to have healthy relationships, reflective of his character. Being in a season of singleness for almost a year now, there have been many things revealed to me about relationships, especially in this past year.

Here are just a few:

1.   Because God is sovereign, the reason anyone is single or in a relationship has nothing to do with them at all and everything to do with God’s plan. The reason why I am single is not because I am lacking or exceeding in any area of my life, but because that is what God has for me now for his glory and my joy. This season I am in will produce the most growth and the most joy possible. My ministry is strongest right now in a season of singleness and when God sees fit, I will only be brought into a relationship to make his ministry through me stronger and for me to see more of who He is. It has nothing to do with me.

2.   I am undesirable, but Jesus is infinitely desirable. For a long time I felt like I was invisible to any man because of who I am and what I felt like defined me (my major, my career aspirations, etc.). Because of this lack of attention, I deemed myself as undesirable and therefore unable to be desirable enough to be pursued. I felt like this was wrong that I should not feel this way about myself. I felt entitled to a relationship and that I should be thinking of myself as incredibly desirable, that this was just a confidence issue. The truth is, I am undesirable. A holy and mighty God shouldn’t desire me. But because of Jesus, I am no longer defined by any of these things. God sees me and smiles. He is confident in his decision to save me and joyfully took the cross for me because he is merciful and just. Because of Jesus, God sees me as desirable. Apart from Christ, I am completely and utterly undesirable. Nothing that I define myself as in this world matters. It makes no difference. My ultimate identity is in Christ. I am completely undesirable, but because of who God is, and what Jesus did on the cross, I no longer have to be defined by my undesirability in my sinfulness, but I am defined in Christ as free and new and lovely.

3.   I may be single for the rest of my life and that is okay. This whole last year, I knew that I could be single forever and tried to play the “I’m really tough so I shouldn’t be sad about this reality because God is sovereign” card, but found myself continually discontent. Asking God for a relationship and ending my time in tears, desiring the desires of the Lord, even if it meant singleness, and yet desiring a relationship. This past relationships week I was again reminded of this truth. Yes, I cried real tears when earthly singleness was mentioned, knowing it may be my reality, but was reassured that the Lord is constantly providing for me. I do not need a relationship to be satisfied because my satisfaction comes from the Lord alone. No man will ever satisfy me and if I am expectant of that, I have put my hope in an idol. I may have momentary happiness but that deep joy and security comes from God alone. “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.” Psalm 145:15–16. God is faithful! He keeps his promises and he has promised to satisfy me. I do not need to look to a future husband for any bit of joy, happiness or satisfaction, that, in itself, is idolatry.

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Understanding The Forest from the Trees

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Understanding The Forest from the Trees

This summer, we are studying the letter from Apostle Paul to the Church of the Ephesians. Ryan Potter, a staff member at Michigan State University and seminary graduate, explained the study to the leaders the night before the students arrived. There is always a little bit of fear going into a new book of the Bible. The spectrum of knowledge of the students coming into the summer ranges from very knowledgeable to almost no bible study training at all. The question that needs to be answered is simple in nature but complex in application. What kind of Bible study will foster an environment where the depth of the Bible is grasped while retaining the beautiful truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

The summer is organized so that for each day of the summer, there is a scripture that is to be studied going along with STP theme “NEW.” Some days, students will read a whole chapter or the whole book, but most of the time, they will study through three or four verses from the book of Ephesians or a related passage. By August 3rd, the students will have read through the book of Ephesians three times.

The whole purpose of reading through the book three times is to – as Ryan Potter says –understand the forest from the trees. With each week that goes by, the students move close to see the details and wisdom of the passage and then step back to see the overarching purpose and meaning of the entire book.

This week, staff members introduced a method of studying the bible that gives the students the tools to properly evaluate the meaning of the passage that they are studying. Larry Martini, a staff member at the University of Saint Thomas in St. Paul, walked the students through the Inductive Method of Bible Study. The Inductive Method of Bible study comes in three parts: observation, interpretation, and application. The whole purpose of the method is to start at the surface level of the text and dive deep into the meaning and practical implications of the passage. The following explains, in short, the purpose of each of the pieces of the Inductive Method:

Observation: The purpose of observation is to help students point out what the text says without inferring too much about what the text means. Observation strives to answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how. It includes repetitions, pronouns, and possible reference words like therefore, but, and however. In this section, students should be able to objectively distinguish important parts of the text.

Interpretation: The purpose of interpretation is to answer the questions brought up in the observation section using concentric circle context. Concentric circle context encourages students to look at the immediate passage, the immediate chapter, the immediate book, other books by that author, and then other scripture. This teaches the students that many answers of tough questions lie in the text that they are studying.

Application: The important purpose of application is to give the students practical implications that the text has for their lives. The focus on application should not be how now the student must act, but instead focuses on how the text should connect to the heart. This helps the student find the heart-level meaning of the text and looking for realistic ways that they can apply it to themselves.

As the summer goes on, we pray that the Lord gives the students a passionate desire to know Him more through His word. We believe that scripture is the inspired Word of God, and because of that we find that it is crucial to the growth of any believer. Sometimes the Word of God seems like a scary forest, and by studying and searching through small portions of it this summer, it is our hope that we come to see Jesus more clearly and know Jesus more dearly.

 

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The Good Soil

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The Good Soil

As we grow and adapt in our walk with Jesus down here in Garden City, SC, we are being flooded with the good news that sinners like us have the ability to be in relationship with a Holy God because of the riches of the grace of Jesus Christ.

In a conversation this week with Zach Simmons, a staff member at the University of Minnesota and leader of the Ministry talks this summer, explained the first section of Ephesians in the following way: “Our inheritance as believers is Christ, occurs through Christ, and is for the praise and glory of Christ.”

This is a sweet gospel truth if you look at it closely. What are we as the sinner doing? Receiving. We cannot work to get God’s attention. We cannot give God a little boost in order that it is easier to redeem us. We are dead men and women; we are simply seeing that we need a sacrifice and in turn receiving the sacrifice which is Christ as a gift from the abundance of Grace that God gives.

Sometimes, as believers, we get stuck in a cycle of trying to prove to God that we are worth loving, which nullifies our need for Jesus, and then we fail because we think that we can somehow need God less by doing enough good works and not doing enough bad ones. This is where hearing comes into play.

And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, 
growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold
and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 
And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Mark 4:8-9

 

As a ministry, Campus Outreach believes that it is crucial to continually share the gospel with both unbelievers and believers. Because of this belief, Campus Outreach has made it possible for you to listen and reflect on each and every one of the messages that we are experiencing down here. I encourage you to follow these instructions, download our talks and listen to them so that you may know exactly what your children, friends, and family are hearing.

I would also challenge you to communicate your partnership with us to the students that you know that are here in SC. Ask them questions about the talks. Reference the main points. Pray over the staff members and student leaders that are speaking truth over the students. Pray that the Lord gives the students “ears to hear.”

Listening to the talks is very easy. Simply follow these directions:

1.     Click on one of the following links.

a.     http://www.cominneapolis.org/stptalks/

b.     https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/com-summer-training-project-talks/id1243047102?mt=2

2.     If you clicked on (a.), click on one of the four options that you see in the window:

3.     If you clicked on (b.), follow the link to this window and choose accordingly.

4. Click on View in iTunes. This page will pop up.

5. Choose which Talk to listen to. Or click to Subscribe to stay updated with future talks.

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Remember that future talks take a little bit of time to post to the website. Please stay tuned for more updates.

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Psalm 40 and Tomah, WI

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Psalm 40 and Tomah, WI

When you are young, waiting seems like the worst part about any day. Waiting for lunch, waiting for naptime to be over, waiting for dad to come back from work. Waiting has never seemed to be fun.

This was my experience in Tomah, WI.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Psalm 40:1-3

Psalm 40:1-3 makes it seem so easy – waiting for the Lord to act, but most times, especially in Tomah, WI, waiting is horribly difficult and uncomfortable. On the way to Summer Training Project 2017, a few guys and I were driving through the middle-of-nowhere Wisconsin when my car started jolting side to side as if one of the tires was busted. After a few choice words with Gideon Burnham, the driver, we finally pulled off to the right side of the road to see what was wrong with my car. The good ol’ Camry seemed fine. I then went and looked under the rear bumper to see a rod broken on the axle. That is when the fun started.

For the sake of your time, I’ll skip the really fun stuff and get to the “mud and mire” that Psalm 40 talks about. Greg from AAA towed us five miles down the road to a small town called Tomah and after hours of calling, we figured out that we were going to be stuck there for 18 hours.

Blessed is the one
    who trusts in the Lord,
who does not look to the proud,
    to those who turn aside to false gods.[b]
Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare.

Psalm 40:4-5

In this instance, I didn’t feel very blessed. I was in a place that barely had any cell service – God forbid – and I was frustrated that the whole situation was out of my control. In no way was I in awe of how marvelous God’s plan was for me at the moment.

Since then, we made it safely to Project and are now in the swing of things. As I reflect on Psalm 40 and how it relates to my adventure in Tomah, WI, I see what the Lord was doing.

Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
    it is written about me in the scroll.[e]
I desire to do your will, my God;
    your law is within my heart.”

 I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
    I do not seal my lips, Lord,
    as you know.

Psalm 40:8-9

The Lord was breaking down my heart. He was preparing me to be molded and sculpted. It sounds extreme, but I believe that God planned out my car to break down before I was born so that I would be forced to see more of Him in tiny Tomah. How often do I close my eyes to what God is doing? How often do I blame the hard things in life on everyone around me?

But as for me, I am poor and needy;
    may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    you are my God, do not delay.

Psalm 40:17

The Lord is my deliverer, but I often treat Him as one who simply wants to tell me “I told you so.” While we are here, the students (and myself) are put into situations where they are unconformable. Many times, these situations feel like a pit, but maybe God is trying to help us proclaim about his saving acts wherever we are.

Continue to pray that the Lord will teach our hearts to say, “The Lord is GREAT” (Psalm 40:16).

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Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

 

As Summer Training Project approaches, the leaders, both veteran and first-time, tend to shake in their proverbial boots. Questions that would have normally never entered their mind now seem to flood their heads with anxiety and worry.           

“Do I have what it takes? Will I know what to say? What do I do if someone in my rooms runs in crying and asking me about hard things?”

Churches, youth groups, and Sunday school classes make it seem like a piece of cake, but leading a group of college students is anything but easy. There are so many variables and unknowns. Some might flaunt the fact that they have been to two or three projects already, but when push comes to shove, they are just as scared as the next person. This is one of the main reasons that Staff at Campus Outreach decided to do leader’s retreat in the first place; they want students to be able to slow down and understand what leadership at Summer Training Project is all about, and for most leaders, it is exactly the opposite of what they assumed. 

The sad truth for every leader on the trip is that there is nothing that they can do to save a student that is going on the trip, but this seemingly sad truth is also the most freeing truth that any of the leaders will ever hear – the freedom of self-forgetfulness.

Tim Keller, a Pastor and Author that shepherds Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, wrote a book about the Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, and Devin Smith, Staff for Campus Outreach, spoke to some of the students about the freedom that is found in serving Christ.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul exhorts the Church in Corinth.

“I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.  For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it."

Believers must understand that their striving is never for their own good. Believers share the gospel with others because God put the words in their mouths. If Jesus had not made it possible to love God, humanity would never have picked him. Because of this truth, believers have no right or reason to take pride in their leadership abilities or decision to lead freshman and sophomore students for a summer.

Therefore, students are then completely free to love the Lord because there is no weight on them to succeed. Jesus finished it. He died and resurrected. The battle is won. There is no need for worry or fear of failure surrounding leading groups of college students, because Jesus gave his life and took the wrath of God so that humanity could be in relationship with God.

The application for these leaders that are about to step out in faith this summer is that Jesus already took the weight of sin and the responsibility of salvation, so all they have to do is walk by faith that Jesus will finish the work that He started.

            Remember, these same leaders were at one point dead in their sins, but because of God’s love, they can be alive in Christ.

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The End

When you live somewhere for two months, it starts to feel normal. Natural. Like you’ve always lived there. You’ve gone through the weird phases of “I don’t have any friends,” “I don’t know where anything is,” and “The culture here is different.” You’re comfortably settled into a routine...and then all of a sudden you have to leave.

That’s what happens at STP. The two months we spend in Myrtle Beach are an amazing time of learning and growth, but project isn’t designed as an end, but a means of equipping us to go back to campus as students with a heart for sharing the Gospel with others.

The end

Paul Poteat gave the final talk of the summer on “The End” and detailed three ends we should consider as we leave for home: Jesus, love and heaven.

  • Knowing more of Jesus was the end goal of project and is the end goal of returning to school...and for the rest of our lives.
  • Loving the Lord and others more is the end of knowing more of Jesus...it should be an overflow
  • Heaven is the ultimate end of our walk with the Lord. And it’s going to be better than we could imagine.

It was such a sweet ending to a joyful, eye-opening summer to hear what we have to bring back to our homes and campuses, but even more amazing was thinking about heaven. I realized I am very earthly-minded when it actually comes down to my day-to-day life. Heaven isn’t something I dream about. I don’t look forward to it like I should; I find myself thinking that it would be great if God would just wait until I have the chance to do things I dream about, like have my own apartment, get married, travel overseas, find my dream job, or any number of other things.

But when you actually stop to contemplate heaven, it changes everything.

It changes how you view your work. It makes you see the value in giving away your life because this life isn’t all that there is. It makes you long for the final and ultimate restoration of the world. It makes you want to bring others into that future with you. In the end, everything else (even STP) pales in comparison to heaven.

Heaven and home

Thinking about heaven rightly has made me more ready and more excited to go back to campus. I want others at my school to know the security and joy that comes from a relationship with Jesus that will ultimately end in us being brought to live with Him forever.

Going home from project can be hard because something so good is ending, and that doesn’t feel right. But seeing STP as a launching pad to share the joy of the cross and of heaven, not to mention knowing that one day we’ll all be together again forever...well, that makes it all so much better.

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”


― C.S. LewisMere Christianity

 

 

 

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Life is a Vapor - Post Project

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Life is a Vapor - Post Project

We’re finally back in Minnesota, trading palm trees for pine. This summer seemed to go by way faster than any other. It feels like STP was just a dream. Although it’s been really nice to be able to sleep in and see family again, I’m definitely missing the environment and community of project. STP was filled with so many memories and sweet relationships. We all grieved the separation of a place that has become so dear to us. Ocean View Motel in Murrells Inlet has become a second home.

Our last theme talk was; “Three Ends: Jesus, Love, Heaven.” While we mourned our final evening of STP, we rejoiced in the hope of heaven. Heaven is real. Heaven is tangible. Heaven is forever. We will constantly be in community in the presence of our Savior.

Paul Poteat asked the question, “Would you be beside yourself to leave earth and be in heaven with Jesus?” I instantly responded to the question with uncertainty. I’m so young and have so much life to live. I’m not sure if I would necessarily be “beside myself” to leave earth. As I thought about the question more, God showed me how He is greater than I can ever imagine. My ignorant, human mindset is so focused on the insignificant details of my life that won’t matter when I’m in heaven. Marriage, success and fame are such insignificant things in light of eternity.

It is so different to look at this earth as a temporary home, even though I know that it is only a vapor. As God has been changing me to have an eternal mindset, I can answer Paul’s question with, “Yes. Nothing would be more exciting to me than to be in the full presence of Jesus.” I praise God for the gifts that He has given me that point me to Him. My community and the environment of project has been a small taste of heaven.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” ~ Colossians 3:2-3

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Visitors from England...Sort Of

You may or may not know this, but STP is not the only project Campus Outreach puts on each summer. The Cross Cultural Project and Twin Cities Project offer students a different view on ministry; CCP gives a vision for what ministry looks like in other parts of the world, and TCP gives a picture of how ministry in the workplace and the city can work.

Recently, STP hosted the CCP team for a week as they shared what God did in England over the past eight weeks. It was a sweet time of seeing how God uses different members of His body to accomplish different parts of His mission to make His name known.

A few things happened while CCP were here: one of the staff - Devin Smith - gave the theme talk on Monday nights, the CCP hosts the social (a scavenger hunt) and provides the encouragement (tea and biscuits!) for the week. Each member of the CCP also met with students on project during the week to further talk with them about students’ interest in overseas missions and their own experiences.

I personally got to sit down and talk with Sarah Trapp, one of the CCP members, over coffee, and was so encouraged by hearing now God had worked in her life over the summer. It was clear that God had radically transformed the hearts of all the team members, stirring up a passion for the lost overseas and filling them with immense joy in the process. It was refreshing to my heart to hear about God working outside of the small STP world we’ve been living in. Hearing stories of how God rewarded the CCP’s faithfulness to go to the nations encouraged me and many other students at STP to consider how God might be calling us to “go into all the world.

It’s going to be exciting to see the fruit of the CCP’s time with us as we go back to our campuses and even consider what next summer might hold, be that a CCP trip, another missions trip, STP again, or living on mission in Minneapolis.

“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” - Matthew 9:37-38

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Our Redeemer

It is the last full week of project and students are preparing to go home. We will no longer be doing beach ministry and working at Walmart. So who’s our ministry now? Where do we go from here? 

The Campus

Monday night David Cook, student project director, gave a theme talk about Jesus being our redeemer and what this looks like in ministry. 

“Jesus has redeemed us and invites us to participate in His redemption where we are.” 

The gospel is the story of redemption and how Jesus makes us to be like Him. I’ve been thinking about what this looks like in my life and how my interactions with people reflect my relationship with Jesus. 

This next school year I will be living in the dorms at the University of Northwestern, St. Paul. I’m going to be around new, freshman girls who may not understand the true meaning of the Gospel. This is my ministry. Going out of my comfort zone and showing freshman and sophomore girls the love of Jesus is worth more to me than getting a good grade on a test,  making a lot of money, or building my resumé. 

This summer I have been convicted of so many ways I spend my time selfishly and don’t let the message of the gospel permeate every area of my life. 

Our Reward

If Jesus is our reward, why am I not jumping at every opportunity to serve Him? If we lived in a community of believers that inspired us to do so, how would our campus change? I look forward to the opportunities that will arise living in the dorms as a senior. God is worth going out of your comfort zone.

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When the staff leave STP

Part of the point of Summer Training Project is the “training” part of the name. Training takes a lot of different forms, the most obvious one being the talks that are given throughout the week. But a more subtle form of training that happens is the “on-the-job” training that happens during the month of July.

At the end of June, the CO staff leave SC and the responsibility of leading, speaking and organizing all of STP is handed to the student leaders for a month. From the perspective of one of those student leaders, it was a pretty scary day when we had to say good-bye to the last staff person. Suddenly the people we asked a million questions and looked to for example in ministry are a thousand miles away, and it’s time for us to step up to the plate in a new way.

What does it look like when staff leave?

Now that the staff are gone, the team leaders are responsible for leading the project; that means that the team leader guys are giving talks every week, all of the team leaders are planning the events of the week, managing budgets, coordinating student jobs, and any number of other things that come up during the week. Team leaders, room leaders and the servant team are all meeting with more students during the week: studying the Bible, checking in on how they’re doing and just doing fun things around Myrtle Beach.

Where training comes in

All of us came into the summer with a little bit of training in what it means to be a leader on STP, and almost all of us have been involved in Campus Outreach for a couple of years. But we’re still young and don’t have tons of life experience to draw from. But the staff spent a lot of time meeting and talking with us during the first month of STP, but most importantly have spend a lot of time pointing us to Scripture and encouraging us to pray and talk with one another during the good times and the hard times.

We also have leaders’ training every week, where we’ve heard talks on servant-hearted ministry, helplessness, confronting sin, and several other topics, each of which God has used to further equip us to walk alongside students this summer as they grow in their relationships with the Lord.

We’re far from perfect at this, but God is using leadership to train and grow each of us in places where we struggle, showing us His faithfulness in our own weakness and inadequacy.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” - 2 Corinthians 12:9

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Meanwhile at Project...

I would like to inform you that I am currently writing my blog post from the kids’ section of Barnes & Nobel in Market Commons. Why? All the other comfortable seating was taken due to the thunder-storm outside. I guess everyone thought tonight would be a good Barnes & Nobel night. Needless to say, my 5’8” self does not fit into small, hard wood chairs like I used to.

Anyway, there are 2½ more weeks of project left and the students are starting to wind down from all the summer project hype. It’s been an exhausting summer but it’s been so cool to see God working.

There’s been a huge difference in the unity of project since the beginning and end of the summer.

Beginning of the summer:

I nervously exit my vehicle and unpack my things while overthinking every possible thing that could go wrong throughout the summer. What if Walmart is a total drag and I’m burnt out half-way through the summer? What if I’m not an adequate leader and nobody likes me or thinks I give good advice? What if I don’t connect well with my room? What if I have to have confrontational conversations with people that intimidate me? What if people confront me on huge sins in my life and I don’t handle it well?

End of the summer:

I am inadequate. I am weak. Walmart management is not anything I aspire to pursue in the future. I did have confrontational conversations and will continue to. I do feel tired and burnt out. I have no ability to lead on my own. 

Here’s the truth:

Jesus. I know this is something that is said over and over again in Christianity, but He’s truly the answer. I am inadequate, but He is adequate. I am weak, but He is strong and has shown me His strength. It is Jesus who gives advice and speaks through people. We have no right taking credit for the wisdom that He’s given. I don’t need to compare myself to others because God sees me as Jesus, not an important leader. If Jesus is our true focus, then our hearts are on fire for the gospel. This fire is illuminated in the way we interact with others and is truly beautiful. 

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Ministry reveals joy

Usually my posts serve to inform people about events happening at STP, but this week I wanted to share a little about what God has been revealing to me this summer through my leadership position.

All my life, I thought I knew what joy was, and, to a certain extent, that was true. I could define the word and tell you that for the Christian, joy wasn’t based on circumstances but on our unshakeable standing before God because of Christ. But I’ve been crippled by the fear described in Proverbs 29:25, “The fear of man lays a snare.” I have loved the Lord and the good news of the Gospel, but I’ve been afraid to step out and put myself on the line for His sake.

Until this summer.

I knew I had a lot of fear in my heart when it came to sharing the Gospel and doing ministry; that had characterized my years at school and even my past 2 summers here in SC. I’d been taking baby steps to overcome it, but it was a discouraging process; I felt like for every one step forward I took three steps backward.

Coming into this summer, knowing I was going to be responsible for a large number of girls all at different places in their walks with the Lord, I knew that fear was going to rear its head again in perhaps a stronger way than before.

The first few weeks were hard because I was constantly struggling fear and inadequacy,  but thanks to some encouragement from one of the staff, I was able to fight through those feelings, and God met me in some amazing ways as I stepped out in faith.

Since then, it’s slowly becoming more of a habit in daily interactions to step out a little more than I would have before. I still fail and fall backwards, but I know I have the sufficiency of Christ to rest on in my successes and my failures. As I’ve watched girls’ eyes be opened to their own freedom in Christ, cried with them as they wrestled through hard things, and laughed with them in their successes, my own cup has overflowed with joy.

“Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the world.” – John Piper

Being a leader this summer has showed me so much of the beauty of Christ and the cross, and I can’t help but want more as I think about going back to campus in the fall. I want to see God work so that His name would be made great and glorious, and through that, that I would see more of his beauty and my joy would increase.

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Laundromat Ministries?

One place you’ll see a lot of students on our day off is the laundromat.  There’s sand, sweat, and grease all over our clothes by the middle of the week. I’m the type of person who puts off laundry for as long as possible. I don’t know how effective that method is because I end up spending the same amount of money by doing more loads, but I guess it’s considerate to keep your clothes clean.

A couple of weeks ago I was minding my own business, putting in my last load when I noticed a woman sitting on the table next to the washer machine I was using. She had a devotional book open and I felt God tugging on my heart to talk to her. I asked if I could sit next to her and she eagerly accepted.

We made small talked for a little while, “What’s your name? Where are you from? Where to you work?” then I pointed to the devotional book she had opened. She shared with me how she became a believer and how she’s trying to be better about reading her Bible. We continued to talk about her past, hard things she had been through, and how Jesus has always been a constant in her life. I was so encouraged by our conversation and wanted to let her know that she is loved. The woman opened up to me about how she has felt alone for many years. This broke my heart. She so readily accepted my offer of friendship and community which is something I take for granted. I expect people to circle around me and be in community with me. I believe that community is Biblical and beautiful, but I never understood what it was like to stand alone and be complete in Christ.

Before I left I asked her if we could exchange numbers and get together again. She gladly accepted and we met again. She contacted me last weekend and we met at Dunkin Donuts. We talked about how her Bible reading is going and how God meets us where we’re at. We read Psalm 81 and talked about how God delivers us from the hard things of this life. I hope to meet again with her at least one more time before we leave project.  

The more I meet with people the more I see how God is the only one who can change hearts. I am an inadequate human being who has been saved by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ and it is HE who works in the hearts of others. I have a tendency to take credit and expect God to change people because of me. How sinful am I! There is nothing I will ever say or do that will stir the hearts of others apart from Christ. He holds His children in His hands and by His grace I am able to have encouraging conversations with others. Praise God for His mercy and allowing me to catch a glimpse of His beauty through the Holy Spirit that is living in others.

 

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"I'm living with how many people?"

The first time I heard about STP, someone told me that it was about 120 college students living in a hotel for two months. Not being a huge extrovert, I couldn’t imagine how you were supposed to make friends in that large of a group. But, in reality, STP has been broken down into smaller groups like campuses, teams and rooms, which makes it easier to form a close group of people around you while still having the option to get to know a lot of different people.

Campuses are probably the most obvious segregation on project. The reason all five Campus Outreach Minneapolis schools come to one project is because the mission of CO is to build laborers on the campus for the lost world. A summer of shared experience, learning and growth is strategic for cultivating a unified group of students on campus who are excited to share their faith and welcome others into the community built here. So we spend time together as campuses every week to lay a foundation for going back home.

Another way that STP has been strategically broken down is into teams. This summer, there are five teams on project: Imperfect Harmony, the Fueen Machine, Old Yeller, Recess and Al We Do Is Win. Each team is made up of 4-6 guy and girl rooms; they work together at Wal-Mart and attend church together, but the main way they spend time together is during team time, a time each Sunday where everyone on the team gets to know each other through games and conversation.

Rooms are designed to bring people of the same gender together from different campuses in a way that relationships can be intimately fostered through discipleship groups, room hangouts and one-on-one time. Rooms also expose students to people who come from a variety of different backgrounds and teach them how to work through conflict in close proximity.

Like I mentioned before, the point of all of these groups is to offer a setting that’s smaller and more comfortable, in which people can get to know one another better. As the summer goes on, they can each become places for sharing growth, struggles and joys.

Is it important?

I remember feeling during both of my past two summers that I didn’t really know what the point of the breakdown of project was, and it’s only now that I’ve been in the role of team leader that I really see the need for it, apart from the practical planning side of its purpose.

If we all perfectly knew how to reach out to others, form a community around ourselves, and never felt like we didn’t belong, there would be no point to what the divisions are about. But the reality is that as fallen and frail human beings, we don’t do any of those things well. We fear others’ opinions of us; we try to blend into the crowd; we hide behind facades of perfection and laugher...because not being known is so much easier than showing your true self. When people know you, they see your sin, they could judge you for the things you enjoy, they could decide that you’re so different that you’re not worth their time.

But vulnerability offers the sweetest connections of all. Openness breeds trust, and trust lays a strong foundation, one that will last long past one summer of living together, working together or being on the same team. It develops an attitude of the heart that should flow out of a security in our identity in Christ.

That’s the reason why STP is structured the way that it is; we hope and desire that people would learn to live freely with others out of a security in relationship with God, but recognize that doesn’t come naturally. Having campus time, team time and rooms offers a platform to show students what it could look like to have community as a way of life beyond this summer.

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To Pursue, or Not to Pursue? That is the Question

It’s relationships week at project and the subject of “proj crushes” has substantially shifted in meaning. Relationships week is devoted to discussing what it means to be in a Christ-centered community with mixed genders. There’s a guy-girl breakout session where the girls can ask questions on how we are supposed to love our brothers in Christ while guys ask questions on how to pursue loving relationships with women. The number one thing that is stressed throughout the week is the constant need of Christ and how He is our first and only love. The only way to be in a God-honoring relationship is to allow Christ to be our foundation.

However, many people aren’t used to hearing about what Christ-centered relationships look like. Project crushes have already developed and genders have been responding differently to the messages have been given throughout the week. The boys are second guessing themselves; “Is she the type of woman I can spend the rest of my life with? In what ways may I be leading her on? What does my community have to say about this?” The ladies, on the other hand, have their own questions; “Will he pursue me after project or during? Is he a spiritual leader? Can he articulate the gospel? I just really want him to pursue me!”

It’s interesting to watch the guy-girl dynamic of project change as feelings of opposite genders are being… revealed (notice the ‘revealed theme’ pun). But in all seriousness, I think we have all learned a lot this week. Eric and Holly Lonergan gave the two-part relationships talk on Monday and Tuesday. I was left with a lot of time to process what it means to be in a Christ-centered relationship.

Growing up in a conservative, Christian home, a lot of my focus has been on finding a good, Christian boy who can lead me in my faith. Throughout my life, my mindset has been to “be pure for my future husband.” I believe that it is good to live a pure life, but the more I learn about God, the more I see how I can’t live a pure life.

God is my Purity. He is my Righteousness. He is my Love. He is my Pursuer. My focus has always been on living for my future husband instead of living for my Savior. As I fall in love with Jesus the subject of relationships possesses a whole new meaning. No longer am I living for a future husband, but for the Creator of the universe. God has been revealing to me the blessing of my brothers in Christ and how to see them as His children instead of potential suitors. I look forward to hearing how God has changed the hearts of others as they learn more about Jesus and His gift of relationships. 

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Talking to Strangers is Okay

You know how your parents always told you that you shouldn’t talk to strangers? Well, here at STP it’s recommended, especially on Wednesday afternoons.

You may be wondering why that is...because it sounds kind of strange.

A big part of what we do here at STP is work to develop our personal relationships with the Lord, but a natural result of getting to know God better is to be moved to share Him with others. Wednesdays’ Ministry Training meeting is the time set aside to equip us with tools to share the Gospel effectively with those around us, as well as to have time to practice what we’ve learned.

What we do

Ministry Training meetings consist of two parts, a talk and a workshop. This past week, Nirmal Mekala spoke on “Abridged Revelation,” and walked us through how to share the Gospel using a simple diagram called the Bridge. It revolves around Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” After that, he discussed two kinds of fears we might face in evangelism, insecurity (fear of awkwardness, rejection or a loss of reputation) and inadequacy (we may not have the right answers).

In the workshop, students paired up and practiced sharing the Bridge with one another as if they were sharing it with an unbeliever. Then, we actually went out onto the beach and talked with tourists and locals about what we believe, and when we come back, we shared stories of conversations we had.

Why it matters

The amazing thing about being a Christian is that we get to be a part of God spreading His name and fame throughout the world. God didn’t have to use us to share the Gospel, but He chose to because it both develops our faith and gives us joy in seeing His work up close.

Undoubtedly, Ministry Training is the meeting that students dread the most, because it’s scary walking up to complete strangers and asking to talk about deep, heart-level issues. But the beauty of it is that, despite our insecurities and inadequacies, there’s no way we can fail if we step out in faith. God doesn’t call us to save those we approach on the beach; He simply calls us to be faithful to share the best news in the world.

Even though “cold turkey evangelism” isn’t our normal modus operandi, I think Ministry Training is one of the most valuable times of the STP week because it’s our chance to vocalize and live out what we profess the rest of the week: that God’s free gift of eternal life through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is the most important thing in our lives, and we want the world to know it.

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A Journal Entry from a Walmart Employee

We’ve officially been at project for 12 days and we northerners are burnt from head to toe. Perhaps we underestimated the power of the southern sun. Thankfully, long hours at Walmart have protected us from taking advantage of the beach freedom.

I have been a proud Walmart employee for an entire week now. I work in the toys department which basically means I press all of the “try me” buttons and ask the magic 8 ball questions for 8 hrs. Don’t tell my parents about the magic 8 ball though; they’re Baptist and wouldn’t be happy with me. 

Just kidding. I do actually work, too. This week was spent organizing shelves, building crates, crushing boxes, and chatting with my new pal Walter. Walter is a 60 year old man who has the sass and wit of a high society Southern Bell. I have absolutely loved working with him and hearing him comment on customers and managers. I haven't had much of a chance to talk about Jesus with him, yet. Hopefully tomorrow I can ask him more about his faith. I want to build a friendship with him first since we’re working together all summer. 

Aside from the toys, I have loved visiting my friends in their different departments after I finished organizing the toys section. I don’t think the other employees are quite used to our high energy and youthfulness, but hopefully we can bring out their inner teenager by the end of the summer. 

I think the biggest adjustment for me has been working 40 hours a week. I went from working part time and going to school to being at a superstore for 9 hours, 5 days a week. It’s easier to have a good attitude and have fun when I am working with people I enjoy or can have good conversations with, but some days are harder than others. One way I’ve decided to use my “downtime” (moving around merchandise or stalking shelves by myself), is praying and processing the talks we’ve had. God has been a companion to me when there’s no other co-workers around which has been so sweet. 

Tomorrow begins another week at Surfside Wally-world. Stay tuned for quotes from the toy departments main man, Walter. Thank you all for your continued love and support!

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