Reflections of a First Year Campus Minister
Jay Denton | January 11, 2016
This first semester on campus at UNC Wilmington has been a wonderful blur. When things kicked off in the fall I found myself sprinting to keep up with the pace of the university - I LOVE IT! Now that I’ve had a little time to process after the semester ended I wanted to share a few reflections about my calling as a campus minister (and hopefully our calling as Christians regardless of where God has us!).
We are called to live specifically. We are a treasured possession to our God (Exodus 19:5). We have been set apart for a specific purpose in this life. When we fail to believe this, we will tend to fall into the trap of moralism, not faith. As I walked on the college campus as a 32-year-old guy who is more out of shape than I was in college - with less hair - who at best is "dad-cool,” I was pressed to believe what I preach about the gospel - that I was called there, specifically, for a purpose. When the gospel melts our insecurities away and replaces them with the reality that we are a treasured possession, with a gospel purpose, we can begin to live specifically and intentionally in our contexts. I began to see that the places I sat on campus, the students that I talked to and the times that I was there were not random. This is true for all of us, isn’t it? Our co-workers are not random. Our neighbors are not by chance. This life is not ours, it's hidden in Christ. We live specifically, not knowing the future, but knowing who holds the future in his hands. We live specifically on mission, not as outlaws firing random gospel bullets around us hoping to find some converts, but knowing that every single step we take is ordered, intentional, and for the glory of our great God.
We are called to pray desperately. God actually calls us a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9). As I sat on campus this semester, more and more I began to understand the wonderful reality that as priests, we are to be mediators of God’s grace in the places he has put us. We are mediators to each other as Christians, and also to this world (all under the true and perfect mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ!). After all, isn’t it the job of the priest to pray? We pray desperately, not because we actually think that we can make something happen, but because we realize that without the hand of God moving in our lives and the lives around us nothing can happen. The worst thing I can do for the students on campus is to think that I am their savior, and not pray to the one who is. We pray desperately because we begin to realize that our intellect, our systems and our planning is not what will ultimately usher in a kingdom that cannot be shaken. (Note: RUF believes in good planning, in structure and in a philosophy of ministry that keeps us grounded in the scriptures and focused on our calling, so please don’t hear me say that stuff isn’t important!).
We are called to rest deeply as a holy nation (Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9). We’ve seen this in two ways in these first few months of RUF at UNCW. First, I’m called to minister out of my brokenness. If I try to be perfect for the students that I minister to, I will fail them. They need to see that the gospel is the answer to MY brokenness. When we rest deeply in the holiness of Christ we don’t have to fear our brokenness and failure. The way we handle failure, sin and hurt serves as a billboard to the mercy of Jesus. It shows that we understand where our holiness comes from. Second, I’m called to be an example of the refining grace of Jesus. When we rest deeply in his holiness there is growth in grace. We actually see small steps of God changing our desires, our actions and our hearts. Not for our glory, but for his.
All in all, this semester has increased my desire to talk about the gospel. Every. Single. Day. The gospel is the origin of growth, community and freedom. These are things that students need...that I need...that we all need.