How to motivate your CU…

For more on this, listen to this helpful session:


I remember it well, the moment when I was slightly too honest and nearly ruined my marriage.

It had been a fairly normal day until then, in fact abnormal, as I’d been a better than average husband for most of the afternoon. No, seriously. I know.  I’d cleaned the kitchen, AND hoovered, AND put the bins out. Lads on tour. What a time to be alive.

When Ruth came home, though, something went wrong. She. Didn’t. Instantly. Notice.

shock

I know.

She didn’t fall down on the floor in adoration to the Husband Most High. Bad wife, I thought, tut tut.

So taking matters into my own hands, I decided it was the time to announce my achievements. “Have you not noticed my hard work today?”, I chirped, or something equally self-involved. “I don’t know why I bother,” I continued, hideously, “I only did it so you’d be happy with me.” Ouch.

And as it slipped out the mouth, and my lovely wife looked at me, I realised what had happened.

Sure my actions looked good. The cleaning had been done. I had done something worthwhile. But man, my motivations were all over the place. In fact, my good deed for my wife had turned out to not be for my wife at all. I didn’t do it out of love. I did it for me, effectively saying “I think I need to buy your affection with hoovering, now I’ve done it, so worship me”. Not a good line. Not a good day. And actually, in the end, not a good deed. Praise God for grace and a kind wife.

What does this incident teach us? This: that we can do the right thing in life, but for a whole load of wrong reasons. We can, in the short term at least, get the external stuff looking good and shiny, do some stuff that is good to do, but with poor motivation, it’ll only be short-lived. It’ll be guilt-driven. Self-serving. And it’ll fizzle out.

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It’s the same with evangelism right? And the same with motivating our CU. We know we’re to be an outward, missional community, sharing the good news of Jesus with our friends. We know we don’t want to be one of those CUs that doesn’t share the gospel, or that is just a social club, and as leaders, we rightly see it as our responsibility to motivate others. This bit is true. It IS our responsibility, our primary responsibility in our roles as leaders, to motivate our members to share Jesus. But I hope my little marriage confession can help you see that how we are motivated to do something is absolutely crucial. Take the Nike slogan and shout it loudly? If not, how should we motivate our CUs?

Well what should motivate my occasional hoovering spree? Not guilt. Not “to do the right thing”. But love! She’s not my boss, she’s my wife. I love my wife. And I like her! She is lovely! And if that’s true, then more and more I’ll serve her gladly, joyfully, naturally, consistently. Not to gain anything myself but because I want to give to her. Genuinely serve her. Not to get anything from her but simply because I love her.

Paul says it’s the same with evangelism.

What got Paul going in evangelism? What got him talking about Jesus? What got him sharing his faith? What gave him the mouth to speak and the courage to go for it?

He sums it up in this simple sentence: “For the love of Christ compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).

The love of Christ!

If it was mere duty, he’d hate it. If was from guilt, it would be joyless. If it was even about love for his friends, primarily, he would give up when his friends got rude or unlovely. But it was none of these things. It was the love of Christ!

Being loved by Jesus draws us to respond in love to him. “We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). We all know that from experience. Our hearts are hard but when we hear of Christ’s love, his gritty, self-slaughtering, rugged, compassionate love for us when we were totally helpless, we begin to melt. He saw your worst sins, he knows your deepest insecurities, the hidden darkness, the lies you’ve told this week to make yourself look more respectable, he sees it all, and knowing it all, he bled out for you because his heart wells with love for you. What a love.

And so in response, we love him! Not because we have to but because he’s lovely.

THAT’s how you motivate people to do evangelism. We show people the love of Christ. In turn we’ll love him more, and we’ll speak, because we speak about what we love, don’t we? As Jesus said:

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Notice how I’ve talked about Ruth a lot (a sickening amount, no doubt). It’s because I love her. “Did you see the football!?” is because we love football. “Game of Thrones is back!!!!” is because we love Game of Thrones. We speak about what we love.

And so that’s how you motivate a CU.

You seek to develop in them an ever-new and ever-real awareness of the love of Jesus for them. They will be drawn to love him in response. And they’ll speak of what they love.

It might take longer, it might not get the instant results that the guilt stick would. But I tell you what, one minute of hoovering done out of love is worth twenty times more than a year’s worth of chores done with a selfish heart.

Of course we need to call people to share their faith, to be brave, we need to share stories of God at work to inspire, give training to equip, and pray for boldness, but central to a Christian Union must not be merely “LET’S DO EVANGELISM” but “JESUS IS WONDERFUL, so let’s share him”.

  • So, how will you help your CU be absolutely thrilled with Christ’s love for them?

  • How will you avoid your talks and notices being “SO DO IT OR ELSE”, but calling people to share the love that Christ has for them?

  • How will you make sure your main emphasis in your own relationship with God is not “I must do these things as a CU leader” but “you are lovely God, and wonderful, and I love you”?

 

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Book Review: Luke Cawley’s “The Myth of the Non-Christian”

It was a great pleasure to buy a copy of Luke Cawley’s first book “The Myth of the Non-Christian: Engaging Atheists, Nominal Christians and the Spiritual But Not Religious” and read it over two or three days this Easter. It’s also a great pleasure to recommend it. Here’s why:

As I see it, the book’s main premise is this: that “non-Christian” is so broad and vague a term that it is almost entirely redundant as a way to describe or relate to a human being.

Yes, technically, if someone is “not a Christian” they can accurately be described as a “non-Christian” – of course – but in this book Luke is suggesting we can do much better than lumping all the “others” into one big pot of people who don’t believe what we believe.

Instead, Luke wants us to see people as individuals. He wants us to respect the nuances in people’s life stories, experiences and worldviews. He wants us to engage with people in a way that is relevant to them, that listens as well as speaks and that is not only faithful enough to bring the essential, age-old good news of Jesus to people, but flexible enough to do this with people of all backgrounds, by intelligently and sensitively adapting our approach.

And so he dives into a refreshing, funny and at times bizarre series of stories, interviews and insights to help us do just that.

nonStyle: Stylistically, I personally found it a breath of fresh air. Luke’s not predictable or stuffy, which means this book is an exciting book, it’s not heavy. And it means even just the first page of each chapter is either some heart-wrenching or curiosity-tickling encounter from his travels as an evangelist, or some odd story from his own history of asking big questions about God and life. It’s a fun book to read.

Impact personally: The result of reading it for me as a follower of Jesus was that I felt that the duty and privilege of sharing Jesus with other human beings around me was strangely do-able. Not in a “this has all the answers way”, but almost the opposite of that. There is no one way to do this! It’s speaking to people, listening, asking questions. It’s relating. It’s being real. Even I can do that.

Impact in terms of ministry: And as someone who is training students in evangelism with UCCF at the moment, it left me feeling a great desire to be MUCH more creative and at much more liberty in the different ways we try and reach people. I would love all my students to read it, but particular those who are at smaller, newer universities seeking to reach a quite different group of students than at a redbrick or collegiate uni.

You can get it here. And follow Luke on Twitter here.

Or if you’re in Birmingham, ask Kristi Mair, cause she’s got some copies. I think she knicked them off the back of a lorry.

CU at its finest!

In my job working with three creative and courageous Christian Unions I’ve seen a fair few events, but one afternoon this term really stood out.

It was probably the smallest CU event I’ve been to this year, one of the cheapest, and the idea only came about five days before the event. And yet in many ways this event was the one that brought me the most joy to be a part of.

The event was: A frisbee tournament with a talk about Jesus.

I know. Impressive right? Ground-11639608_10206004581348090_30272991_obreaking right? Explosive and headline making right? Wrong. But there were a few ingredients that combined to make this seemingly unimpressive afternoon a wonderful example of CU evangelism.

1) CU members living life among non-Christians

The afternoon came about because three people in UBCU play in the university’s Ultimate Frisbee team and wanted to reach their mates with the gospel. They put their heads together, and put together a simple event that their mates would love. 15 or so mates came along to join a good number of the CU, but none of this would be possible if these three had been hiding away. Consistently, in my own life and those of CU students I work with, one of the biggest stallers of evangelism is that Christians are too busy with Christians, living an “in here” Christianity, talking about their “non-Christian friends” rather than making some! But these three have spent a couple of years every Wednesday playing Frisbee. They’ve gone on bus journeys to games, hung out and trained with their teammates and probably missed early morning prayer meetings (God forgive them) as a result. But what has happened is that they have 15 friends who want to come to a tournament where some old-bloke-staff-worker will speak about Jesus Christ! Jesus, The Godly Human, was nicknamed the friend of sinners, and wore that badge with pride. CU is at it’s finest when we own that title too!

2) An engaging event that serves the guest

Not only did they have friends who trusted them enough to come along, but the event was put on in such a way as it engaged their friends where they are at, and also served the guests superbly. Not only was there a Frisbee tournament, but there was a prize for every team. Not only was there a half-time break, but ice-pops and water bottles were given to everyone attending. Not only did the tournament run its course but afterwards there was a barbeque. All paid for and prepared and planned by the CU, for the good of the guest. With a small bit of thought and a little bit of cash, the guests were treated as if they mattered to the CU, as if the CU saw them as people not just projects. These extra touches say so much and added so much to the atmosphere of the event.

3) A talk, about Jesus, with a next step.

Friendships, food, extra touches and a creative event are all excellent, but if that’s where it stops then this would not have been a Christian Union event, but just an EXCELLENT Frisbee team training session.

Good CU events are always MORE than speaking about Jesus but never less. I was invited to get up at half-time (while guests were enjoying their ice-pops and water) and spoke just for five minutes about why I found Jesus compelling. Seeds planted. And that’s all we can do!

But not only that, each guest was given an Uncover Luke’s gospel as a summer gift to take home with them. It would have been easy to forget this, leaving intrigued guests with no way of finding out more over the gaping, three-month Redbrick summer! But the CU had simply thought ahead, and brought with them these gifts, wrapped up individually.

I’m told that lots and lots of conversations have taken place, that afternoon and since, and that many were genuinely intrigued at Jesus, and loved the event.

It was a small and unmemorable event, and quite easy to put on – but with these three ingredients, it soared!

So what about you?

If you’re involved in a CU… here’s three questions for you:

1) Where am I intentionally living among people who don’t love Jesus?

2) Do our events treat people as human beings who we love and care for, or like projects to pounce on?

3) Do we leave it as an engaging event or do we make sure people get the chance to hear about Christ, and take a next-step?

No matter the size of your CU – an event like this is WELL within your reach. So go for it! And who knows what might happen…

Our post-Forum choice…

Lots of us are fresh off the back of #Forum14 and what a week it was!forum

It’s hard not to miss the fellowship, the fun, the field – even the ducks! Yet we were reminded on the last day as we prepared to leave that, as we kiss goodbye to the Quinta for another year, it’s not the end. It’s the start. That was the warm up, now for the game.

Warm ups are important, you see. You can’t run straight into the action without giving it any thought. You need to be prepared. That’s why every football club in the country has a pre-season – they need to get ready. They need to have a game plan. They need a strategy. They need to know their team-mates. Otherwise the year ahead could well grind very quickly to a disappointing halt (insert Man Utd pun here).

And so it is with Christian Unions. Land in September bleary eyed and wondering what the plan is, and you can be 3-0 down before you’ve got your bearings. But get yourselves ready, work on a strategy for the year, dream big and pray bigger for your small group or CU and you can hit the ground running, ready for action.

That’s what Forum 2014 did for me – prepared me for the action. It wasn’t a conference for a conference’s sake (what use is a warm up if nothing comes afterwards?), but it got my eyes up to Jesus and out to my mates, out to the year ahead. And what a year it could be…

With the launch of Uncover John and the momentum from Uncover Luke, it seems to Uncover Johnme that this could be perhaps the most exciting year in the history of Christian Unions. Within an hour and seven minutes of them becoming available, all 5,000 copies of Uncover John had gone. Gone! Gone into the hands of students who see the beauty of Christ, the lostness of their pals, and who with knees knocking, want to have a go at opening Scripture with their mates. This country could be changed this year, by Christian students giving it a go. Wow!

But there’s a truth that stings to say, and sobers even me, the keenest of conference attendees. And that’s that it’s all worthless if it stops here.

If we go on the pre-season tour but lose our focus, then it’s worthless. Completely pointless! If we all have fun in a field for a week but it goes no further, well, we might as well not have bothered.

So here’s the choice. For me and for you: Will we be CU leaders, small group leaders, individuals, Staff Workers and Relay Workers who live life for the warm-up, loving the buzz of a dark marquee and a fantastic Welsh preacher but who hide in the chaplaincy come Freshers Week? Without the grace of God, that’s what we’d do! We’d take this good news, and hog it all to ourselves! It’s certainly where my heart has gone since coming home – unlike our outgoing God, retreating is my instinct. And I’m very well trained in it.

Or will we be those who weakly, with knees knocking, not stirring ourselves up but looking to the Saviour, ask our God to so deeply burn on our hearts the things we heard, said and prayed at Forum that we might have a go? Step out? Text a mate, flick Uncover open, go for coffee and see what they think?

In a moment of clarity, by God’s grace, right now, I know which I’d prefer. But in 10 minutes my heart could be cold again! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

And so we simply MUST pray. Pray that he might change us more, loosen our apathy, deepen our convictions, melt our hearts, strengthen our spines, open our mouths and use us by his grace this year.

Thank you Lord for the warm up. Now Lord, use it.

Making the most of a Dial-A-Doughnut…

In recent years, CUs around the country have excelled in combining technology, good food and the power of questions to engage their campuses in investigating Jesus.

Text-A-Toastie, Call-A-Cookie, Message-A-Mince-Pie, Dial-A-Doughnut… the options are almost endless and the format is simple.

ImageThe CU invite the campus to text in any question – and they mean any question – about God, faith, the Bible, Jesus or church and in return, a couple of friendly faces from the CU turn up, with the beginnings of an answer to the question and some free tasty treat.

These events have tended to be much loved and extremely well received, as seen in this story from Nottingham, and this one from Southampton.

It’s my view that these are amazing events, for so many reasons. Here’s just five:

  1. These events take us to people, rather than asking people to come to us!
  2. These events are unique – no other society is doing it!
  3. These events respect other people, seeing their opinions and their questions as valuable.
  4. These events make people smile – Texters love it. CUs love it.
  5. These events get everyone involved – making, organising, delivering, answering, discussing, the whole CU has a role.

But how do we make the most of such an event?

As a student heading to knock on the door, how do we maximise the impact of our visit? We might only get 30 seconds with people. What are we to do?

There’s a couple of approaches. Of course, there’s the “Advance, knock-knock, BOOM, dominate, retreat” technique…

It’s a real hoot. In this approach, we’re to verbally vomit our views on to people. Look up a proof text and read it at them. If possible, take offence at any rude or aggressive questions. And at very least we can make sure we finish the conversation having “won” the contest and come out on top. Did I mention it’s a contest?

Or what if we were to take a different approach?

  • What if we took the “I’m a person, you’re a person, it’s so great to have a conversation” approach?
  • What if we were to see the people we visit as, well, people?
  • What if we were to visit not so much demanding on delivering an answer but committed to having a conversation?
  • What if we knocked on a door with a big smile, and thanked people for their question?
  • What if we told them we thought it was a fabulous question, and asked what made them text it?
  • What if before answering, we asked them what they thought of the question?
  • What if we explained we had a few minutes and asked if we could come in and chat about the question, ’cause we’d love to know what they think?
  • What if we didn’t need to know every answer?
  • What if we weren’t judgemental and rude, but apologised for the way that Christians have been judgemental and rude?
  • What if we said “Well, what do you think?” more than we said “Well, I think…”
  • What if we sought to move from “God” and “Christianity” and “Church” and asked them what they thought of Jesus?
  • What if it wasn’t a robot delivering a statement to a stranger, but a person introducing a person to a Person?

As we arrive at people’s doors, and knock, just imagine how they feel…

No doubt nervous, no doubt awkward, no doubt worried or cynical about the people who are stood just outside their flat. Perhaps they’re just after a doughnut. Perhaps they’re out for a fight. But whatever their intentions or expectations, what if they opened the door to find people strangely similar to them? Who are friendly to them? Respect them? Thank them? Honour them? Have an engaging conversation with them? Who asked good questions?

‘Cause questions draw people in…….don’t they?

Thinking as a global Christian on campus

How often do I think about international students? How often had they been in my conversations as we’ve planned events? How often have I prayed for the nations to come and taste and see? How often have I applied any talk, Bible study or discipleship meet-up to what this might mean for our interactions with internationals?

Yeh…not so much.

I’ve spent some of the summer thinking about what it means to be a global Christian on campus, after it became very clear to a few people around me that this was a big blind spot for me.

As a way of getting my thoughts together, Stevie B suggested I wrote a response to the question below. I hope, as you grab a cuppa and take 15 mins to read this, or send it the way of international teams or CU execs who can do the same, that it will be a helpful intro resource, causing us to think through again what it means to really give every student on campus the opportunity to hear and respond to the good news of Jesus.  I also hope it may give encouragement to those already involved, as ignorant and selfish staff workers like myself can often neglect or even forget about the important work they are doing. I’m thankful to people like Maddy Brown, Joe Sturman, Fred O Loughlin, Matt Fox-Lilley, Nay Dawson, Mini Song and Andy Briggs for their example in this field and for all their hard work and gospel service in this department. The fact that in writing this response to the quote below, it’s still a quote I can imagine coming out my mouth if I’m not careful shows just how much I, and we, need to think about this area.

“I don’t see the point in Globe Cafe, or in going out of my way to reach out to international students on campus, they speak a funny language, they have a different religion and they are different to me! Let me just reach the British students with the Gospel.”

A response:

Firstly, let me say I’m in many ways so encouraged by what you’ve just said. For starters, your specific, whole-hearted, focused passion to reach British students with the gospel is something I deeply admire. It’s wonderful that you have this passion. Secondly, I think it’s brilliant that you are under no illusions about what it might be like to meaningfully reach out to those of other cultures – it will indeed be hard! They do indeed speak a different language. They are indeed different to you. It’s good that you know this. So many students would glibly say we should do this and that for international students without really considering what it might cost, and thus they give up or never get started – you are strongly aware of the potential cost of this specific mission effort. That’s good. I’m encouraged by these points.

However, alongside the encouragement, I’d also want to challenge you in several places. I have come to believe that reaching out to international students is not an optional extra in the life of a Christian Union – the thing we do if we have enough people or some extra money – but rather that it is a fundamental core ingredient. Although not every single CU member will be involved in the weekly running of the Globe Café, it is the responsibility and duty and privilege of every Christian on campus to see cross-cultural evangelism as a priority – in prayer, in giving, in lifestyle. I speak these words deeply aware of my own need to constantly repent in this area, so I hope we can grow together in our convictions in the coming discussion.

Motivations

Firstly, and I suppose my main question which underpins all the other smaller points would be this: “Where does your passion for reaching British students with the gospel come from?”

Because I’d strongly suggest that with a little bit of thought, we’d see that almost any good motivation for reaching British students with the gospel would also send you out to internationals. Let me show you what I mean.

For example, if you are motivated to reach British students because the Bible tells you to, then you should also be motivated to reach internationals, because the Bible is clear on the cross cultural aspect of mission. Paul went across boundaries. The early church went across boundaries. Jesus went across boundaries. Outwards is our trajectory. The ends of the earth is our destination.

If you are motivated to reach British students because of God’s love, then you should also be motivated to reach internationals, because God’s love is for people of every tribe and tongue and nation. Jesus died for Jew and Greek. And Korean and Malaysian and French. There will be a great multitude from every tongue, every nation, every people group. God’s love for the British lad in your rugby team is no greater – shocking, I know – than for the introverted Chinese computer science student in your flat. We may find it hard to love across boundaries. So did God. And yet he loved. He loves! And every student on campus belongs to the God of love.

If you are motivated to reach British students because of the great need and the strategic opportunity at Uni, or by the lack of other opportunities your British mates will get to hear the gospel in this declining post-Christian culture – then you’ll be motivated to reach internationals too, many of whom come from cultures that haven’t ever heard of Jesus. There are students in our halls of residence from countries where missionaries are banned. They have never heard of Jesus. They are now on a campus in Britain seeking to engage with this culture for perhaps just one year. We have an opportunity here to win converts for Christ from nations where they are no converts for Christ! Yes we must reach British students. And YES we must reach internationals. For the need is great. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Chinese students, Indian students, Pakistani students, German students, American students, Italian students, Latvian students – they have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is only one mediator. They’ve not heard of him. The need is great.

If you’re motivated to reach British students because people are broken, and God calls us to display and live out his loving character in kindness and compassion, then you’ll be motivated to reach internationals, who are from cultures as broken as ours and who are perhaps uniquely in need of love and compassion as they arrive in a strange land, a strange city, a strange campus. How would you feel if you got the plane to China, and you got all the way to the campus, and you got into your room, and no-one really engaged with you. Imagine not knowing what to eat, what to say, where to go. Imagine the locals basically ignoring you, perhaps even avoiding you because you “speak a funny language”.

Now imagine a group of locals putting on an evening for international students, saying they believe in a God who loves all people, and therefore they want to welcome and love as he does. Imagine someone greeting you, and sitting down with you. Imagine making a friend. Imagine you’re excited conversations with your home friends over Skype if even one local invited you round for food. Would it not be one of the coolest stories you’d have to tell? Would it not be one of the most heart-warming, kind moments of your stay? Would you not appreciate them so much? Yet we put on evangelistic events that don’t even account for other languages. We find it awkward to sit with the international in our lecture. We can’t be bothered ‘cause it’s hard. What a shame! If we really have a heart of compassion, if we really love because he loved us first, then we’ll be motivated not just for the Brits, but for each student. I normally deeply dislike the “What would Jesus do?” sentiment that’s so easy to justify almost anything by, but, I have to suggest that if Jesus were in our lectures, he’d gladly choose being pushed to the fringes of the in-crowd in order to love that Muslim girl from Oman who no-one speaks to. How challenging this is!

And so if you’re motivated to reach British students – I have to suggest that (unless your motivation is shallow, not centered in God’s word and his character) it follows that you’ll want to reach international students too. I feel the pinch of this too. But it is clearly true. How little we really know and love this God! Praise God that he’s transforming us to be more like him.

People or peoples?

Secondly, as John Piper so helpfully puts forward in his book Let The Nations Be Glad, there’s something beautiful about having a diverse spectrum of people won to Christ, as opposed to just as big a number as possible, and we get to play a part in that by reaching internationals. God is deeply invested in seeing a variety of peoples come to him, not just people.

What does this mean? Well, God is not merely interested in culminating for himself a big group of believers. If he were, it would logically mean we would focus all of our missionary efforts on the majority group – the biggest countries in the world would be the only ones we’d send missionaries to, or, closer to home, we’d only reach out to the “majority” student on campus – the white, British, undergraduates.

But Piper suggests that though God is clearly interested in bringing “many sons to glory”, he actually, on a more fundamental level, is seeking to win to himself people from within every people group. On the last day, Christ will be broadly and diversely glorified by the fact that from every single people group, people will praise him. We say, fair enough, but surely it’s the number of individual souls saved that is the highest priority, and so we should focus our efforts on the biggest group? This carries some weight, but if we think about it, what will more show Jesus as supreme on the last day – a big army from one nation, or a huge army of every nation? Surely he will be more glorified on the last day if those before him represent not just many people, but many peoples.

Adolf Hitler won admiration from masses in one country. Kim-Jong Il is ‘worshiped’ by 24 million North Koreans. But outside of their countries, their appeal doesn’t cut the mustard. History shows them not to be as great as the masses in their nation, at the time, would have suggested. But God the Father wants Jesus to be worshiped not just by a number of people, but by all the peoples right across the nations and throughout the centuries. He will then be shown to not simply be a fad or a phase in one big country, but an eternal and diverse, all-satisfying Saviour to people from every age, in every land. How sweet he must be, to win the adoration of the Tokyo Businessman and the Amazonian tribesman and every tongue and tribe in between!

For a band to win elation from thousands or even millions in the UK is one thing – but for them to be loved and adored and for their songs to be sung and name to be celebrated across generations and around the entire globe shows their greatness is far superior to that of even the most well-loved home growner who doesn’t make it abroad. It’s the same for Jesus. For him to be praised and worshiped, not just in Israel, not just by white, British undergraduates, but by 13th century Frenchmen, 21st century Chinese, 1st century Corinthians, 19th century Indians, 22nd century North Koreans will show his supreme worth on the last day. It is uniquely glorifying to Jesus to talk to a student from another tongue about his salvation. For if the two of you – from opposite ends of the world, in different mother tongues, with all your different prejudices and biases and politics and upbringing – agree that Jesus is the best, how stunning and glorifying to the King of kings is that?! In this context, suddenly, Globe Café doesn’t feel like a drag. It feels like the sharp end of what God is doing on campus. It’s often smaller in size, it’s often less snazzy in feel which means we’re often less interested. But true to the pattern of Jesus’ kingdom, the weak things, the small things, the looks-pathetic-as-he-dies-on-a-cross things, are the very things which God uses the most. Let the peoples praise him.

What’s at stake?

Perhaps you’re not convinced. Perhaps you’re still a “let’s just go for numbers” person – and, who knows, perhaps Piper is wrong. Perhaps I’m wrong in the way I’ve come to see the nations – plural – as being the emphasis of the mission field. Let’s say for a second that it is just about numbers.

Even if that was so, it would be immensely foolish to ignore international students. For the University of Birmingham, around 18% of their entire in-take are international students. That equates to nearly 5,000 people! Imagine if the CU ignored that number of people because “they speak a funny language”. Frightening. Or at Aston University, where over 20% of the campus is internationals, equating to about 2,000 students. To give you some idea, where I went to University, on my campus, in TOTAL there was about 3,000 students. So for Aston CU to ignore international students, numerically, is like Eastbourne CU ignoring two thirds of their campus! What about Wolverhampton? Well for Wolves CU to ignore internationals would be ignoring just under 3,000 students. This would be the equivalent of deciding never to tell anyone at the Eastbourne campus the gospel. If we are keen to reach people for Christ – we have to take notice of this! I don’t think God’s primary reach is for NUMBERS. But even if it was, then the % we’re ignoring if we just go for home students is staggering.

 The chance to shine bright

 But stats, though helpful in painting a picture for us, tend to be fairly void of life and love as they are, well, just numbers. Numbers about people, admittedly, but we tend to forget that. We tend to much more like “relational reasons” – motivations for doing something that are driven by a love for God or a love for people. Reasons that will comfort people and bring much glory to Jesus. Now, because as Christians we are called to love, we really do have an opportunity here to shine bright, bringing much glory to Jesus. Because anyone can love their mates. But loving internationals will make Christians visibly different.

First, it makes us different to other students. No-one on campus will go the extra mile to be kind to an international student. Much less to whole groups of them. Imagine what it says to the international student, but also to the British students who are watching – and perhaps scoffing – if we go out of our way to welcome and befriend!

But also, it makes us different to the Uni. Forget other students, what about how the Uni and the SU would react?! In Eastbourne, the SU weren’t doing much at all for internationals. A bit but not loads. And after some phone calls and a meeting, we asked if we could run and pay for a Quiz Night for them. They were blown away that we’d run a quiznight for 300 new arrivals for free! They even let us advertise the CU! It was amazing. The next year, with a change of staff, they asked us to come and do a quiz at their welcome evening, and provide a meal for every international. All well and good, a great opportunity, but with an annual budget of about £70 (!), we couldn’t afford it. We still went and did the quiz, but to our great surprise the SU had not coughed up the money for a meal. So there we were, around tables, at the welcome meal, with no meal. Can you imagine? People have come from China to study at the Uni. The Uni ask a group of 10 students with accounts amounting to a box of pound coins hidden in their wardrobe to cover the cost, which we couldn’t, and so they simply pulled the plug! Those internationals, those nervous, new, lonely international students didn’t get a welcome meal, because if we didn’t do it, the Uni wouldn’t do it. How terrible! And yet what a chance to stand out as Christians if we love and give in a world where even SUs are cutting corners! Nobody loves like the Trinity. But next in the list should be Christians. What an opportunity we have to stand out in this area. What a witness we could be!

He embraced the foreigner

Lastly – and this is perhaps the biggest thing that will change our cold hearts here – even with our cold hearts,Jesus didn’t treat us like we treat the internationals. He didn’t say “they speak funny” and “they’re different” and “it’s too hard” and “I’ll stick with what I’m used to” and “someone else will do it”. No he came to be one of us. He became a foreigner. Became like us. Endured the cross. He left heaven’s glories to be spat at and murdered so that foreigners like you and me could share the lavish love of his Father. If we grasp that, we’ll leave the chaplaincy, we’ll leave our cliques, and we’ll go to the nations, no plain ticket needed, no visa, no vaccinations, perhaps just moving rows in our lecture. But we’ll be at the very sharp end of God’s purposes on campus, calling the nations to be glad in him, calling the peoples to praise him.

IdeasWhy not use this video in a CU meeting to help people get passionate about international outreach?

– Pray!

– Watch the video to the right, be inspired, and be ready to see what God does!

– Be intentional – try and meet one international student this Freshers Week.

– Leaders – Run a CU evening international style, to envision the CU: The talk, internationals praying in their own language, maps around the room, praying in groups, food, flags everywhere! What fun! Click the photo for a video that may be helpful for such an evening

– Nag your CU Exec to go for it in Mission Week… could you have a series of international events at tea-time, before the main evening event?! A separate speaker? If you got 30 people there each night, would that not be worth it?! It needn’t be too much extra work. A core team could mastermind and run with this. Why not?!

– If that’s out of reach, can you run one good quality welcome meal in Freshers Week? Good food cooked on mass, go out with invites for the couple of days before? So do-able! Such potential.

Snapshots of the past few weeks

Here’s a few snapshots of the term, mostly for the benefit of the wonderful, faithful people all around the country who support me in prayer, encouragement and financially. These guys give, pray, support the work that the CUs are doing, but rarely get to see what it looks like “on the ground”. I hope these brief glimpses encourage you and help you to know that the Lord is at work.

A University of Birmingham CU evening event during Focus Week – they catered for 100, but 130 turned up to hear the gospel. Throughout the week, we understand that 17 people became Christians. 70 or so asked to find out more, some of whom are on an Alpha course now.

The Tea Tent: at the very centre of campus, where every single student can see it, the marquee where Adrian Holloway spoke at lunchtimes. Some lovely Aston students came and helped on a couple of days, ahead of their own Mission Week which is coming up this month.

Big questions: Students flyered and advertised with signs like this, ushering folks in to hear a talk on the big question of the day.

See for yourself: Hundreds of Uncover Gospels were given out, giving students the chance to “see for themselves” in Luke’s gospel.

Joey and the Jammers: Three musicians entertain 60 students, around 35 of whom were non-believers, at Wolves CU’s “Why Jesus isn’t for the religious” Acoustic Night. A superb evening in the Student Union Bar. The SU Activities officer called this: “By far the best event a society has run this whole academic year”.

Jesus isn’t for the religious: I spoke from Luke 7 about how Jesus is for anyone who will come to him for forgiveness. Having a fairly long gospel talk at an event was a scary thing for us at Wolves, but the guys were bold in deciding to go for it, and it seemed to work. A friend of a CU leader said on the feedback form that they wanted to hear more. This is something we could see more regularly, which would be wonderful!

Five books I found helpful last year…

Do you ever think: “Reading a Christian book sounds like a good idea”?

Do you ever think: “I want to know Jesus more and grow in my walk with him, and God seems to have used reading Christian books in the lives of those I admire and want to follow”? Do you ever think: “Reading what a wiser Christian has to say on an aspect of the gospel or of the Christian life is a no-brainer”?

I do. And yet with the wealth of resources out there, it’s very hard to know which book to pick. How are you meant to know which ones will be helpful? There’s just so many.

Well, wiser folk than I have recently been helpfully sharing their top books of the last year (Matthew Weston, Tim Challies, Cat Caird, Kevin DeYoung). This has given me lots of new books on new topics which I can trust will be decent, having had a recommendation.

I’ve been really helped and guided by people doing such lists, so here’s one of my own. It’s considerably more limited, but might offer one or two people just one or two places to start. So here’s my top reads of 2012.

1. The Good God, by Mike Reeves

Some of you (if you’re students) will have heard me talk about this book a whole lot, but I think with good reason! It changed my entire view of God, and therefore my view of everything… and many others say the same (check out this review from Newfrontiers-er Andrew Wilson – it’s excellent reading in itself! – who called it “the best Christian book I have ever read”)

This book is short, funny, quick and easy to read, but none of that is why you should read it. The reason you should read it is because it’s a book all about God… not the dictator god that atheism rejects (rightly), not the headmaster god, the grumpy god, the resentful god, the unhappy god, but the Good God – the Trinity, a Father who loves a Son, the outgoing, bustling, life-giving, exploding-with-love God of the Bible. He really is that good – and Mike Reeves helped me see that more clearly than ever before. Buy it, read it, read it again, give it away to your mate, and then begin that cycle all over again.

2. A Meal with Jesus, by Tim Chester

First a book on the Trinity, and now a book on how Jesus ate his food… I can hear you saying it already… “You’re really scraping the barrel now Rich!”

No! This wonderful book helped me see the beauty of the gospel of grace (meaning I wanted to share it), and helped me see the ease and simplicity of sharing this gospel (enabling me to do it!). No secret formula… just you, some non-believers, some good food, some good wine, and see what happens.

This book is the book I’ve recommended to friends and churchies most frequently this year, the book that most surprised me (I read it with my supervisor last year and I thought I’d hate it!), and the book that has most transformed the way I think about sharing the gospel. It’s also a book I’m enjoying re-reading with Relay Rob and some of his really engaging students at Aston CU. Tim Chester tracks Jesus through Luke’s gospel in six excellent chapters, allowing us a seat at the table with the Lord as he ate at six different meals.

Seeing just how shocking Jesus was in choosing to eat – in THAT culture – with tax collectors and sinners drew me to love the love of Jesus, and long to share it with my family and my pals.

Chester argues that if we love Jesus, and we eat meals with people (nothing more complicated than that, and we do it 21 times a week anyway…) then we will be doing mission. We tend to make it evangelism very complicated, but “The Son of Man came eating and drinking”. Simples.

3. Dealing with Depression, by Sarah Collins and Jane Haynes

This lovely little book is small enough to fit in your back pocket but was profoundly helpful for me and many others I know this year. It’s not a brand new book, and it’s certainly not handling a brand new topic, but this is one of the most sensitive and robustly Christian introductions to the topic of depression that I’ve read. I gladly recommend it!

It’s no quick-fix, self-help tripe, so look elsewhere if that’s what you’re into. No, it’s boldly realistic, confidently Christian, appropriately careful, and it oozes sensitivity, gentleness and love – something that, amazingly and sadly, books on depression often lack. This helped me and numerous friends a great deal throughout 2012, and though it is very much only an introduction to the issue, it is my recommended starting place.

4. Knowing God, by Jim Packer

First given a copy of this by my Staff Worker while at Uni, I was nudged to finally read this by Brum student Ben McNeely, and we’re now reading it as a group of guys in Birmingham CU on a Tuesday morning over a fry-up! This is somewhat a Christian classic, that has shaped the lives of Christians for years, and it’s been doing the same for us. Packer beautifully unpacks different aspects of God’s character, from his love to his grace to his justice to his glory in such a way as to draw the reader to not be content with being puffed up with head knowledge, but in a way that informs the mind and thrills the heart! I love God more because of this book, and am enjoying sitting at Packer’s feet with some brothers at Brum. Read it! A chapter a night would take 20 minutes… it would be an excellent month!

5. A Praying Life, by Paul Miller

This was on the staff study programme and is the best book on prayer I’ve read. So gospel-centered, the first section speaks little of prayer and just helps you see just how much God has done in saving us! We really are his children! The implications of that are that we can pray!!! Not waiting til we feel more holy, but right now! In the thick of the mess and the dirt and the chaos, our Father enjoys even the thought of hearing us speak to him! And the implications of this are that we should plan to pray more often, more boldly, more honestly, and the book finishes with a few chapters of really practical tips on prayer diaries, prayer cards, when to pray… some of which hasn’t really worked for me, but some of which is still helping me now to enjoy prayer as a child of God. Get it!

2-minute interview – Rich Bowpitt from Birmingham Uni

This Saturday, students from right across the Midlands are gathering for the first ever Midlands Transformission – a day of worship, of cherishing Jesus and of being equipped to share him with our friends!

U.S evangelist and lovely lady Becky Manley-Pippert is coming all the way to Nottingham to train us and inspire us. It’s completely free. It seems a no brainer…

But, I know what you’re thinking. Term is busy, money is short, the last thing I need is another Christian “thing”. So, perhaps you’re still making your mind up about whether to come. That’s okay!

If that’s you, then some different CU members from across the Midlands have offered to share their 2-minute thoughts on some of the themes of the conference and why they are going, and why they want you to join us! The other day, we heard from Rachael from Wolverhampton Uni. Today we hear from the tech-tastic Rich Bowpitt from Birmingham Uni. Thanks both for your words.

Rich Bowpitt! What’s the hardest thing about sharing Jesus with your friends?
“I would probably say that it’s when there’s a conversation which really relates to something I believe strongly in as a Christian, bringing Jesus in without sounding threatening or “preachy”, and being able to talk openly and honestly about Jesus.”

And what’s the most exciting thing?!
“Seeing people come to know Him themselves; absolutely the best thing ever!”

Now, you’ve heard Becky Pippert speak before, yes? What can people expect?
“Becky is an absolutely top notch speaker, and a genuinely lovely person to boot. I’m a big fan because she’s so practical on ways to live a lifestyle that can lead others to knowing Jesus, but does it in a thoroughly engaging and inspiring way.”

And finally, what would you say to folks in CUs who are a bit unsure about going on Saturday?!
“I sometimes find with training to do with “Mission” or “Evangelism” that I get scared off by the title; imagining that I’m going to be told that the only way to share my faith is by getting up on a box and shouting at people in the street. Really, I’m not too keen on that, and luckily, it’s not what this is about at all – this is about getting equipped and encouraged to share our faith meaningfully with those we care about.”

So encouraging to hear, isn’t it, when people have similar fears to us? Nobody wants to sound preachy with their mates, but we long for them to come and know Jesus. Can you relate? Then why not come along…

Birmingham Uni CU? Click here!

Wolverhampton Uni CU? Click here!

Aston,Newman, Worcester, BCU – click here! (And speak to Gabriella, Kristi or Gareth!)

“We have discovered that…

“We have discovered that abandoning the Bible puts our lives in peril. We have discovered that the Bible is the Book of truth and the Book of life. It feeds us, it challenges us, it guides us, it comforts us. But more than anything else, the Bible points us beyond itself to its author, God. To put it bluntly it’s very hard to get to know God without reading the Bible.”

Mike Pilivachi and Andy Croft on the place of the Bible in coming to know God, in “Storylines”