The Mars Hill Church (Seattle) recently offered these “Seven Ways to Be a Missionary in College.” I love it… but I want to broaden it, because I think that it is relevant (with a few word changes) to anyone seeking to live out the mission of Christ in their city. Here are a few of their ideas (with my thoughts in red):
1) Know non-Christians
It seems like common sense, but too many campus ministries are set up to babysit nice moralistic, hypocritical, youth group kids and create a bubble around them. As Christians, we have to be outward focused. As the Father sent Jesus, Jesus sends us into the culture. It’s so much easier to share the gospel if you belong before you ask people to believe. (John 20:21) Perhaps the simplest piece of advice, but the most profound and the most impactful. We all need encouragement, but we are on a mission here: get out of the holy huddle!
2) Think about where you will live
Make your living situation missional: meet new friends and build relationships to see students meet Jesus instead of secluding yourself with people who all act and think the same way you do. Grab a Christian friend and move into the wildest apartment complex in the neighborhood. Don’t conform, but be a movement of change in an area where it’s desperately needed. Discipleship demands our entire life, that includes where we live. We talk about the schools; we talk about the parks; we talk about the taxes; but why not be drawn to an area because of its need for the gospel! Don’t let your zip code become an idol!
3) Join the Greek system
There’s instant community established by living in the Greek system, and people in sororities and fraternities know everyone. Once you’re in, you become really well connected and are able to be on mission in an extreme environment. Yeah, I know: they sin a lot. So does everyone else in college. (1 Cor 9:19–23) Where is there an existing community that you can connect through? The schools, the pubs, sports?
4) Get involved (not just at church)
Join a club relating to your major, hobby, or interest. Stop saying “yes” to every church obligation and begin seeking how the gospel can apply into all areas of life. Build relationships by playing intramural sports on a team without all your Christian friends. The church doesn’t exist to keep us busy. The church exists to make us disciples and send us out on a mission. If you spend 3-nights a week at church, are you really living on mission?
5) Start a small group in public
Instead meeting in a house or apartment, start gathering in a coffee shop or study hall. This will not only allow you to support the local community, but it might also allow somebody else to eavesdrop on a worthwhile conversation. What are we afraid of? Why not create opportunities for spiritual conversations with people outside of the church?
6) Serve the community
Get involved with a local non-profit or service center. By serving the community alongside non-believers, you’re doing the work that Jesus calls us to do by being missional not only to the populations you’re serving, but also to the people you’re serving alongside. Be the church… live the mission… in the real world.
7) Practice radical hospitality
College students aren’t known for being the most financially well-off or generous people around. Buying a classmate coffee or lunch is a small sacrifice that can speak volumes and make a huge statement in demonstrating grace. This could also mean driving the drunks home from a party and sharing the gospel with them the next day as you take them to get their car. Hospitality (1) communicates love, (2) creates relationship, and (3) reflects the character of God. Sometimes the smallest things (sharing a cup of coffee, lending your snow blower, or inviting someone into your home) can begin a life changing chain of events. Open up and let God work!