I say the work that Jesus is doing and more than ever I am beginning to realize that that’s what it is. Jesus is at work in the hearts and minds of college students, Chuck is not, InterVarsity is not, its Jesus who works. Now I don't mean that God has not called InterVarsity and myself to join in the work that He is doing on campus, which is why I am here working with InterVarsity, but what the Lord has been pounding into me this last semester is that its not about me, its not about InterVarsity, its not about UMF, its about Jesus. Now that I'm paying attention I'm realizing he's been trying to get this across to me for the past few years I just wasn't listening.
We began this semester by going through the first chapter of the book of Ephesians as a large group. What I love about this chapter is that it very clearly indicates that the story of salvation is more about Jesus than it is about us. As we talked I told the students something revolutionary to them and even in practicality to me. The main character of the story of your life is not you, its Jesus. Jesus is the hero not only of the Bible and the salvation story for mankind but for me and for You. Its about Him. This is a hard pill to swallow because in our sinfulness we want it to be about us. In my work with InterVarsity over the years I noticed that when God was at work I took the credit, I would explain that the reason we were able to be as successful as we were was because of our magnificent strategies and that if other campuses or churches would just employ our strategies they could be successful too. At times I was wise enough to add on that God was the one who did the work but I'm not sure how much I actually believed it. The more time I spend in “ministry” the more clear Jesus becomes. When I'm doing something that is about me it fails, when its about Jesus, especially when its about Jesus and I don't want to do it, He works through me. Now God is gracious and fortunately even when its about us He does many times still work but as he's been teaching me that has come less and less in order that I might learn.
In those first couple large group meetings we made the decision that it wasn't about us and were reminded for what purpose we exist on campus that of growing in relationship with Jesus and reaching the lost. As a result we decided that there was a better strategy than the one we were currently employing to fulfill our purpose. Instead of following the normal pattern we've adopted for the entire time that I have been involved in InterVarsity at UMF both as a student and staff we stopped having weekly large group meetings and began meeting in small groups with the intent that these would be missional small groups. So we created teams of students who were tasked with inviting both Christians and non-Christians to them in order that people who are not currently in relationship with Jesus might come to know Him and those who do might come to know Him more fully. We had 3 small groups that met throughout the semester lead by 7 students. I met with these 7 students each week to train and equip them to be effective at reaching the campus. We saw a number of students who had never been involved in InterVarsity before begin attending and engaging with the gospel, some of these students had grown up in the church while others had not but all were engaging. Over the course of the semester we had 3 students who were seriously engaging with the gospel and who also went on our trip to New Orleans. Of these three students none have yet made decisions for Christ but we are hoping and praying that they will. Pray with us for these students!
At the student organization fair at the beginning of the semester a young girl named Kelsey who was a junior but didn't realize there was a Christian group on campus found us. She was so excited to find other Christians on campus that she quickly and boldly got involved in one of our small groups. As we got to know her she shared with us that she had a friend named Cecilia who, during fall semester, she had led to the Lord and a couple of weeks in to the spring semester Cecilia also got involved in one of our small groups and began to grow in her understanding of what it means to be a Christian as our students studied the book of Luke. She nearly stopped going to study after feeling like she wasn't a good enough Christian and didn't know the Bible well enough but when Erica the leader of that group found that out she reached our to Cecilia and encouraged her with the truth that none of us knows the Bible well enough or is a good enough Christian so she decided to keep going. Toward the end of the semester she ended up running into and going to church with another girl who was a student at UMF that had recently accepted Jesus into her heart and they went to church together. These stories are really exciting and fit the theme of the semester that its not about me. God is reminding us that he is the author of salvation not us and though He chooses to work through us he most definitely does not need us. Praise the Lord for all that he is doing and please continue to pray to Him for us and the students that are being impacted by the gospel. It is such a blessing to do the work that I do but it is impossible without your continued financial and prayerful support. God Bless!
Your Fellow Worker In Christ, Charles William Ellis