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The Power of Working with College Students, Locally and Globally

by Mitch Jolly, Pastor of Three Rivers Community Church, Rome, Georgia

Guest Blogger

One of my first memories of Bob Roberts and Northwood Church was a conference I was attending while a graduate student in Fort Worth. Bob told us about the local and the global and how they are not separate realities but that the local and the global are connected and that it’s not the professional ministry people who will be key in getting the work done, but the key would be those who engage their domains of society as agents of God’s kingdom. As a student I wanted to be one who engaged my domain of society, mobilized others to do the same and equip them for the work. I was a student being infected with the DNA of the kingdom at Northwood. It was not long until Bob and Northwood accepted me into the church-planting program and the infusion of the Northwood DNA began, and that DNA would be transferred to students like me all the way in Rome, Georgia.

As a graduate student Northwood was catching me at a prime time for harnessing one of God’s greatest seasons of life.

College students have long been catalysts for local and global good. Dwight L. Moody saw the fruit of college students when in 1886 his series of meetings led to one hundred college students pledging themselves to the local going global.[1] Numerous examples like this are scattered across history. Some of the best, however, are right under our noses in our colleges and tech schools.

Three Rivers Community Church is settled in Rome, Georgia. Rome has 3 colleges and a technical school. Students from all over the southeast and even a few Yankees find their way to Rome for higher education. Due to the DNA of our fellowship, we get the honor of shaping many college students’ values and infecting their spiritual DNA with the kingdom.

Without a doubt, the local and global work of the kingdom is impacted with these amazing people seeking to advance the kingdom of God.

Over 12 years we have sent countless college students on summer assignments from across town to West Africa to Nepal to South Asia to North Africa and a host of places in-between in spite of our focus on one particular place. As a side note, the more we focus on one place the more students are raised up to engage other places. It seems to be a trend, but that is for another post. 

Many students have tasted these summer adventures and decided to invest their lives in hard places, and some are currently still in those hard places bringing the healing power of the kingdom to bear in their domains of society.

We have watched our students spend summers sampling the world. Those students complete their degrees with a vision. Those students graduate and invest their lives all over the world building hospitals and teaching in schools doing some of the most incredible kingdom work imaginable. We are currently preparing to send one who graduates this May to our global work to be a teacher with a partner organization.

Students who have a global perspective also find their niche in the local domains of society as well. Just this past Sunday I had three young men who have been part of Three Rivers for several years volunteer their services in doing maintenance for a foster home we will be staffing and operating beginning this summer. These guys, as resident assistants in their dorms, pledged the dorms they oversee to the work as well. We have countless stories like these students engaging the local and global domains of society.

Perhaps our college students are our most ready human resource available.

What is it about college students that make them this powerful?

Here are some of my observations.

1. Principled Energy

I’ve been privileged to get to know an increasing number of students whose purpose was to give themselves to something they perceived to be more meaningful as opposed to a job that may net them more money but may also net them less joy.

Couple a principled end with the vigor that comes from being in one’s early twenty’s and the sky is the limit. These guys and gals need very little sleep, they heal fast, they need fewer resources to thrive and they are productive.

2. Oomph

I love the word Oomph. It is another way of saying “full of life”. College students are bubbling with life. They bring life to the party. College students bring joy where circumstances may have done a beat-down on some of us dudes getting weathered a bit. College students can bring Oomph to us pastors and our churches.

College students worship with more vigor. College students volunteer faster. College students are hungry to know God. These things lead to an infusion of life.

3. Flexible

College students are able to do just about anything at just about any time. Most of them are not married yet. Not all, but many have more financial resource that I’ve anticipated they would have. Many are learning the necessity of a value-laden degree not a debt-laden degree, and they are financially able to let go of trappings that can hinder their local and global service. This is a highly agile and mobile group of difference makers that can make a difference.

College students are still learning what singularly makes them passionate. So, they have many passions and they can flex to each one and be solid help in multiple domains.

4. Visionary Sacrifice

The college students involved in our work in Rome have been able to see to an end that they are not the center of, and they are willing to sacrifice the American Dream in order to have it. That kind of visionary sacrifice shows God to be bigger than other petty ends, and it inspires others to imitate their example.

What is the power of working with college students?

The past and the present tell us that this kind of principled energy, oomph, flexibility and sacrificial giving of oneself for a end higher than themselves not only achieves great kingdom gain, but it inspires others in the kingdom to do the same. College students are, arguably, the most powerful human force for good on the face of the planet. And this collegiate human force for good has historically been used by God to begin movements that have had ripple effects for decades. I’d call that powerful.


RELIGION BY NATURE IS NOT PEACEFUL BUT VIOLENT

by Bob Roberts, Jr.

I sat in a room of Ayatollahs, pastors, diplomats, and professors –primarily Iranians, but also some from the States – about 30 of us in total. The Iranian Muslim two seats down from me made an unexpected and startling statement.  He said, “We say religion is about peace.  Islam means peace.  Jesus was to have brought peace – every religion says it’s about peace, but religion by nature is not peaceful but violent.”  Immediately it went from an inter-faith discussion of faith and violence to an intra-faith discussion among the Muslims.  He was being challenged, but he pushed back.  For about 45 minutes they spoke in Farsi and we couldn’t understand what was being said.  The longer I reflected on what he said, I began to think he was right. Read more

YOUNG PASTOR – - – BE ENCOURAGED!

by Bob Roberts Jr.

This morning I was tweeting some encouragement to young pastors and faith leaders and strongly sensed God telling me to stop tweeting, and write a blog for you.  I know many of you and have been with many of you in your 20’s and early 30’s a lot the past few weeks and I am so encouraged by what I see in you.  I know you have a lot of questions as you move forward.  The church is at a major shift and everyone is saying it’s this way or that, this model or that, this theological framework or that – but let me remind you, first and foremost – it is just as you began your walk with Jesus – it is Jesus at the crux of it all.  If Jesus is not at the crux of all you see and do, then you’ll become bitter, angry, throwing stones, trashing others, building your kingdom, and missing all that God has for.  By the way, you can grow a big “ministry” and it not be God’s.  Business and marketing techniques are such that you really do not need the Holy Spirit anymore, let alone preach the cross.  Learn from the business books along with sociology, history, trends, literature, you need to be sharp – but you’re a part of something supernatural and eternal, not mechanical and merely organizational.

Don’t be discouraged by people saying the world is messed up – when has it not been?  What a time of adventure to live!  Many who say this have not lived through the times prior to the global shifts like the American and ultimately many global revolutions, the Civil War, WWI, and WWII.  I believe we are living in a time like that right now.   Read more

NORTHWOOD CHURCH FAMILY: STEPS TO A CONSISTENT GROWING WALK WITH JESUS

by Bob Roberts Jr

STEP #1 TO A CONSISTENT GROWING WALK WITH JESUS 

NORTHWOOD FAMILY, Yesterday was a great day and a great start as we begin to move forward into 2015.  I’m ready and excited about all God has done in the past, but even more about where we are going in the future.  For those of you still on vacation . . . you can hear the message at www.northwoodchurch.org under the media section on January 4, 2015.  This year was very different from most of our “State of the Church” messages in the past.  We are focusing on the basics of a transformed life and all we have learned about a kingdom of God foundation, expanding and developing all the stuff that God has given us over the past years.  Instead of the focus being on our church doing this and that, it’s on how do we equip you to be this and that. Read more

LET JUSTICE ROLL DOWN . . . . IS THE GREAT COMMISSION

by Bob Roberts Jr

Ever wonder why the white church in America can have lots of baptisms, fund missionaries around the world, and yet hold on to negative and hurtful views of others?  I had my own “East Texas” view of life I had to deal with as I grew up, engaged the world, and began to work with others.  I realized that whatever I felt towards one group, invariably gave me permission to feel negative about another group, as long as I could justify it.  There’s always a reason to think why you’re better than someone else, no matter what color or class you come from.   Justifying prejudice always leads to an “us” and “them” mentality that Jesus firmly stood against.  The root of all love we have towards others is based at the foot of the cross where Jesus died for all, and we are all family.  Until you can value all people equally, you will not love like Jesus.  Life will fill you with opportunities to come close to people that you don’t like as much, or have a conflict with and in those moments we have a chance to address the darkness in our hearts.  That darkness is the absence of God in our inability to love others as he loves. Read more

WHY THE CHURCH CAN’T BRING PEACE TO FERGUSON

by Bob Roberts Jr

But, 6 things it can do to prevent the next FERGUSON if it starts

NOW

Most of the people involved in the crisis in Ferguson would have some kind of “church” background and involvement.  There are African American and Anglo American Christians, there are African American and Anglo American pastors – and still they have virtually no voice or influence.  Why?  Because there are African American & Anglo American churches!  That’s the problem people.  A person has a race, ethnicity, heritage, and culture.  However, not the church -  that is a direct denial and rejection of what the essence of the church – the bride of Christ, the community of saints is to be.  Paul writes it several times, neither “Jew nor Greek” (race), “male nor female” (gender), “bond nor free” (class) are acceptable divisions in the body of Christ, the church today.  What made the church unique was everyone was at the table.  The same three dividers of humanity sociologically in Jesus are done away with.  The biggest problem the 21st century church has is trying to keep the erected barriers from the 19thcentury in place instead of getting in line with a 1st century Jesus Church!  Read more

PLEASE DON’T QUIT

by Bob Roberts Jr

Last week I was with several church planters who are at at different stages in their ministry, but all pushing hard.  Some of them were about to start and faced obstacles and were wondering if they could really pull it off.   Some of them were in the middle of it and didn’t have answers for obstacles.   One church planter is a now full-fledged “church” and was wondering if he shouldn’t start another church because of the struggles, the new and excitement had worn off.  I was also with some pastors of established churches – some fairly large and influential – one was weary of the constant complaining, another weary of dealing with staff issues.  I was with a married couple who was hanging on by a thread.  I was with a young man whose job didn’t work out and he was feeling like a failure.  Everyone, no exceptions, regardless of the situation would love to simply escape.  I was recently with a prominent pastor who is now 80, and he  told me of everyone he went to seminary with and started out in the pastorate, only three made it to the finish line.  One my mentors and heroes, now with the Lord, told me a few months before he died that as we get older things actually get more difficult and challenging. Read more

THE UNIQUE ROLE OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCH & BELIEVER GLOBALLY

by Bob Roberts Jr. 

I believe the sleeping giant of the American Church globally is its African American believers.  The narrative most often related to biblically with the African American is that of Moses and deliverance being applied to the African American experience from slavery to the Civil War to Civil Rights to our first African American President Barak Obama. 

The world is ready for African Americans to be on the global public stage in a bigger way.  There are many who have paved the way – but in reality, in this modern period, no one more than Colin Powell.  He could have been President had he wanted it, by both parties and by all races, he is a leader xtraordinaire.  When President Obama was running for the Presidency and then won, his crowds globally were unprecedented for an American President – the world was ready.  Read more

“THE CHURCH IS THE WORLD’S HOPE”

by Bob Roberts Jr.

I’ve heard this quote a lot over the past 20 years from many different people. I’ve even said it myself.  I believe when functioning properly as the body of Christ, it is.  In a technical sense, it is Jesus that is the hope of the world, but Jesus in Acts has a new body he establishes, a body called the “ecclesia” (called out ones, colony as an outpost).  In Luke Jesus had a physical body, in Acts it’s a spiritual body as a community of believers.  When those believers are connected to Jesus, the HEAD of the church, their FEET move in the direction he wants them to.  What Jesus came to do as one, we also do as one, but as a community of Jesus followers with diverse gifts, callings, and ministries.  It takes all of these in operation for the Good News of Jesus to spread and for lives and communities to be transformed.  It is to be the church that actually brings the Good News of the Kingdom of God and the peace of the Kingdom to life and the world, whether it always does or not.  The Kingdom of God will always have its church, yet the Kingdom is bigger than any single, local church.  I learned 20 years ago, when I was first discovering the kingdom, that what was good for the Kingdom would always be good for the local church, though at times it hurt a specific local church – we aren’t to hoard and hold on to, but give away and spread around. Read more

Embracing the beauty of diversity

by Jill King

I believe that every human is born with value and worth, therefore should be entitled to rights. I also believe that every person is unique, characterized with specific attributes which contribute to who they are and what they have to offer the world. When we look to a level playing field of equality as an end goal, it’s important to keep this masterful mosaic of the human race in mind. No one should be treated poorly because of their classification, but perhaps individuals should be considered in light of the diversity they represent. There’s an attitude that I perceive to be somewhat forced when we attempt to view the world through the lens of color-blindness, sexual orientation blindness, religious blindness- the list goes on. This practice really does us a disservice and manifests itself through our societal ignorance. We were all created in the image of God, and this is one telling commonality that humans share. He created this world with color and variety, and it would be a shame to dilute these characteristics that reflect his very nature. I believe in advocacy and justice for those without a voice, but when the motivation is pure power, not supported by experience or relationships, I think we are missing the point.

As a woman, I want to be perceived and remembered for the unique person God made me to be. He gave me a feminine nature, a compassionate spirit, and zest for life. I do not want to assert power and control to simply prove something to the world. I want to thrive in my God given identity. I think it would serve us well to see others for who they really are, not only through association of the tribe that they belong to. I wish we could boldly admit to one another that we are different and intentionally celebrate or advocate for the difficulty that comes along with certain classifications. We can’t ignore the fact that we live among people who are not like us. I don’t want to look past skin, which tells a story of history and surrounds eyes that have witnessed things that some of us have only had nightmares about. I want to be seen differently than a man, because some of my God given qualities are based on the distinguishing characteristics of being a woman. I will not assume someone with a different sexual orientation is just like me, because I know their experience of facing society is vastly different from my own. I want to have an understanding of different religions, because our faith and beliefs significantly impact the way we choose to live our lives.

My desire is to deeply understand others, not to assume that everyone is like me or that we are simply all the same. I’ve always been burdened by the fact that even when we seek to walk in the shoes of another, we still only have our own perception of their perspective. We can not get outside of our own mind, but the Holy Spirit can bring wisdom and understanding. When we view people in light of who they are, understanding that there is no replication of them in this world, it shifts the way we see others, and it deepens our expression of love. If our hearts are centered on the beauty of diversity, I believe we will take advances toward being more direct with one another, and less concerned about being politically correct. Our uniqueness matters, and it’s all part of His eternal Kingdom.