72% and 5 Things We’ve Learned While Raising Support

Since many of you reading this are supporters of our ministry, I am sure you are interested to hear about our progress towards our goal of getting onto campus! We are currently at 72% of our monthly goal…SO close to 3/4 of the way there!!! We are definitely in the tail-end of support raising and are praying and hoping to be finished with our financial support by the summer. Right now our biggest obstacle to finishing is finding additional people to talk to about our ministry.

Many lessons have been learned by us in the process of raising support and here are 5 highlights:

1. God is in control and joining staff with Campus Crusade is clearly what He has called us to. I wish I had the space to tell all the specific stories, but let’s just say we’ve come to expect the unexpected. Although we’ve definitely put in our share of hard work, it is clear that it is God who is ultimately working in people’s hearts to join our ministry team. Every time we’ve been frustrated or discouraged, God does something really cool that really encourages us and lifts our spirits, confirming that we are right where we’re supposed to be. Also the fact that He has raised our support much faster than expected is testimony to His call on our lives.

2. Raising support is like sharing the Gospel. You have to take initiative, confront fears, get comfortable with the uncomfortable, and be willing to constantly meet new people. We once heard it said that “if you can’t ask people to support you financially, how can you ask people to completely surrender their lives to God?” This has certainly been training grounds for where we will go next and is pushing our limits of what comes to us naturally.

3. We took many aspects of “normal” jobs for granted. Where do I even begin on this one? Having steady (better) paychecks, only working 40-50 hours a week, working a set schedule each day, minimal travel, occasional periods of psychological rest…and the list goes on. Honestly, leaving these things behind was one of our biggest obstacles to choosing  vocational ministry. The “security” and luxuries we had before, we no longer have.

4. God requires everything…yes, everything. We are learning to let go of the “securities” and comforts I talked about in #3. Nothing can be put as a greater priority than God…when you are stripped of the things you were so heavily relying on, you become painfully aware of the ways you were not depending on God. Halfway into support raising, I did an honest evaluation on my level of trust in God…and found it to be about a 3 on a scale of 1-10. That’s because we had been so “self-sufficient” and independent that I didn’t feel like I desperately needed Him. That’s scary…but I think it’s been changing (maybe slowly…but surely). Mark Gauthier once said that “faith is predicated on insecurity. You should live your life so that if God doesn’t pull through for you – you’re toast!”

5. Happiness is not the same as joy. Happiness is fleeting and depends on your circumstances, but joy is much deeper and transcends circumstances. I think it’s safe to say that support raising does not make us happy. It’s not fun, enjoyable, or easy. Our current circumstances (apart from support raising itself) are less than ideal as well…traveling often, living as a married couple in your parents home, living far away from most of our friends…you get the picture. However, I think it’s also safe to say that we have experienced more joy in the last 9 months than ever before. We’ve learned so much about ourselves and the authentic life (of love and sacrifice) that God calls all Christians to live – there’s no such thing as a “mediocre Christian life”…it’s an oxymoron. We’ve been so close to God during this time and have experienced Him and the awesomeness of being sure we are in His will. Despite the frustrations of support raising and the things we gave up in #3, I don’t think we’d give up this experience for anything.We didn’t choose to do vocational ministry because we lacked other options or because it was going to be an easy path…far, FAR from it. We chose it because we know that God radically transforms lives (I am a testimony to that) and it is so amazing to experience and be a part of that.

We are learning what Paul said in Philippians 3:7-11 – “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Half-Conscious and Hilarious

The other day I woke up early (well earlier than normal) to answer a phone call. Melissa is, well, lets just say a heavy sleeper but I was pretty loud. (You know, if you talk a little louder it sounds like you have been awake for more than 35 seconds.) During the conversation she kept rolling over making frustrated huffs and snorts… shooting me an occasional dirty look.

So when I climbed back into bed she glared right at me and said, “I am so mad at you right now!”

“Oh really?” I asked, knowing that she was talking in her sleep and hoping I could keep the conversation going.

“Yeah, the purple and green dinosaur won’t even sing for you anymore!”, she replied.

At that point I started laughing for about a half of a minute, until she continued with, “And neither will the men in sweaters!”

To be fair to her, I have to explain that it turns out not to be as crazy as it sounded. The day before, Melissa was reading a book that was talking about children’s TV shows like Barney and Mr. Rogers. What’s more, Melissa talks in her sleep all the time. Somehow she can go into a half-conscious state where her eyes are open and she can even walk around but is totally asleep and doesn’t remember what she said or did the next morning. I love it when that happens… it’s never a dull moment! Check back in the future for more sleep talking stories!

3 Videos Portraying Why I Love the Austin Stone So Much

I came across the Austin Stone Church (a church in Austin, TX) fairly randomly and fell in love with it instantly. Their vision is to be a “church for the city”…meaning that their church is not meant to simply be a social club or the like but to actively work for the redemption of the city by meeting various needs of people in Austin. This church is truly an “outward-focused” church rather than an “inward-focused” church and instead of just “talking the talk” they’re actually “walking the walk”. This church is a great example of living out New Testament Christianity and I wish I could say more churches looked like this one. I could say much more but I think the videos explain it all.

Makarios-Dominican Joe from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

Cardboard Stories from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

Missional Community-Austin Life Care from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

Click here for more Austin Stone videos

A Supremely Important Decision

We have often been asked by supporters of our ministry if Campus Crusade is allowed to operate freely on U.S. college campuses. We have always responded yes, because one of the great aspects of American universities is the emphasis on protecting the free exchange of all kinds of ideas.

Sadly, this reality may be forever changed for Christians. On April 20th, the Supreme Court will be hearing the case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez on the issue of whether public universities may deny a religious student organization’s official recognition on campus because the group requires its leaders to agree with its core religious viewpoints. In other words, a Christian group who is unwilling to accept non-Christians into the leadership of the group will be deemed “intolerant” and will no longer be allowed to operate on campus. In the specific case at hand, the Christian Legal Society (CLS) had its status as a recognized student organization revoked at UC Hastings College of Law for religious discrimination. This was because they required officers and voting members to affirm a Christian statement of faith. They sued in Federal district court and lost, and they appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and lost. It has now been appealed to the Supreme Court.

Wayne Grudem, one of the most famous theologians of our time wrote a brief that was just filed with the Supreme Court on Feb. 4th stating that “the implications of this case go far beyond CLS. If this policy of Hastings College of Law to exclude CLS from recognition as a campus organization is upheld, it will allow every public college and university in the United States to exclude all evangelical Christian organizations (such as Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the Navigators, the Reformed University Fellowship, Baptist Campus Ministries, and others), from recognition for a similar reason. This will effectively remove evangelical organizations from state college and university campuses throughout the United States. This would be seen by most evangelicals (15 to 30 percent of the U.S. population) as a deeply troubling result – a policy permitting access to many diverse viewpoints but censoring the evangelical Christian viewpoint.”

To expound on Grudem’s fears, this means that we will no longer be able to use campus facilities for our weekly meetings, to gather for social events, or to bring in speakers for large outreaches. We won’t be able to hold Bible studies in dorms or even advertise for Campus Crusade by putting up posters or having an informational table for new students. The ramifications of this decision will also reach further than the college campus. Many churches rent public schools for services on weekends and the ruling will apply to them as well.

Whatever decision is made, we will still continue to work diligently to share the incredible love of Christ with students whether or not we are allowed on campus. In some ways, we rejoice for these trials because it helps to remind us that we must trust fully in God rather than our own flesh or the democratic system in which we live. Mike Erre wrote that “perhaps the church has been lulled into complacency by years of the very things we point to as proofs of God’s blessing upon America: religious freedom and material abundance.” Perhaps this case will serve as a “wake up call” for the Church to reject lukewarm Christianity and to begin living lives fully devoted to Jesus.

In the last few days as we have been researching the general public’s opinion regarding the court case, it has become obvious that the vast majority view Christians as closed-minded, judgmental, and agree with the previous court’s decision. It would seem that Christians have become known for the “hot button” issues they oppose (i.e. evolution, homosexuality, etc.) rather than the characteristics of Christ that should radiate from those who follow Him (i.e. generosity, love, forgiveness, sacrifice, etc.) So honestly, this court case really comes as no surprise.

So the big question we’ve been asking ourselves is “what should our response to this be?” The expected response might be anger, but instead maybe we should start evaluating if the Church is really acting as “a light to this world” as Jesus said we should be. Instead of becoming bitter, what if we turned our energies towards bringing compassion to those in need and serving others sacrificially as Jesus did? Let’s pray fervently that God awakens the American Church as a whole and uses our response to rebuild burnt bridges.