By far the most important thing I have involved myself with during my college education is the group ministry. Joining group has taught me more about God and about who I am than anything else has at SPU. My advice to a freshman would be to get involved in an on-campus ministry. It surrounds you with peers that are passionate about exploring who God is and who they are and provides you with a safe place to pursue those questions. It will grow you in leadership, service, and relationships. It will help you step into the fullness of who God has created you to be and it will help you realize your destiny as a child of God and a citizen of the Kingdom of God. What’s most important to you might just become the way you love others. You might become less concerned with your level of popularity or your material possessions. You might become more aware of the beautiful and tragic qualities of our culture, and in turn learn how to live into some of those qualities and reject the others to more fully live into the Kingdom of Heaven right now because Heaven and Earth were made to overlap. And I know for myself that over these three years of being involved in this ministry, I have developed a confidence in myself that has freed me up to speak my mind with boldness and draw others into a relationship with God through the way I live rather than through forced evangelism.
You might, however, have the majority of your youthful theology crushed by a slow and steady process of studying scripture and coming to terms with the big picture of the Christian story. Your Christian faith will become rooted in a reality that is in the future and yet a present moment in the form of the Church. Your identity as pars pro toto, a part of the whole, will guide your life as a minister. This is indeed a paradox that leaves us in a life of ambiguity. You will cry and you will feel for a time the emptiness of losing your identity in a faith that puts Heaven and Hell next to each other and teaches you that an allegiance to the Christian faith is the only way out of eternal punishment. You will wonder if your faith has any ounce of validity. These are of course the moments that your spirit and your theology must experience and endure, but you will be thankful for them in due course.
Studying scripture and hearing the stories of the people I do ministry with has brought me to a place of asking, “How do we truly live in this middle time between Jesus’ departure and his return and inauguration of God’s new creation?” We are surrounded by brokenness and pain and a multitude of different religions and stories that give us varying perspectives on where this world is going, but I have found that the greatest secret, which stands at the foot of our present reality, is that Christians are grounded not by knowing the absolute truth of this life, but by our hope that the Kingdom of God is surely coming and that the dead will be raised to new life. Thus, it is with this hope that we embrace the brokenness and ambiguity of our lives in the face of Jesus who teaches us to reach out to God in both times of joy and understanding and suffering and uncertainty. You might find that you have new hope, hope that this story is big enough to include everyone. Your purpose in life might no longer be just about recruiting more Christians, as if one’s membership in the Christian church is some prerequisite for being your friend or if the role of the church is merely understood as a purveyor of afterlife options. From my experience, my purpose in life has transformed from a desire to convert everyone around me and into a longing to live into my eschatological hope here and now through the way I love others, celebrate life now and life eternal, and live as a member of the Christian church in continual agitation and questioning of all systems which prevent the flourishing of life.