I sincerely believe that every Christian is called to make a difference, to influence culture, and to have an effect on the world around them. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, after all Jesus said, “you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.”
But while there are situations in life where it is easy to believe it, see it, and live it, we often find that in the day-to-day it is much more common for us to forget the call that Jesus gave us. If we are honest, there are places in the world where changing the atmosphere is difficult. How about when I don’t agree with members of my family? At work when I can’t get things done on time? Or with my annoying neighbours?… How do I make a difference here as well? And what about during my studies? While living on campus?
There are three main ways to live out these years of study at university:
Firstly, we can be driven. We to to build a career, to do research; we are passionate and we give 200% to our classes.
Secondly, we can be indifferent. We do it for our parents, or because we don’t really know what else to do and the student life seems vaguely appealing. In this case, we often spend the most time at the bar or campus café, we often miss lectures and are always looking forward to holidays and breaks (but we’re definitely glad to have a student card for the discounts they give us!).
Lastly, we can be passive. We live out our studies with the mentality that this season is some kind of necessary evil. We have to go through it to start our career, get a job, have a stable life. In this case we often only do the minimum required of us, we stress during exams, we don’t seek excellence but are happy to be barely above average. In my experience, the large majority of students are in this third scenario and I would like to encourage anyone who finds themselves in this group of people.
To live out our time at university as just a necessary step in the journey of life is not only demotivating, but contrary to our Christian mandate to be salt and light, to be ambassadors and influencers. I don’t believe that anyone is where they are by accident, nor that God gives us seasons where he says, “it’s not important, this season doesn’t matter, endure this season calmly and your live starts after it’s over!”.
The truth is, regardless of why you came to uni, you need to know that you can make a difference on your campus and bring more of the Kingdom of God right where you are right now. I have no doubt your studies will be useful for your career and send you on a certain path of life, but your life doesn’t have to be on ‘stand-by’ until you get there. I would like to share a few keys to help you in being an ambassador and motivate you to realize that you are called to shift the atmosphere right where you are.
1. Love well
Love is a power often neglected. It’s not an abstract concept; it manifests, it shares and it expresses. It can expressed in being open to those around you, attentive to your classmates, seeking to meet them, love them, serve them. How can you help them? There may be a few specific people who come to mind. How could you encourage them, help them feel loved? Love those who are difficult to love. On a university campus, it is easy to blend into the crowd. Show those around you that they are seen, full of value, and appreciated!
2. Pray for your campus
I am sure that you could criticize your campus. You know where the bad people hang out, which corners to avoid, where the over-keen intellectuals spend their time. You know what is wrong, what could be done better, and what the worst things are about your university. But do you pray for this place? Do you bless it, do you ask how God sees your campus? Today I do it for my city. Sometimes I walk around with the sole objective of really seeing my city, to meet her and pray for her. I go to the worst places, look people in the eye and I ask God, “what are you saying about this place, this situation?” To know what God says about your campus will change your attitude and how you spend your time there.
3. Stop criticising
In the Bible, James makes us realize the importance of our words. There is power in words, even those we keep in our heads. Watch how you speak and how you think about your campus. When people criticize, don’t join in. It’s as if light began to speak about the strength of darkness… That just doesn’t make sense. Light doesn’t complain about darkness, the light pushes back the darkness! Stop criticizing your campus and start making it better!
4. Welcome the supernatural
I want to share something that’s both good and bad: you can’t make a difference alone. The bad part is that you won’t receive any glory for it. The good part is that you don’t need to carry a burden too heavy for you. If you can make a difference, be a light and shift the atmosphere on your campus, it is purely because Jesus lives in you. It’s Him who makes the difference, through you. To welcome the supernatural is to agree to work with Him. When you come across a shocking situation, ask God what to do… and do it. When he speaks to you about someone, go share what you heard from God. When He points out someone at the library, start a conversation with them. Walking in the supernatural is something learned and grown. If you don’t welcome this dimension and if you don’t take the first steps, don’t expect to see the supernatural grow in your life. Jesus is a gentleman, He will never force you!
5. Get involved on your campus
Students who have adopted that passive approach to their season at university usually don’t get involved on their campuses. They are just passing visitors, taking what they need and leaving again. They are more like tourists than ambassadors. I’m not telling you to get involved in every group and every activity, but rather to show up and participate in campus life, meet people, try to create relationships. This is even more important if you come from out of town or if you go away to study. Jesus surrounded Himself with people, He got involved in the world and His culture so that He could have an impact. You can’t stay outside of campus and expect to make a difference. This means staying after class a few times each week. Invest in your social life, meet other students in your department, go to a public debate… you name it, but get involved!
I believe that your years in university are called to be special, that you are called to make a difference where God has placed you, and that is especially true for your campus. You are called to be salt and light, an ambassador and you can’t simply trudge through these years as if they are a burden, a waste of time on the path of life, or a necessary evil. Oh, and by the way, beware of tomorrow… You have no control over it, so live today and be who God says you are, here and now.
Yves is based in Lausanne, Switerzland where he leads Home church with his wife Janet. He is part of the core leadership team of Campus Awakening and heads up all we are building in the French-speaking nations of Europe.