by Jess Dahl, Resonate Ellensburg staff
On the day after Easter, college students across the world will go to class as usual. A staggering number of those students have yet to hear or fully understand that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ impacts them personally.
Our church, Resonate, continues to exist so that the resurrection story may capture students’ hearts. We pray that resurrection conviction would lead people to follow their risen Savior into the Great Commission. We long to see resurrection power fuel a movement to plant churches in college towns.
In Matthew 28, after that first Easter two thousand years ago, Jesus gives us clear directions before he returns to heaven.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
He has just defeated death so all authority on heaven and earth is his. Nothing can stop his name from spreading. Now that we have been reconciled by him to his Father, his command is that we go and make disciples in that same power.
At some point, every college student in America will ask “What am I supposed to do with my life?” Jesus gives a very clear answer. All Christians living in the light of the resurrection are called to go and make disciples. No church made that up; no movement came up with that trend. The command to go make disciples is straight from the mouth of Jesus. In light of the Great Commission, we as Resonate Church have set a clear goal to plant 21 churches by the year 2021 (a vision we have termed “21x21”). In light of the resurrection, we believe in God to do big things on college campuses and surrounding towns. There are many questions and comments surrounding this endeavor, and we wanted to answer a few of those here.
The vision of 21x21 is not telling you what to do with your life, because Jesus has already done that in the Great Commission. It is giving you the how. Before the clear vision of 21x21 was cast, we taught the what of discipleship, then assumed people would figure out the how on their own after graduation. Hopefully they found a church that helped them, hopefully they continued to be pushed to make disciples in their new cities, jobs, and workplaces, hopefully…
We view the clear goal as a clarifying line in the sand that begs the question: Why not go and make disciples with your church that has become family over the last 4 years? We have seen people graduate with a generic hope of figuring out how to go and make disciples on the side of life in the “real world.” This typically gets choked out without a clear plan or accountability.
Our goal is that everyone would clearly define how they plan to go and make disciples of all nations after graduation. If not this, then how?
There are many ways to make disciples and fulfill the Great Commission. This is not the best or only way, but we do believe it is strategic and we have seen God bless our obedience.
College campuses are incredibly dense areas of lostness. Sixty-five percent of Americans attend college. On top of that, nations that are closed off to the gospel are represented on college campuses in international students.
We see in the New Testament that Paul often goes to port cities to preach the Gospel, knowing that many came there for trade and would return home, taking the gospel with them. We view the college campus are modern day trade port cities. If we take the gospel to these concentrated areas, we will see many sent out upon graduation and take the gospel with them.
“I’m not called to plant a church.”
This statement typically needs to be unpacked a little. It might be that God has other plans for your life, but most often it is a mask for something else. The problem is that most people don’t like clear accountability. We don’t like having a clear how when we’re actually trying to wiggle our way out of the what (the Great Commission).
If we’re honest, we like it when the how is murky and we can pursue a life that ends on our own ideas of success and happiness.
I get it. I hate people telling me what to do. That’s why giving my life over to God was so hard. I wanted to do my own thing, but I quickly saw how that led to an entirely unfulfilled heart and empty life when things rose and fell on what I wanted. Once I gave God control, he started to create new desires in me. I began to see that a life that multiplied itself was more fulfilling; one that focused on others actually made me happier. A life poured out is actually the fullest life. How backward is God’s economy?
Walt Henrichson, author of Disciples Are Made Not Born, says, "If you are at college for any other reason that to be a missionary for Jesus Christ, you are there for selfish, sinful reasons." That is a very blunt statement, but one that if you follow it down the line of reason actually rings true. Christ gave all He had to come after us, how can we not leave all we have to go after others and tell them? The clarity of this makes us squirm. It’s not that pursuing a specific major or career is bad, but if that is ultimate there’s the problem.
In summation, you might not be specifically called to plant a church, but you are irrefutably called to make disciples. Why not go with some like-minded people to a new college town and start a community on mission there?
“Surely you don’t expect everyone who graduates to go plant a church?”
Why not? We will present the opportunity for people to move with their friends to start a community that allows flourishing for both them and those they meet. Until they hear from the Lord how he wants them to do that in another way, why not start here? Our goal is not to tell people what to do, but instead to help graduates have a clear pathway to live in the mission of God.
“Those Elevate and church planting videos look like you’re having too much fun. You need to settle down and be serious after college.”
We are having fun. We are also in the thick of a battle for souls that means lots of long days, hard conversations, and messed-up stories that need redemption. But we are doing it with a family we have helped create, which for many of us started in our college years. What is more fun than that? What is more purpose-filled than that? We’d love to have you join our family on mission.
We continue to see the resurrection story capture students’ hearts. We continue to see resurrection conviction lead people to follow their risen Savior into the Great Commission. We continue to see resurrection power fuel a movement of college students and families that are selling all they have to move to college towns and plant churches so that all may know, being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And we continue to see that even in the cost, our resurrected Savior is with us.