My freshman year of college at the University of Georgia brought a world unlike any other. I was living on my own for the first time in a high-rise dorm with 1,000 other UGA students and I came in wide-eyed and excited. My freshman year was spent like typical college freshmen: long hours in the dining halls, Cookout trips at 2 a.m. with my best friends, and ministry nights several times a week. My friends loved going to church gatherings; in fact, by the time the second semester rolled around, we were going to three or four different events Monday through Thursday. It was different from what I had experienced back home. Not better or worse; just unique. Each week normally involved a freshmen service on Monday, a worship night on Tuesday, another service on Wednesday night, and a house church led by two seniors on Thursday night. By the end of each night, we were exhausted and possibly a little burned out, but still curious for what more our university had to offer us.
It sounds overwhelming, and it was, but we soaked it up like sponges. I do not think it would have been sustainable in the long run; but, for that second semester, it was right where we needed to be. Looking back on it all, it is obvious the Lord used freshman year for me to get to know Him and fall in love with Him. I did not know it at the time, but I was investing in something greater than any stock or bond; I was investing in my relationship with the Lord.
In my eyes, the term “college” took on a whole new meaning. It was full of hope and determination, a place where the Lord was really moving and working in all our lives. After freshman year, I continued to stay involved in Wesley and became a freshman small group leader my sophomore and junior years of college. Most of my friends were those I had met my freshman year through the various Christian activities we attended. While it was fantastic to be surrounded by a community and close friends to build me up, encourage me in the Word, and hold me accountable, I could not help but feel that I was going to a very different UGA than most students.
Inside the Bubble
It felt as if there were two universities: one full of those seeking the Lord and one full of those there to have a good time. They are so separated that one does not even know the other exists. While the Christian community built each other up and created a community full of love, encouragement, and accountability, it was closed off to the rest of UGA. Regarding the term “closed off,” all the ministry events and small groups are open to everyone; it just ends up being the same groups of people that go to most of the events. I have seen how most (myself included) have sat with the same group of friends every Wednesday night since freshman year. We found our solid Christian friends in the first year of school and check! We can cross that to-do item off of the list!
While it is important to be grounded in strong Christian friendships and community, we were never meant to stay in the “bubble.” The community is an essential part of being a Christian and it encourages us in a way that could not be reached on our own, but believers can not stay in our comfort zones. We are called to leave the bubble every once in a while and serve those who do not know the Lord as we do. While this specific example only discussed one university, this aspect can be applied to almost every part of life.
Beyond the Bubble
In Luke 10, Jesus sends out seventy-two of his followers and He gives them instructions. It reads:
After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or scandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.” – Luke 10:1-4
Jesus is urging us to get out of our comfort zone and serve those who are different from us. How is this done practically?
1. We can not go alone. In Luke 10, Jesus sends his disciples out two by two. Our community is built for a reason and it is biblical that we have each other to encourage and uplift us.
2. James 3:18 says:
Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. – James 3:18
We should not force anything onto anyone; but instead, we should come from a heart of peace, patience, and kindness for others.
3. People should not become our projects. We were never called to analyze the “progress” of someone’s faith journey, but we are called to show up, serve, and know that the Lord is the real one behind the scenes working in their hearts. John 15:5 reminds us this when the Lord says:
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5
We do not need to carry the burden of people’s salvation on our shoulders because it is not ours to bear. It is the Lord’s work that is doing the real change in people’s hearts.
4. When our hearts are aligned with God’s purpose, the details will happen naturally. I used to get so nervous about bringing up what the pastor discussed in church that Sunday to my friends who didn’t attend church. I noticed that when I tried to force a point of the sermon into the conversation, it felt unnatural and awkward. But, when I asked for the Holy Spirit to guide me and entered every conversation with a desire for God’s will, conversations that discussed faith became more natural.
Above all, one of the most important points to remember is that the Lord is the one behind all good things. No matter how hard we are praying for someone, the Lord is fighting for them so much more than we can imagine. It will become a joy and an honor to work alongside Him all for His glory.