The New Testament book of Acts closes with one of the church’s greatest messengers, the apostle Paul, under a kind of house arrest. Throughout the book of Acts, the church had adapted to different situations to tell people about the love of Jesus Christ. And as the book closes in chapter 28, God reminds us that while Paul is limited in where he can go, the gospel is not. The good news of the kingdom of God keeps going out no matter the obstacles.
We are certainly not facing the kind of opposition that Paul did, but the COVID-19 pandemic has created new obstacles to how we foster spiritual life on a college campus. Since the Christian faith is foundational to who we are, we cannot let these obstacles keep us from living out our faith. Like many Arkansas Baptist churches, our mission has not changed this semester, though the way we minister has.
Campus-wide programs and student-led ministries have made great adjustments to continue serving our students in the name of Jesus.
For example, our chapel service, which typically gathers our entire student body once a week, has moved online this semester. We miss the opportunity for our campus to worship in one place, but we believe this was the best choice for the overall health of our campus. By limiting large group gatherings, we have increased our ability to continue with in-person classes and small group meetings. Students, alumni and friends of the university have all contributed creatively to make online chapel an engaging experience. You can view a sample of our online chapel here with Arkansas pastor Jamar Andrews.
One of the best things about Ouachita spiritual life is the student-led worship that happens through Refuge, Noonday and other gatherings. These ministries have continued, though we’re now using some different venues and meeting outside occasionally. Students have shown a great ability to adjust with us, and livestreaming has allowed us to stay connected to students who have to be away from campus.
Small groups continue to meet, and our students are studying what the Bible says about their identity as people made in the image of God.
Like the church in the book of Acts, we won’t stop living out our faith, but we are figuring out how to do it differently. Instead of seeing only the obstacles and limits, we are encouraged by the new opportunities and life lessons that may come from this season. We’re seeking and finding new avenues of discipleship.
By the end of this ordeal, we may all learn to value moments of simple community more than big events. And as the world and the campus slow down a bit, we may even hear more of the still, small voice of God. Whatever changes come, we face them together with confidence and hope because we know that the same gospel the church preached thousands of years ago will not be stopped today.
By James Taylor, director of campus ministries at Ouachita Baptist University