[Next Generation] Importance of relationships in reaching college students 

This article was written by Brett Ward, a sophomore at the University of Central Arkansas. He is from Charleston, Arkansas and is majoring in Exercise Science Pre-AT.

As someone who grew up in the church, I heard how important it was to share my faith with others early on in my life. I had been bombarded with verses telling me to go and share. I was very shy as a kid, and struggled with telling people about Jesus. I mainly relied on my actions to show my faith. I quickly began to love acts of service to spread the Gospel, and that was what most of my ministry consisted of during my high school years.  

Moving into college, I was blessed to become involved with Conway Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM). Through those leadership positions, I was challenged to be better and share the Gospel through my words. That was very tough for me. When hearing the phrase “go share the Gospel with someone,” I always think of just walking down the street and finding someone to tell. I think this kind of ministry is very important, but it isn’t for me. I struggled to find my place in the BCM because I wasn’t the most outgoing and ready to talk to anyone.  

My freshman year in the spring semester, I came across a passage in 1 Corinthians that completely changed my outlook on how I engage in ministry. In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul lays out his strategy to reach the lost. In verse nineteen, he says “though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are given the opportunity to be free, as Christians.  

Paul shows how we can use that freedom to influence the lost. He actively gives up his freedom in hopes to be able to connect with someone and share the Gospel with them. He goes on in verse twenty to say “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.” Paul states that he comes under the law to be able to reach those under the law. In verse twenty-one, He also says he becomes like those who are not under the law, while still keeping God’s law, to be able to reach those who are under the law. Paul had no obligation to stay under the law because of what Jesus had done. He was willing to put his personal preferences aside, other than the core values of the Gospel, to be able to reach people. He cared about people and spreading the Gospel, so that they could be transformed by the Holy Spirit.  

In verse twenty-two, Paul goes on to say that he becomes weak to the weak, to be able to spread the Gospel to them. The key meaning to this passage, and what I have tried to hold on to in my daily life comes next. Paul says “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” The one thing that truly mattered to Paul was reaching people. He did not let anything hinder being able to reach someone. This passage also shows he didn’t just share the Gospel and leave. He valued relationships, which is why he was so willing to change who he was to be able to meet someone where they were. He died to himself, so that he might carry out the mission of God.  

Last summer I was blessed to have the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Colorado. One day we went to lunch at a small restaurant that was run by a Muslim family. The guy who took us, named Mike, frequently visited the restaurant to be able to form a relationship with this family. In their culture, men and women do not sit and eat together. They also do not use silverware, but eat with their hands. We made sure to follow all of their customs as best as we could. We did it to show love and deepen that relationship they had with Mike. Will he ever have the opportunity to share the Gospel with them? I do not know that, but I do know that through the relationship Mike has been able to form, the door is open for the Holy Spirit to move amongst those people.  

I am passionate about reaching college students because I have realized the importance of relationships. Looking back on when I first came to college, I very easily could have tried to have the “normal” college experience. Luckily, I had many solid Christians who invested in me. Without people who showed they really cared about me, I’m not sure where I would be today.  

My goal when sharing the Gospel is for the person to know I care about them as a person first. I do not want them thinking they are just a project or some number on a spreadsheet. My challenge to myself and other Christians is to be like Paul in 1 Corinthians 9. Ask ourselves what about us could keep someone from knowing Jesus? I believe with the help of the Holy Spirit, if we can keep the Gospel message at the forefront of our lives, and focus on the relationships we form with people, God will do unbelievable and amazing things in our church, campus, city, and all around the world.  

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