I recently had the privilege of attending a portion of Urbana 18 which is a missions conference put on by Intervarsity every three years. It was held between Christmas and New Year’s in St. Louis, Missouri. I was told there were somewhere around 11,000 people in attendance with 10,000 of them being college age! Seeing that many young people on fire for Jesus and committed to advancing his Kingdom in the world was encouraging. Since I view the world through “Anglican Church Revitalization” eyes, one of the mission ideas that stood out to me that may be applicable for some of you is what is called International Student Ministry.
One of the things we teach in our ReVive! seminar on church revitalization is that each local congregation must identify who the specific unchurched people are around their church that God is calling them to reach. Many churches say their vision is something like, “to Make Christ Known.” This is a great vision, but to whom, specifically, are you making him known? No one congregation will reach all the lost in the world. Each congregation must focus on who God specifically is calling them to focus on. And just saying, “we will reach young people” or “our neighborhood” or worse, “our city” is not specific enough. The more focused a church becomes on a specific group of people, the more the church can learn about them and how best to reach out to them relationally, bring them to Christ, into the church family, and made his disciples.
If your church is near a college or university, there is a good chance that there are international students there who don’t know Jesus. This might be a specific group of people that God wants your church to focus on. There is a huge mission opportunity here that not only would benefit your church now, but when these students go back to their home countries, they will return taking the Gospel to non-believers there! Your church could have a global impact without actually having to leave the country!
If your congregation is primarily older, you might think you couldn’t relate to college students, especially international ones. I heard at Urbana that that is simply not true. Just being hospitable and offering meals and being examples of Christian love goes a long way! Don’t dismiss this idea just because you think you’re old!
Since I’m not in any way an expert on International Student Ministry, my goal in this article is to simply open you to this as a possible way to do mission and evangelism through your local church this year and beyond. This may not at all be what you should do, however for some of you, this may be exactly what God is calling you to do. If you think it even might be, let me refer you to the Anglican experts on this: the Anglican International Student Ministry Network (AISMN). You can find out more information or contact them about this ministry opportunity for your church on the New Wineskins site here.
And, while at the New Wineskins site you can also see other mission ideas from other Anglican Mission Partners. You might even be interested in attending the New Wineskins Conference next September. The American Anglican Council will be leading a pre-conference seminar on church revitalization there too!
As you begin 2019, remember that God has people around your congregation that he quite literally died to save. He loves them and wants to bring them into his Kingdom through your church. To whomever specifically he leads you to focus on reaching, may many of them come to know Christ as savior and Lord this year through you!
The Rev. Canon Mark Eldredge is Director of Church Revitalization & Coaching.