I’ve been in reflection mode after spending parts of the past three weeks in Panama City Beach, Fla. helping with Beach Reach 2014 (check out the Facebook page HERE). If you’re not familiar with Beach Reach, here’s a quick run down of what happens. College students from campus ministries and churches all over the country come to Panama City Beach (one of the hot spot destinations for college spring breakers) to provide free van rides, serve lots of pancakes every day, and genuinely share with the thousands of spring breakers that Jesus is deeply in love with them. While serving at Beach Reach this year, I had the joy of witnessing more than 800 college students share the hope of who Jesus is and initiate countless gospel conversations with spring breakers who never thought that they would encounter Jesus on the beaches of PCB during spring break.
Beach Reachers grabbed hold of the message that Jesus is our hope for all brokenness – and they shared it with urgency. The gospel really is good news for all to hear. Was it difficult? You better believe it! Was it worth it? Absolutely!
Lives were transformed through the message of Christ.
As leaders, I’m convinced we must give our college students and young adults guidance in understanding that an experience like Beach Reach is more than a week singled out for them to live out their faith in Jesus. As Christ-followers, we carry a message of hope and forgiveness needed by those we interact with at our schools, jobs, and neighborhoods.
Here are three things I would encourage us to remind our students when it comes to sharing the gospel with others:
- The Urgency of the Gospel – As I read the early chapters of Acts, I see believers who are compelled to tell those far from Christ about the hope and forgiveness that comes through Jesus. They treat the gospel with an urgency. Beach Reachers were surrounded by the darkness of sin and brokenness, and they understood the necessity of the gospel. The same sin and brokenness surrounds us every day, but we’re often desensitized to it. We must help our students understand the urgency of the gospel in our normal, everyday routines.
- Prayer Is Essential – Our hearts are turned toward Jesus as we devote ourselves to a lifestyle of prayer. As collegiate and young adult ministers, are we placing an emphasis upon the necessity and power of praying? Prayer is a key component of Beach Reach’s ministry model. Let’s not lose the power of understanding of what it looks like to join God in what He’s already doing. Prayer keeps us focused on His work, not ours.
- Think Outside the Box – Often in our ministry to college students and young adults, we continue to do the things that work (or that have been working for a long time). However, in our communities, we must consider and implement various methods (old and new) that can lead college students and young adults who may have never heard the message of the gospel. And fair warning – it may look messy! Ultimately, we must be convinced ourselves that the gospel is for all the broken.
I’m convinced we’ll continue to hear lots of stories of what God is doing long after the pancakes are eaten and the vans are parked. As leaders, we have the permission to encourage our college students and young adults to think beyond the pancakes. God uses us in those moments of opportunity, but the opportunity may be right beside us. Let us always be on the lookout.
Mark Whitt is the Collegiate and Young Adult Specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources. Before joining Lifeway, he spent many years on the campus of Murray State University as a campus minister. Connect with Mark via Twitter.