by Gavin Matthews
Our friends at Stirling University Christian Union (SUCU) are a great bunch of students whose mission is to ‘give every student at Stirling the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus’. They are a diverse bunch too, with members from all parts of the UK, Europe, North America and beyond; add to that that they are drawn from all kinds of different churches too.
I had the privilege of joining 65 or so of the SUCU students for their annual houseparty. Having outgrown their usual venue near Aviemore, this year we all met at the Compass Christian Centre in Glenshee. Surrounded by mountains, bathed in crisp autumnal light, the setting was idyllic!
The aim of the weekend was for the students to spend time in worship, fellowship and Bible-study, to set them up for a year of mission ahead. My part was to lead four Bible teaching sessions, which was both hugely enjoyable and quite a challenge. It was joyfully exhausting!
‘Evangelism’ and ‘Discipleship’ are often separated in church life, and are run by different people, or are seen as different departments in ministry programmes. It’s important not to overemphasise the differences between the two, but to also see the ways in which they are deeply interconnected.
The church’s mandate for evangelism comes from Jesus himself, who said:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)
The command isn’t just to make disciples, but also to teach them. Part of that teaching has to be about the importance of evangelism! Evangelism is done by disciples, evangelism should be about making more disciples, discipling must include evangelism! The two are deeply interwoven.
On the weekend we focused both on the heart and some practicalities of discipleship; especially as related to some big issues such as money, sex, power and friendship. We examined the way in which different characters in the Bible handled these things, two were warnings about getting it wrong (the Rich Young Ruler with money, and King David with adultery), and two characters who got it right; (Barnabas with spiritual friendship, and Jesus himself with power in Philippians 2).
King David’s case is particularly significant. Early in his career the Bible commends him for his “heart”. He was chosen over his brothers, because The Lord didn’t take heed of outward appearance but “looked at the heart”. Then later David is commended over Saul, as a suitable King as he was “a man after God’s own heart”. When he fell into sin, the prophet Nathan rebuked him saying that he had shown utter contempt for the Lord – in other words he had lost his heart for God. Little wonder then, that when he turned back to God, he prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me”. Proverbs adds, “above all, guard the heart, as it is the wellspring of life.” The good news of the gospel is that Jesus really does ”forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. He cleanses our hearts and sends out in mission!
I was impressed with the way that the students, as well as having heaps of laughs, games, sport, music, a bonfire, and a ceilidh were really engaged with the Bible teaching, small groups studies and prayer times too. It was also great to chat through some of the issues and pray with one or two of them as well. At Solas we’ll be praying for the Stirling University Christian Union as they go forward in mission, with things like the “Mark Drama” and “Uncover” and look forward to working with them again later in the year.