I read the story, once, of a man who turned down a cup of coffee. His friend knew him to be a coffee drinker (at least a cup a day) so he was surprised by the rejection of the coffee offered him and asked the man why. To this inquiry, the man responded that he had made a covenant with himself to do one hard thing everyday in order to build his will power.
Since reading that story, many years ago, I have tried to apply that principle in my life. Instead of falling into the selfish ease of a daily routine, I try to challenge myself with something small everyday like denying myself that dessert or not checking my facebook for a day. It turns out that saying no to yourself on no other grounds but principle can be a very hard thing to do.
The merit of doing hard things, especially as the broader challenge applies to young people, has been aptly captured in the Harris brothers’ book titled the same. Moreover, as a generation has embraced the ideals that CAMPUS promotes, Seventh-day Adventist young people have taken on the challenge of doing the hard work of evangelism by joining mission trips, engaging in campus ministry, knocking on doors, running evangelistic series…and the list goes on!
However, as I planned my approach to ministry as a student this year, two options seemed to present themselves to me – the hard way and the easy way. For instance, if the goal was to have Bible studies on campus, I could conduct surveys to find students interested in Bible study: this is the hard way. Or, I could find friends to study the Bible with: this is the easy way. Why would you pick the hard way over the easy?
In order to study the Bible with your friends, though, you would need first to make friends, the process of which, I’ve found, diminishes in appeal as you get older. It takes effort to smile at strangers, to sit with people you don’t know in the cafeteria, to invite someone to go to church together…Depending on your temperament, just meeting new people can be hard!
Taking it a step further from making loose acquaintances to making friends can be even more challenging. Friendship requires vulnerability and that is where the challenge lies. When you have already done the hard work of opening yourself up to make meaningful connections and you are satisfied with the friends you already have, it’s difficult to convince yourself to go through that process again.
And yet, it is in the context of those relationships that ministry gains its impetus. When you care, first, for someone’s personal welfare and are concerned about their life then invite them to behold Christ, your invitation bears greater weight. That’s why it’s easier to minister to your friends than to strangers. The hard part comes at the personal level of making them into friends in the first place.
It’s so much easier to create a program for evangelism than it is to do the hard work of caring about individuals. Going door-to-door doing surveys for Bible study interests or making a prayer booth on campus as an outreach project may take you out of your comfort zone, but it still takes less effort than it does to open yourself up to someone else in the hopes that they will reciprocate.
We are given that promise in Ministry of Healing p143 that if we apply Christ’s method of evangelism, we will experience true success in reaching the people. What was His method?
The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me.”
In reality, what I have been calling “the easy way” here, is moreso the simple way than it is the easy way. Your success really is in your simplicity…as soon as you depart from this, your power is gone! So, as we engage in the hard work of campus ministry this year, why not do it the simple way, trusting that God will give us the grace to overcome self for the sake of the cause.