Dear Gathering Georgetown

Dear Gathering Georgetown,

All weekend freshmen have been moving in on the Hilltop. They’ve arrived with all of the exuberance, dreams, and ambitions that they’ve been storing throughout their high school years. Their parents’ cars and their luggage has probably clogged the roadways and the hallways alike. They’re likely really excited and quite loud. They, with almost certainty, have no idea where the Esplanade or Bulldog Alley are located. I’m sure you’ve seen them and perhaps been annoyed by them. Please befriend them! Please come alongside them and love them. Please remember your freshman year struggles and your desire for community. They need upperclassmen to befriend them, show them the ropes, patiently answer their questions, and mentor them.

This morning the Protestant community came together for their annual Protestant Worship Service, and I heard via @jonathandrice that it was packed!

You have no idea what that news did to my heart. It reminded me that there are freshmen on campus now who I won’t get to sit down with over coffee this year. It reminded me that I’m missing my first Welcome Week on a college campus in five years. And it reminded me that The Gathering Georgetown kick off service is happening in just THREE days on the Leavey Esplanade and I won’t be there. I have to admit that I’m a little heartbroken over all of these facts, but I am thrilled that YOU are there and that your impact there will lead to more followers of Christ on Georgetown’s campus! Continue reading

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Dear World Georgetown

The photo project Dear World comes to Georgetown every year and here is the link to the photo album they’ve created:

Dear World Georgetown 2012

If you are not familiar with this project, essentially it promotes freedom of speech and allows students to be photographed with whatever they want written on their arms, legs, hands, faces, etc.

Here’s what they say about their work: “Robert X. Fogarty founded Dear World, a photo project that unites people through pictures in his distinct message-on-skin style. It began as Dear New Orleans, a photographic love note to the city. Before launching Dear World, Fogarty noticed that the simple portraits could be a vehicle for shared communication regardless of race, religion or language.”

As I looked through this album this week while I was stuck at home because I was sick, I was moved to pray. Most students’ messages are humanistic (“I can, through my own strength”), while others focus on love (“love conquers all, love one another”). My heart for them is that they will come to know their all-powerful Creator, and live through His strength and love.

I just wanted to share this with you all do that you can pray with me – that the Gospel will illuminate the hearts of Georgetown’s students and that Christ will be exalted on the Hilltop.

This one’s for the girls

This entry is about my girls. It’s for my girls. I call them “my girls” because I think they’re mine, but God always reminds me that really they’re His. This entry is about Stephanie, Ceci, Margot, Janelle, Talli, Janelle T., Karen, Megan, and Becca, and it’s about all the other girls that I’ve ever had the privilege and blessing to have in my small group.

Just like the girls are HIS girls, this vision I have for college ministry and for the Gathering, and for my life… it’s HIS vision. He’s the one who fulfills His own purposes and I am shocked and awed, amazed and astounded that He uses me and that I get to be a part of what He’s doing in my generation. Leading and loving in this ministry is never a burden or a sacrifice. It’s a joy. I feel incredibly blessed just to be used by God and to watch the Holy Spirit work in the lives of the people around me.

Tonight we celebrated community. We took the time to talk about and embrace what God’s done in our lives this last semester and year. We talked about our growth and the fruit we see in each others lives. We talked about how to run from sin and stay pure when we’re away from community while home for the summer. We talked about what the Church should really look like and what Christian community means to our lives. We took time out of our busy lives and away from the demands of finals to meet for three and  a half hours. I know… crazy, right? I didn’t plan on spending that much time there, but God definitely had different plans for us tonight. If I could put our meeting into words, if I were to use just a single word, all I can say is that it was beautiful.

Tonight we did what we call “affirmations.” Basically, we went around the room and talked about (and to) each girl – told what they have meant to us and to our community, how they have grown, and the character attributes that we see in them that make them the women God has called them to be. We laugh and we cry and we have to really be careful about giving each person time to talk because I think we all could have gone on and on for hours longer about each girl, if we had the time. Our group doubled in size this semester but never lost the vulnerability and transparency that we developed at the beginning of the year and I’m so very grateful.

So this is for the girls:

Girls, what a year! We walked through all sorts of difficult trials together. We walked through breakups, talked through theological differences, sent friends abroad, weathered economic hardship, prayed and interceded for salvations, and delved straight into talking about tough topics like brokenness and healing, marriage and relationships, sex and sin. Thank you for that. I can’t even begin to tell you what you have meant to me. You have grown SO much. And I’ve enjoyed walking with you each step of the way.

Christ, and what He  does in our lives, makes us beautiful and makes our time together extraordinary. It’s not every day that you put seven girls in a tiny room and watch as they affirm one another in Christ. It’s almost as though tonight we could watch the growth take place in front of our eyes as we strengthened and sharpened one another. The last meeting of the group is always a little bittersweet for me because I’m sad that you’re heading home or abroad for the summer, but oh so sweet, because I get to hear you talk about all of the revelation that’s come to your hearts, all that you’ve learned, all of the places where you have grown spiritually and emotionally, and how your need for community and mentorship was met by our group. And in that moment, I get to watch all of my dreams come true. For my life and for yours.

Thank you for coming. Thank you for being faithful. Thank you for truly loving one another and abstaining from all drama. And thank you for all of the many ways you have loved and supported me this year. Finish finals well, and remember this – community is at the heart of the Church and it’s vital to our relationships with Christ. Take this community we’ve built and recreate it where you are this summer. Embrace and search the Word. Make knowing Christ your pursuit and make Him your heart’s first affection. And run from sin – flee from whatever is evil and remember that compromise is made an inch at a time until you’re a mile from the truth.

This community isn’t dissolving. It’s merely moving. It remains and is here for you always. Like I said tonight, I pray you will all still be friends as you walk through the next seasons of life – graduation and entering the workforce, relationships and marriage, and mortgages and children… lean on and continue to learn from each other. Hold each other accountable. This community is an investment from which you will reap massive dividends.

I love you,

Whitney

Purposeful Evangelism

If you’ve been following this blog for very long, you’ll probably remember my post from November ’09 entitled “Maroon 5 and College Ministry.” I talked about how even though I’m around college students multiple times a week, the ones I know and spend my time with are ones who already mostly know Jesus. And it’s amazing – I’m getting to be an incredible part of the process of their becoming more like Christ and it’s definitely the thing I most love to do.

We all play lots of roles, you know. We’re sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, parents, boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, husbands, friends, coworkers, teammates. But the one I find that brings the most contentment in my life is the role of leader/mentor/teacher. The Gathering; however, no longer feels like something I just do or a role that I play – instead, it’s more of who I am. And increasingly I want evangelism to feel like such a part of my heart that I can’t separate it from who I am.

I went to the SHAPE workshop at Frontline Tysons last fall and while most of the things we covered were things I had already known, I did learn something significant about myself – one of my spiritual gifts is the gift of evangelism.

I had absolutely no idea and wouldn’t have ever guessed that about myself. I definitely questioned it for several weeks following the workshop. I’m not the kind of person who enjoys street evangelism, which is what I first think of when I think of evangelism (although I love overseas missions and have done a lot of street evangelism in that setting). I’ve participated in youth group discipleship trips where we were challenged to go share the Gospel in Panera, the mall, and local boutiques. I did it. I could do it again… but it’s definitely not something I feel comfortable doing.

So, ever since October I’ve been asking myself how I can begin to really utilize this gift of evangelism. I want to wield it well – the last thing I want is to be like one of servants that Jesus talks about in Matthew 25 – they squander their talents and end up losing everything they were given.

Todd’s recent message to Frontline on January 24th really helped a lot – everyone in the congregation was given a bookmark and encouraged to identify “ten points of impact” – ten people in their lives that they want to influence and pray for and witness to. I was immediately able to list 12, but God asked me to do something bigger. The more I read the New Testament, study the early church, and explore different philosophies of ministry, the more I realize that we’re ALL called to evangelism – not just those of us who have the spiritual gift of evangelism. Our lives are meant to be lived constantly in pursuit of God and the people He loves… and we have to be intentional.

I started praying and asking God for ideas and new ways that I could purposefully pursue the lost… especially college students since so much of my heart is tied up in leading them to Christ. And as I started looking for ways to get to know and serve people outside my sphere of influence, God gave me several incredible ideas!
I challenge you to do the same – expand your sphere of influence! Pray and begin to look for ways to open your life up to people who aren’t believers… establish relationships and begin to plant seeds! After all, Jesus said, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48).

We’ve been given so much.

Maroon 5 and College Ministry

Maybe at first thought it doesn’t seem like Maroon 5 and college ministry should go together in the same sentence. But sometimes God uses the strangest situations and experiences to leave us with a greater understanding of our purpose and His heart, even  though maybe it’s the last thing we would have predicted or anticipated learning in that particular moment.

Friday night I went to the Maroon 5 concert held at George Washington University. I went to have fun and enjoy live music, but I have to admit that I spent more time people watching than I did looking at, or paying attention to Adam Levine or the rest of the band. Anyone watching me was probably baffled. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed the concert (we had great seats!), but it’s rare that I’m around such a large number of college students all at once and I took advantage of the chance to soak it all in.

My first reaction, well second actually (my first was that all the girls were dressed as though it were July instead of November in DC), was to be shocked by how lost my generation is. And then I was immediately ashamed and dismayed that I had to be reminded of that fact.

I talk about college ministry all the time and I spend quite a large amount of time pouring my life into it. It’s where I find so much fulfillment, purpose, and joy. But Friday night I realized that part of the reason I tend to forget how lost the collegiate generation is, is because I spend most of my time with the found and rescued. I get to listen to stories of rescue (see related posts) on a regular basis. I get to watch students who are completely sold out to Christ serve in the inner city, serve their campus, and serve their community of believers. I love that time – I love it that I have the opportunity to pour into, mentor, and love the students at The Gathering and in my small group. I frequently wish that I had more time to give and that life and other obligations didn’t get in the way of what I really love so much.

Yet, in spite of that love, I find that another love is growing stronger (and maybe fiercer than ever before)… a love for the lost and yet-to-be-rescued of this generation. I want to use my time with The Gathering to not only to help strengthen and mature the faith of the students, but to constantly be serving to enlarge the community and draw the campus in. I don’t want to ever forget the purpose of why The Gathering exists or why I have chosen to serve with this ministry – “to impact the collegiate generation with the message of Jesus Christ.”

I’m passionate about The Gathering and about college ministry in general because the majority is lost. If I remember the statistics correctly, only 3% of the Millennial Generation (80 million strong) is expected to come to know Christ (if trends continue and no dramatic change is made). That frightens me. I blog a lot about church and culture – those things as we currently know them and even the dreams we dream about them, may cease to exist within a generation if we don’t focus on evangelism and make it our top priority.

Todd’s message at Frontline tonight was about evangelism and sharing the Gospel. Several thoughts definitely stuck with me – “One of the greatest indicators of a life that has moved from dating the church to a life totally surrendered to God is one thing – actively sharing the Gospel.  Evangelism is what marks a believer’s understanding of the Gospel.”

I’ve fallen in love with the local church, its purpose, and its people. The last thing I want to do is just date it  perpetually without making a commitment, or showing signs of such a commitment in the way I live my life. I want my life to be marked not only by service to the church, but also by reaching out to the lost as though it’s the most critical thing I do. Now, on to thinking and praying about how best to go about that…