By Shane Taylor
It was 1988 and the end of my second year at the state university. My prodigal journey took all sorts of twists and turns, mostly while I was under the influence of Budweiser and the liberal arts department of the secular campus. For me, college was an opportunity to rid myself of the flannelgraph stories from Sunday school lessons of bygone days. My dorm room was littered with dirty laundry and stacks of unread textbooks. I majored in procrastination and pushing God away.
And yet Jesus loves to interact with people who push him away. The Gospels share one story after another of Jesus declaring his major as loving sinners and helping people find God. To this day, the lessons he taught me through campus ministry impact my heart for serving in the local church.
One lesson is that people who have been given the most exposure to the things of God are sometimes the farthest from him. As a child I never missed church, Sunday school, or youth group. Outward appearances would have told you I was a good Christian kid. Here’s the problem . . . Jesus didn’t die for good kids. He died for sinners.
Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking campus ministries exist to keep our nice, churchgoing kids Christian while they wander through the morality maze at the State U. This assumption is false, especially if we believe that proximity to religious activities makes people Christian. Campus ministers know that raising kids in a church may give them better morals, but good behavior squeezed out of a heart that hasn’t been supernaturally changed by God’s love is really just a gong show (see 1 Corinthians 13). This is why we preach and embody the gospel to the well behaved—so that Christ followers will be known for our love and not just for dispensing rules.
I also learned that the person you think is farthest from God often becomes the person God chooses to further his kingdom. Campus ministries know God loves to fish for an unexpected catch. Every year God takes drunken coeds, frat boys, ambivalent enginerds, and philosophical smart-alecks and turns them into wholehearted followers of Jesus. These unlikely revolutionaries are just what the Lord uses to show the unsurpassing power of transformation is from him, not us. The church must never give up praying for and believing in the potential of our belligerent neighbor, foul-mouthed little league coach, and indifferent waiter because they could become followers of Christ, or even a small group leader, or someone like me—a senior minister.
I was “that college kid” you probably thought would never get his act together. My journey from Sunday school kid to senior minister certainly didn’t happen in a straight line. By God’s grace and the patient love of committed leaders on campus, I am still on the way to learning what a transformed follower of Jesus looks like.
Shane Taylor serves as senior minister with Leclaire Christian Church in Edwardsville, Illinois.