3 Major Life Lessons from Five Years of Ministry

3 Major Life Lessons from Five Years of Ministry

Wow, it’s hard to believe. I’ve completed five years of working with InterVarsity/USA. It has gone by so fast! I’ve loved almost every moment of this adventure.

I’ve learned much along the way. The experiences I’ve gained while working with college students are invaluable. I would like to share 3 major life lessons from the past five years. 

Original Photo taken by Joyce Johnson (c)

Original Photo taken by Joyce Johnson (c)

Lesson #1: Don’t Be Afraid to Take that First Step.

When I reflect on the transition from my engineering career to college ministry, it feels like a distant dream. I remember resigning. I remember saying my goodbyes. I remember coworkers thinking I was crazy (and brave). I remember seeing my engineering firm in the rear view mirror for the last time as I drove away.

I remember landing in Madison, WI for my first day of orientation with InterVarsity. It was a beautiful vivid summer day. I had my Bible, a laptop, and a lofty vision. I stood in the registration line feeling awkward and out of place. Should I be here? Was this the right decision? Between sessions, I remember spending hours alone in my hotel room quietly staring at the ceiling.

My Wife and I standing with the President of InterVarsity, Alec Hill

Standing with InterVarsity President

Maybe I was counting the cost. Maybe I was overwhelmed. Maybe I was scared. I had multiple freak out moments. Just breathe, I told myself. Believe. Breathe. Everything felt uncertain. Except one thing was very certain…

I took that crazy first step and it has made all the difference.

Lesson #2 Be Faithful in All Things.

I was super excited to go to Urbana — InterVarsity’s triennial student missions conference. I wanted to invest in students. Make a difference. Empower the next great movement of missionaries!

Turns out, my role at the conference was outdoor foot traffic patrol. Whoa, didn’t see that coming. Not a glamorous role. Haha. All day in the cold? It was 12 degrees outside. I’m from Texas. No bueno.

Serving as the outdoor foot traffic patrol at Urbana 2009

Serving as the outdoor foot traffic patrol at Urbana 2009

But I made the most of it. I met tons of students. I loved all of the high fives, handshakes, and hugs. This was my assigned role. And I’m gonna be awesome at it. Let’s do this!

As the conference progressed, students would stop and talk to me. Many would share what they were learning. Then randomly, students would buy me coffee and hot chocolate. I was humbled and felt affirmed. This role turned out to be pretty chill (pun intended).

Fast forward. Three years later. I’m at the next Urbana.

I’m in a ballroom with over 600 of InterVarsity’s finest student leaders and staff from across the country! I’ve got butterflies because I’m about to make a 30-minute presentation. Focus. Breathe. Smile. Don’t screw up!

Photo Courtesy of Sibi Thomas (c)

Speaking at Urbana Student Leadership Track — Photo Courtesy of Sibi Thomas (c)

It’s interesting. As I’m waiting for my turn to speak, I have a flashback of directing foot traffic in the bitter cold at the last Urbana. Now, here I am — given an entirely different role.

I felt Jesus nudge my heart — “hey, hey, nothing has changed… Whether you are on that frozen street corner or whether you are on the stage of this beautiful ballroom, be faithful…

Be faithful. I’ve never forgotten that lesson.

Lesson #3 Know that Jesus Loves Unconditionally.

I know this is a simple idea, but it took a long time for me to grasp. Jesus loves me for me, not because of what I do for Him. It may seem subtle. But this shift in my heart has been important. It took many years of ministry for this to be unearthed.

Yes, there have been amazing things that have transpired in my realm of influence over the past five years that I want to celebrate:

  • Increased our presence from 7 InterVarsity chapters to 16+ chapters
  • Planted chapters at 6 brand new campuses
  • Planted 5 new South Asian InterVarsity chapters
  • Grown from 396 students to 707 students involved regularly
  • Given presentations over 135 times at universities and churches
  • Seen 237 students become first-time followers of Jesus
  • Sent world changers to India, China, Philippines, Africa, Trinidad, etc.
  • Multiplied my one area into three new areas

I used to look at a list like this and hoped that Jesus would know that I was worthy of His love. But that’s not true. I don’t earn more love and favor by being good at ministry.

It’s the opposite.

Now, I look at this list and I’m propelled to do more because He loved me even when I was far away. He loved me when I was lost. Drained. Hypocritical. Jaded. Broken. Jesus found me.  I do ministry out of gratitude, passion, and humility. What a change in my life!

Jesus loves me unconditionally. What an amazing truth. His love motivates me!

God has slowly made me a better person.

I never thought that God would both shape me and use me like He has in the past five years. I encourage you to do the same. Don’t forget your dreams. Take that first step. Be faithful in every scenario. Know that Jesus loves you. Now, go for it! You are an Everyday World Changer. Start today!

What have you learned in your journey of following Jesus? Let me know! Please comment below or send me an email.