StartLeading: Vision & Clarity – Greg Jao

My eyesight is terrible. When I don’t wear my glasses, I shuffle forward. I’m constantly reaching for the next handhold. I’m nervous about tripping up. I can’t recognize people just a few feet away.

When my vision is clear, I run. I take risks. I leap over obstacles. I recognize people and opportunities (Look! My friend. And a bookstore just ahead!) When my vision is clear, I know where to go and how to get there.

vision glassesWhat’s true for me individually is true for any group. When the vision is clear, everyone in the group moves ahead with freedom, courage, and clarity. So how do you make your vision clear?

A Vision You Can See

A vision has power when the words evoke a concrete, clear image. It’s literally a picture of the future. Too often personal and collective visions are merely vague aspirations (e.g., “excellent service”, “bold evangelism”, “be a good student.”) A good vision, though, makes the aspiration concrete: “Our customers spontanously call us to thank us for our work.” “Every student in the college has been invited to respond to the Gospel personally, relevantly, and graciously from a friend in the fellowship at least once before they graduate.” “My professors encourage me to take another class with them.”

As you work to clarify vision, use your senses. What would it look like if we succeeded? Sound like? Feel like? Smell like?

In the New York/New Jersey region of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, we described our vision for student transformation this way:

We envision a future where students first hear about InterVarsity from campus tour guides who describe us on every tour as the largest and most dynamic student group on campus. During the year, they see people who have an intimate relationship with God and whose actions and attitudes reflect a biblical worldview, a holistic engagement with Scripture and the world, and a growing experience of personal holiness and transformation. They discover that our activities and publicity, members and ministries regularly awaken an awareness of their need for God. They find themselves intrigued by the topics of the large group meetings, compelled to attend special events, and strangely drawn to the vibrant prayer meetings and bible studies. Because they each know two or three InterVarsity members, they have been invited – sensitively, relevantly, and clearly – to become a follower of Jesus at least once or twice before they graduate. And they know each InterVarsity member can name at least 2-3 friends on campus who have made that same decision. Because InterVarsity exists, students give their allegiance and love to Jesus – and become witnesses to the way the Holy Spirit grows them in Christlikeness and empowers them for mission.

Clear enough for you?

Next Step: Take the vision statement of a group you belong to (as an employee, member, or leader) and write a “vivid description” of what you aspire to accomplish. Share it in the comments below.



Student Power in Mission – India Edition

This post is from the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) prayerline. the IFES is a federation of student ministries (including InterVarsity) that works in over 154 countries around the world. You can find out more about IFES at their website:

Why did you choose to study at a particular university? Was it to get the most
prestigious degree? Because you wanted to get a good job? Because it was close to
home and family?

Some UESI India (the InterVarsity-sister movement) students from Andra Pradesh chose their university for a different reason. They decided to be like Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah who, far from home and in a very different culture, pursued studies in Babylonian Language and Literature and had an amazing impact on
those around them. So these Indian students left the comfort of home to bring the gospel to unreached universities in a North Indian state.

The vision
Student ministry is well established in the south and northeast of India, whereas the North has been largely unreached. So Andra Pradesh, a South Indian state, adopted Uttarakhand as its partnering state. In 2005, Mr P Venkateswara Rao, who had just become a staff member withUESI, took a group of students to Uttarakhand.

One key student in this group was Narasimha Rao. He went back to his home state of Andra Pradesh and talked excitedly to his friends about the possibilities of outreach in the North. He and four other students came up with a plan – to enrol in universities in Uttarakhand. So all of them took admission in unreached universities and colleges there… and started UESI groups.

In the next year’s mission conference in Andra Pradesh, many more students committed themselves to go to North Indian universities. So every year an average of three students went from Andra Pradesh to Uttarakhand, were admitted in different unreached universities and started new UESI groups.

The challenges
India is a land of great diversity in culture, language, geography, food and climate, and Andra Pradesh is very different from Uttarakhand! Commenting on the difficulty of learning language, one student said, ‘During my initial days I communicated with sign language to my friends and shopkeepers until I learned to speak broken Hindi.’ Another student commented, ‘At first I had to face constant stomach upsets as the food was different from what I got in my home state.’ Travelling in hilly places was sometimes a big challenge for students who come from plains in Andra Pradesh.

When asked ‘What motivated you to stay here in spite of difficulties?’ one of the
students said ‘Constant encouragement from people in my home state, regular quiet times and fasting prayers gave me strength to overlook the struggles.’

The impact
With the arrival of these missionary students, ministry started to penetrate into the interiors of Uttarakhand. Also many of these students took jobs in Uttarakhand after their education and remained actively involved in the ministry. UESI gradually developed throughout the state until it was necessary for ministry effectiveness to divide the state into two regions and form regional committees. One of the UESI staff workers in Uttarakhand, Mr Anjaneyulu, notes the impact of these students from Andra Pradesh: ‘Today 80% of the regional committee members are from Uttarakhand. We have also seen people from Uttarakhand owning the ministry and even committing themselves to full-time ministry among college students.’ Commenting on the wider impact of UESI he adds, ‘These missionary students have helped in the development of local churches.’

Let us pray that the spark initiated in Uttarakhand will continue to spread like a wild fire. Let there be a new wave where students from Uttarakhand themselves take up the challenge to go as missionary students to other unreached universities and colleges!

Question: Describe a time God sent to you to person or place to be salt and light? What impact did you have? Share your experience in the comments.


StartLeading: Develop New Leaders – Are you a Searchlight or Spotlight? – Jason Gaboury

Pick Your Seat

Find the brightest spot in the room.  Square your shoulders.  Make an impression!  These were just a few of the maxims David taught us.  As an aspiring actor in my first ‘real’ job, I was quick to learn.  Success as an actor would mean finding the light.  It would mean picking the chair in the spotlight.


The seat in the spotlight is influential, but the influence is limited.

Spotlight or Searchlight

By the Sea of Galilee Jesus chose a different seat.  He got into a boat belonging to a fisherman named Simon and taught the crowds.  (My guess is that he had one eye on Peter the whole time.)  After that was done, Jesus focuses in on Peter drawing him (and his partners) into an adventure that would change their lives.  At the turning point of this story (read it for yourself in Luke 5) are Jesus’ words, “Follow me and I’ll make you fish for people.”

It isn’t immediately obvious how different these two seats are.  After all, doesn’t Jesus use the water as an amplifier?  Isn’t he positioning himself in the spotlight?  Luke’s emphasis (and Jesus’) is different.  The story is about Jesus’ catch of Peter.  It’s Peter and the other disciples becoming ‘fishers of men’ that Jesus is focused on.  In the hands of the master, the spotlight turns into a searchlight looking for others to advance his work.

Expert or Multiplier

As ministry leaders we have to choose what seat we’re going to occupy.  We can choose the spotlight, honing our ministry skills, becoming experts, expanding our capacities to teach, preach, organize, evangelize, and manage.  Or we can sit with a searchlight looking to identify, develop, and multiply others to carry the mission forward.

Great leaders choose the searchlight.  This doesn’t mean that leaders never get up in front.  Leadership requires moments of sitting in the spotlight, clarifying vision, catalyzing a movement, or calling for commitment.  But most often the leadership seat is the one where you catapult others to carry the mission forward.

Which Seat Do You Want?

What seat do you want?  Really?  Are you drawn by the potential influence of being the ministry expert, the hub of activity, the one making the big impression?  Or do you want to release other people to make their biggest potential impact?  Both great talent and great leaders serve the kingdom of God.  There’s room for both, but it’s helpful to be clear which seat you’re choosing.

Pick your seat.


Foundations: To Everyone – Jason Gaboury

For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone … (Romans 1:16)

By the light of their cell phones, student leaders at one of the Chico State students spray painted t-shirts with the slogan, “IV — ask me”.  The InterVarsity chapter was not permitted by the university to participate in events designed to engage new students, so these leaders devised a way to meet students.


Chico State is just one of ten chapters in the 23-campus Cal State system that has denied InterVarsity chapters recognition and access. Closer to home, students at SUNY-Buffalo have encountered similar oppostion.  Campuses in New England, Tennessee, Florida, and Maine face similar challenges.

At the heart of the conflict is a cultural and legal conflict about inclusion.  InterVarsity is accused (sometimes virulently) of excluding students because we believe that it’s important for a Christian mission to be led by Christians.  (There is a certain logical inconsistency in being excluded from campus life and told, “You can’t be on campus because you exclude people.” But that is a topic for another day.)

Can Romans 1:16 help us with campus access?

Paul says that his gospel is God’s power… to everyone.  Consider this for a moment.  Paul was a first century Jew raised with the doctrine of election and trained in the Pharisaic hope of national liberation for Israel.  Here he says that his good news is for everyone.  This transformation of Paul’s worldview is so significant that it’s possible to argue from it (and some have) for the resurrection of Jesus.

Our gospel is to (and for) everyone.  No one is excluded from the grace of this good news.  No one is beyond the scope of God’s intended freedom.

We in InterVarsity love the whole campus.  Our chapters are to and for the whole campus.  Our proclamation does not conform to the categories of this cultural moment.  Our proclamation is good news, power, and true freedom for all people in this cultural moment.

Lord have mercy on us if we ever lose sight of this truth.  In the meantime, let’s pray for our sisters and brothers doing ministry on campuses that deny access.  And let’s learn from their courage and creativity.


Foundations: Salvation = Freedom by Jason Gaboury

16For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith… (Romans 1:16)

I’d just witnessed a miracle. I’d shared the gospel story and asked Jane if she wanted to become a follower of Jesus. The confusion and angst that had hung on her face relaxed.  She looked up. “Yes,” she said. freedom

What had happened?  One minute Jane was peppering me with questions, wrestling with the gospel story.  The next minute she believed.  Over time she would come to be baptized, join the community, and share her story with others.

The power that brings freedom

Paul says that the gospel is the power of God for salvation.  The word literally means deliverance, release, or preservation.  The faith that began to rise up in Jane as she heard the gospel story and believed is a sign of salvation.  The gospel we proclaim is the power for salvation.  What is salvation anyway, and why do we need it?

Paul describes the problem in Romans 1:18 – 32. We do not live in truth and harmony with the world and one another because of our idolatry.  When we put ourselves, or any other created thing, in the place of God the result is personal, social, and spiritual disintegration.  Despite the fact that we all experience the deception, destruction, and disintegration that stems from our idolatry, we’re trapped in a closed system.  Even knowing it’s wrong… we’re stuck. “They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die – yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.”

Salvation describes God breaking into this closed system and setting people free.  Those who hear and respond to the call of the gospel become free from the prison of idolatry, deception, spiritual, and moral disintegration.  Those who hear and respond to the gospel are set free for the liberating and humanizing purposes of God in the world.  God’s good news sets people free, restores right worship, and sends them to work for the liberation of others.

What does freedom look like?

Freedom is a big deal on campus.  And yet, the truth is that most people on campus aren’t free.  Students are under tremendous pressure to succeed socially and academically.  Celebrating freedom looks at first like the big freshman (or frat) party, but quickly disintegrates into the hangover of isolation, anxiety, dislocation, and despair.  Faculty promotes free thought and study, but are themselves subject to huge pressure to perform, publish, and gain popularity.  Our mission field has placed all kinds of things in the place of God and is locked in a rapidly disintegrating web.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation…”

What if communities of truly free people started growing all over campus?  What if the distinguishing characteristic of our witness was freedom?  What if our passion for proclaiming the message about Jesus was rooted in the true freedom we experienced and longed to pass on to others?

God’s gospel is the power for salvation for your campus.  Will you celebrate it and share it?  When we do, we witness miracles.

Question: What kinds of freedom do you long to see people experience on campus? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Foundations: Where does the power come from? — Jason Gaboury

16For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith… (Romans 1:16)

Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission, established a daily ½ hour prayer meeting for his organization.  Every day at 11:00 the whole office stops work, gathers in the conference room, and prays.  When asked about this Gary responds, “We had to ask ourselves a question, ‘What power do we really believe is going to set people free?’”

on buttonOn campus, what power do we really believe is going to set people free?  Is it our great proxe stations, or our winning personalities?  Is it our campus strategy, or our excellent program?  Or is it something else?

Paul says that the gospel is the power of God.  Paul’s expectation for fruitful ministry (that I may reap some harvest among you…v14) is not ultimately tied to his skill as a messenger, but the message itself.  What is this message?  Paul’s gospel is the announcement that Jesus the messiah is risen from the dead and is lord of the world.  (v1-4)  As Paul is faithful to announce this gospel, he knows and expects that God will act through him to, “bring about the obedience of faith… (v5)”

What implications does this have for us on campus?

1.    Center our Hope
I love and value the work we’re doing to improve our outreach.  We need to be constantly improving our strategies, plans, and programs.  We can’t just dust off last year’s NSO and hope for a better result.  And yet, our hope must not be centered in our activities but in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  What do we really believe is going to set people free on campus?  If we really believe it is the gospel, what implications would that have?  What would we change? 

2.    Clarify our Message
Too often I hear students sharing the gospel in ways that are unclear.  If the gospel is the power of God for salvation, then we need to get crystal clear about this message.  How do we teach students to share this message?  How do we coach them so that they can share it clearly, concisely, and compellingly? 

3.    Call People to Faith
“Would you like to become a follower of Jesus today?”  This is a powerful question that is under-utilized.  In Romans 1 Paul describes his ministry to call the Gentiles to the obedience of faith, and then immediately adds, “including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”  Paul does not simply communicate the gospel he calls for a response.  What would it look like if every time we shared the good news of the gospel we called people to faith? 

Question: When have you experienced power & boldness in your witness? What was its source?


Foundations: Unashamed Witness (a follow up) – Jason Gaboury

When we believe in the power and goodness of the Gospel, miracles happen. We’re celebrating two conversions within New York/New Jersey this week.

The first conversion happened at Buff State last week.  Student leaders on a prayer walk chose to share the gospel with a residence assistant they met as they were walking and praying.  In an uncharacteristically bold move, one of the Buff State students said to the RA, “Do you want to become a follower of Jesus?”

The RA said, “Yes.”

The second conversion happened yesterday at NYU.  A new freshman Ruth introduced her friend Joari to InterVarsity.  As Ruth and Joari spent time with our chapter leaders and staff, Trevor Agatsuma, the InterVarsity staffworker, sensed an opportunity to share the gospel.  He asked her Joari if she wanted to become a follower of Jesus. She said, ‘Yeah, I really want this.’  God met them powerfully as they prayed together.

Joari said, “When Ruth was praying for me I felt like the room became brighter, but not from the window, from behind me.”

Joari and Ruth intend to plant a small group witnessing community among their fellow Counseling Psychology students.

Praise God for these steps of witnessing unashamed!



Foundations: What makes you ashamed? – Jason Gaboury

John looked at me puzzled, “I never would have guessed that you were a Christian.” I smiled, assuming that was a good thing. He paused. “I’m not sure that’s a good thing. If you really believe that stuff aren’t you supposed to tell heathens like me?”

I’d been ashamed of the gospel, and my friend John could tell.


Shame isn’t always bad. A sense of shame is a necessary restraint against negative or destructive behaviors. A healthy sense of shame can strengthen the will to do what’s right in the face of temptation.

But on campus shame is used in unhealthy ways. The social cues send a clear message: “Keep your Christian faith to yourself.” Do a quick word association of evangelical Christian on campus and you find some interesting associations: close-minded, homophobic, judgmental, repressed, backwards, dumb.

We have to come to grips with shame if we are going to be serious about witness on campus. What can we learn from Paul in Romans 1 to help us to not be ashamed?

Reflections on Romans

Paul mentions the gospel of Jesus Christ 3 times in the first 16 verses of Romans 1. Here are some observations of Paul’s presentation of the gospel.

Good News, not Good Advice: Paul does not present the gospel as a private spirituality for people who are into that sort of thing.  He describes the gospel as an event that happened. “Jesus Christ… descended from David… risen from the dead.” (1-4) There are, of course, personal implications that follow from this announcement, but it is an announcement of an event that happened not of a personal or private experience.

No one is ashamed to talk about the news. Perhaps we need to be reminded that the gospel we proclaim on campus is good news about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (and his call to repentance and faith) — not good advice fitting awkwardly into the smorgasbord of campus life.

Announcing gospel as worship/service: Is worship simply singing songs?  Is service simply being kind or doing good deeds? Paul sees his announcement of the resurrection of Jesus as the primary means of his worship and service to God (v. 9).

What would it look like if our communities saw the announcement of Jesus’ resurrection as the primary means of our worship and service to God? How would it change our witness if we saw evangelism as the primary vehicle of our worship?

Word, Deed, & Power: Paul longs to share the gospel in Rome so that he might see a harvest. (v13) He doesn’t hope to see a harvest. He expects one.  Paul is not ashamed of the gospel because he knows that this good news is spoken in words, modeled with deeds, and demonstrated in power.

What are we expecting?  How are we praying?  Are we moving onto campus with expectant hope?  Do we have faith to pray for healings, for powerful signs to accompany our witness?  Do we expect the gospel to go forward through our words, in our deeds, and by the power of the spirit? Rome was decidedly more hostile to Paul’s announcement than the campus is to ours, but he expected a harvest nevertheless.


“I am not ashamed of the gospel…” Paul says. Are we? Paul isn’t ashamed because he recognizes the gospel as good news. Our campus needs good news.  It longs for wholeness even as it further fragments itself.  We have hope and wholeness because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel…” Paul says. Are we?  We can’t stop our witness to the university without stopping our worship to God.  If we are willing to see our witness as our worshipm, and our worship as a witness, it would change our ministry. Paul saw his life and ministry that way.  So can we.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel…” Paul says.  Are we? The announcement of the gospel in the New Testament comes with signs of God’s power.  (People coming to faith, healing, signs of repentance, etc.)  Years ago we used to talk about sharing the gospel in word and deed.  We’ve changed that to say, we share the gospel in word, deed, and power.  Yes, train students to articulate the good news in words.  Yes, develop students as women and men of integrity who say ‘yes’ to Jesus in every sphere of their lives.  Yes, expect God to move powerfully as we faithfully to proclaim his good news.

Question: How could you model bold confidence in the Gospel’s power today? Share your thoughts in the comments.