“What is the difference between InterVarsity and Cru, the Navigators or Christian Union?” Potential ministry partners will ask me this frequently. Almost immediately my competitive juices begin to flow and I am tempted to subtly “talk down” the other ministries and “talk up” InterVarsity.
The same thing can happen in me when I am on campus and see a flier for Reformed University Fellowship on a bulletin board or a student tells me that she is going to “check out” Chi Alpha. Immediately the temptation rears its ugly head to give the other ministry a “faint praise” complement as a way of tearing them down in her eyes.
Thankfully, God again and again confronts that competitive spirit within me by showing me something about another ministry’s effectiveness on campus or the godliness of a leader. Eleven years ago when I became the Director of Collegiate Ministries, I met with Sam Osterloh (Cru) and Louie Giglio (Passion) while all three of us were attending another movement’s conference. Over that breakfast conversation, God led the three of us to develop plans for an annual prayer summit of campus ministry directors from about ten mostly national movements.
That fellowship of leaders has continued each year ever since. One of us hosts the annual summit on our home turf. This past year, Rod Mays, Campus Director for RUF, hosted us in Greenville, SC. We spend almost all of our time sharing about the challenges of leadership and life, and then everyone gathers to lay hands on the person and pray for them. We only “talk shop” and share ideas over meals. Alec Hill (InterVarsity President) and Karon Morton (InterVarsity VP of Operations) also meet with their counterparts in much the same way. For each of us, this is one of the most spiritually empowering gatherings of our year.
As we were meeting in the spring of 2010, God moved me to share with my friends in Cru and the Navigators my sense that the competitive spirit “rearing its head” on campus and grieving the heart of God. We agreed that we either needed to revive the use of the Trail West Agreement written in 1971 or work on a new updated version. When we looked carefully at the Trail West Agreement, we saw that the language was seriously out of date and since it was written, many new campus ministries had begun work across the country.
That led Mark Gauthier (Cru), Jim Luebe (The Navigators) and I to invite the campus directors from seventeen different movements to meet at InterVarsity Press to draw up a new statement together. God met us in profound ways and we were able to develop the statement over two days. In the course of developing it, the Spirit built a unity between us that was equally profound. The preamble to the statement reads,
As ministries committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and united in his mission on college campuses, the following groups listed below met on October 25, 2010 and agreed to teach the staff, volunteers, faculty and student leadership of our organizations the following principles about relationships with other Christian groups. (See John 13:34-35.)
Take a minute right now and read the Chicago Agreement for yourself. Reflect on how it speaks to you mind and heart. Are there places where you need to repent of your attitude toward another campus movement? Does it move you to begin building a relationship with the leaders of the other movements on your campus or in your area or region? My prayer is that all of us as leaders in InterVarsity (students and staff) will live out the spirit of the Chicago Agreement in the way we talk about and act toward the other ministries. God is at work on campuses around the world and across our country.
There is too much that needs doing in witness and mission for us to waste time and energy competing with other brothers and sisters in Christ. When we do experience conflict, the Chicago Agreement gives us the spirit and the steps in which to work out our differences.
May we together accomplish Christ’s purposes and vision on the colleges and universities that we serve!