Vision Erupts Out of Deep Agony

At least, any vision sufficient to drive us to prayer, propel us to action and sustain us in discouragement does. It arises from the dissonance between current reality and God’s intention. It becomes purified when we intentionally immerse the world’s brokenness, rebellion and pain in the crucible of prayer. And, as our vision takes shape, it defines what we hope to accomplish and how we hope to accomplish it.

This, at least, was Nehemiah’s experience. Though he could have remained aloof in the capital of the Persian Empire, he sought out information about the situation of those who had returned to Jerusalem. He discovered that they lived in disgrace and disorder, without walls and without hope (Nehemiah 1:1-3). So, he weeps, he prays and he takes action to rebuild the walls, to restore order and to renew the spiritual life of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:4-11).

Each spring, we engage in a similar process as new student leadership teams evaluate the prior year’s ministry, prayerfully intercede for our campuses and commit ourselves to next year’s work. Over the years, as chapter after chapter has engaged in this process, we’ve discovered that nine words summarize our God-given vision. InterVarsity longs to see:

  • Students and faculty transformed
  • Campuses renewed
  • World changers developed

These nine words have captured the aspirations and motivated the actions of generations of student leaders. They’re simple, easy to communicate and helpfully reinforced by products from the InterVarsity store! They’re also short-hand for a robust picture of what a healthy InterVarsity chapter should and could accomplish on campus. The New York/New Jersey Region fleshed out those nine words in this way:

Our fellowships will move from the periphery of campus life to the center.

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. Students and faculty transformed.

We envision a future where the issues raised by our activities and large groups incite creative and constructive conversations around dining hall tables. Other campus groups (ethnic, cultural, social and political) want to jointly-sponsor campus activities which respectfully explore the intersection of Christian truth with their area of interest. Community service groups and justice organizations name InterVarsity as their most faithful partner and advocate. In nearly every classroom, faculty find bold but gracious InterVarsity members whose classroom contributions reflect a well-developed Biblical worldview and a thoughtful engagement with the academic discipline. Because InterVarsity exists, the campus environment is more dynamic, more truthful, more diverse and more enjoyable. Campus renewed.

We envision a future where administrators would grieve if InterVarsity left campus. They commend us for the way we demonstrate both Christian conviction and Christ-like compassion as we engage in service to the campus and to the community. The student activities office regularly describes us as the group which best develops student leadership, most inclusively celebrates ethnic diversity, and most strongly influences the atmosphere of the campus. And the alumni association regularly honors our alumni for their contributions to the advancement of knowledge and the enrichment of human life. Homes and neighborhoods, countries and cultures reflect God’s values and God’s presence because our alumni are present. Because InterVarsity exists, students have been trained to be change-agents in every field of human endeavor. World changers developed.

How would you flesh out InterVarsity’s vision?

About the Author
National Field Director – Northeast

Greg Jao serves as National Field Director for the Northeast Cluster. He and his wife, Jennifer, live in New York, New York. They have two daughters, Madeleine and Kirsten. Greg has been with InterVarsity since 1995.