I’m a language nerd. And not in that cool “phonetic alphabet origin of words” way. I suck at Scrabble, Boggle and other dictionary games. What I love is describing things: finding new ways to understand the human mystery through words or discovering an alternative to the current story and sharing it with as many people as possible. I am unashamedly a student of communication and story.
I am also an idealist. A hopeless romantic for what-could-be. I love possibilities and I live for the vision of what’s to come. So last weekend in Ybor City, Florida, during Ambition, InterVarsity’s first chapter planting conference, I thought I might pee my pants with excitement.
In many ways Ambition was a symbolic gathering, a glimpse of the future. About 200 staff and 100 students gathered in “The Underground,” eager to put language and vision to this deep-as-creation sense that God is doing a new thing in InterVarsity, a crazy thing that has the potential to swallow up the backwoods community colleges, the historic alleyways of the Ivy League, and everything in between with the radical message of God’s love and mission to bring renewal to all things.
With over 100 chapters planted in the last 5 years and a committed vision for 200 more new communities by 2017, it seems safe to say it’s not just a few fringe weirdos feeling this way. Still, at the conference, paradigms were politely destroyed, prophetic vision was cast, and new people were invited to take the kind of risks that remind a person the gospel is breathtakingly real – even world-changing.
Reflecting now, it seems easy to get lost in the information. Between the sessions, seminars, and passionate late-night conversations over Cuban food, it’s hard to know what’s next. But what seems to be sticking, what seems most ready to break back onto campus is:
The discipleship of starting something new.
Planting is a part of discipleship, and discipleship is a part of planting. Something ancient within us is brought into light when we create. Whether we go with students to start a new kind of small group on an unreached part of campus or start a whole new fellowship for the advancement of the kingdom, that act is fundamentally a part of our salvation drama. It’s not cheap, systematic advancement for the fulfillment of organizational goals. It’s a journey that Jesus uses to heal the broken parts of ourselves, while simultaneously leading new people into the Kingdom.
Planting is part of the dance; it's one of the songs God uses to make himself known to his people. The discipleship of starting something new is an invitation to venture into the forgotten places of campus in the hope of a coming Kingdom. It’s an invitation to die, to be torn down, stood up by 18-year-olds, and - by some great mystery - made more like Jesus. And that’s pretty cool.
There is a love, a deep connection, developed in taking the risk of starting something new with one another. It’s too mysterious and good to be reduced to clever one-liners. Whether it’s in a small group or new group context, I pray I would be able to make myself vulnerable to real risk for the advancement of the gospel. And I pray that some of the secrets of the Kingdom Jesus talked about would be found when we risk everything and start something new.
Now I look to my campus: Northern Arizona University. It’s not a plant but I can’t help but wonder: What’s next here? Where is God looking to break out and start a revolution? What about Coconino Community College down the road? Who will go?
The start of something not yet resolved is exciting.
There are possibilities I had not seen before.
I’m ready for the future to come from unexpected places. I’m beginning to understand that in each person is the potential for a new small group, chapter, church, movement – even an all-out revolution. I have new language and vision for what could be. I am listening for the call. I am eager to be fruitful, multiply and fill the ends of the earth.
Are you ready?
Geoff Gentry is currently in the middle of his ministry intern year with Intervarsity at Northern Arizona University and looks forward to making the transition to campus staff in the next year.