It’s been one week since my return to campus, fired up after InterVarsity’s first ever Ambition conference for chapter planting. It was a powerful weekend of learning and gathering together and hearing great speakers say some incredible things about the work in our movement and beyond. I’m now about calmed down enough to offer some reflections.
“It has always been my ambition,” says Paul in Romans 15, “to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation.” Rather than focus on Rome, Paul chose to move on to other places, hoping to get to Spain.
That’s what I’ve been doing at Kansas State University, where the chapter had died out and I was invited to come and create something new as one of 20 people on this year’s National Planting Cohort. Last week, I joined them and 300 other staff members and student leaders to learn, pray about, and discuss our ambitions to plant communities of people who love God and are following him.
I found that Ambition provided a tremendous sense of freedom to what I do and what I am inviting my students into. When ministry turns professional, it sometimes becomes systematized and inorganic. We can find ourselves squelching the Spirit of God–or our own spirits–under the weight of the next big push or our policy on evangelism.
But planting defies that. It is organic and largely empty of “supposed to” thinking, rewarding creativity more than consistency. Spending a weekend with planters has reinvigorated the radical gypsy inside me that is always ready to ask, “What if?”
“What if I didn’t have to compromise at church?”
“What if somebody did something to reach the GLBT community?”
“What if I could experience transcendence in God with other argumentative geeks like me?”
“What if God has already invited me to start something like that?”
I have a ton of independence in how I plant my chapter, yet I still worry that a new idea might be too risky or too abnormal to really be accepted. But as I talked to people at Ambition, I don’t remember a single safe, normal idea that was transforming the campus.
I often find myself waiting for confirmation, waiting for a supervisor or pastor to give me permission to go do something awesome. I suspect a lot of us have hopes and dreams that we don’t trust ourselves to fulfill.
One of the speakers said, “I believe the reason some people don’t leave a mark is that nobody released them.”
And if you’re in that camp, I want to pass on to you that if nothing else, I release you.
You have my permission.
Go ahead and change the world.
Ryan Gaffney is an InterVarsity Campus Staff Member planting a chapter at Kansas State University. Originally from Southern California, Ryan blogs about his perspective on ministry at A Fear of Whales.