Gathering Momentum for Mission

How InterVarsity is Growing Faith in the Next Generation
By Nigel Pollock
InterVarsity President

I was recently in the United Kingdom where I saw an exhibition of photographs at the Albert Hall entitled Apollo Remastered. It featured pictures from enhanced and remastered NASA archives, showcasing some of human history’s most iconic images of earth from space, the moon landings, human footprints in the lunar dust and the first-ever photograph of Neil Armstrong on the moon.
Apollo is a remarkable story. President Kennedy spelled out the vision in a famous speech in 1961. “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills”.
NASA estimates that it took over 400,000 engineers, scientists and technicians working through the decade to put the first two astronauts on the moon and bring them back to earth safely.
Visiting the exhibition reminded me of a picture I saw in a Head Teacher’s Office when I was speaking at a school chapel service some years ago. It was of James Irwin, the Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 15, standing on the moon’s surface. On the border, he had written, “God walking on the Earth is more important than man walking on the moon”.

The Pivotal Point

I have been reflecting on aspects of the Apollo Mission as we face significant challenges in helping young people discover Jesus, live undivided lives as they integrate faith with life, and grow in influence. We have been working hard to think about how we do this at camp, in high school, in universities and in the workplace. We know that good connections are vital in our strategy of investing in these different areas and through the transitions between them.
It is not rocket science! Jesus came to earth, died on the cross, rose on the third day and is coming again. We are absolutely centred on the reality of the gospel. This is our foundation and our inspiration. As James Irwin alludes, we believe that Jesus walking on the earth is the pivotal point in human history.
So, how do we get young people to Jesus and encourage their walk with him?

The Launching Pad

The launching pad is Listening. We need to understand our culture and identify issues and trends. This moves us to Conversation. We engage young people in Conversation, getting to know them and hear more directly where they are coming from. The next phase is Welcome. We show love, hospitality and practical care. Out of this flows Invitation where we intentionally offer an opportunity to grow relationship and discover Jesus. This centres on Encounter, where we meet Jesus in the Bible through the Holy Spirit. This leads to Call, where responding to the truth requires a decision. Commitment involves exploring this new adventure of faith in mission, discipleship, service, vocation and impact where we look to shape culture.
As we reset our ministry philosophy we are giving attention to the place of welcome in this process. We’re asking: what needs to happen before this to make welcome genuine and what direction makes it transformative?
We do not choose to do these things because they are easy, but we know that Jesus will build his church, and of the increase of his government, there will be no end. Despite the challenges of our times, we know how history ends. As Paul writes to Timothy:

“This is why we’ve thrown ourselves into this venture so totally. We’re banking on the living God, Saviour of all men and women, especially believers.”

Our strategy involves equipping and empowering small groups of young people with the support systems they require not just to survive but to thrive in hostile conditions. To take children, youth, students, graduates and families to places where our footprints will lead them to Jesus and splashdown with joy when they come home.
We know this requires many people working in the background — giving, praying, volunteering and encouraging. We are thankful for your partnership in the gospel and hope this Christmas that you experience afresh the wonder of Jesus walking on the earth.

Gathering Momentum

We have not yet achieved our mission but we are gathering momentum.
As we reset our ministry philosophy we are giving attention to the place of welcome in this process. We’re asking: what needs to happen before this to make welcome genuine and what direction makes it transformative?
After two years of disruption, we hosted 8,000 campers across our nine camps. There were many encouragements of lives changed as campers encountered God in creation, in community and in the Bible. We had more families, welcomed refugees and partnered to join with indigenous young people.
The start of this new academic year has surprised us. We are in a season of re-pioneering just about everywhere but students have been responding and even seeking us out. There is a hunger for authentic connection. It is great to again be welcoming international students to our shores.
Our volunteer accelerator initiative is exploring opportunities to grow volunteer engagement. We are learning lessons from the pandemic and implementing new digital ministry strategies, leader-in-training programs and a variety of internships. We have welcomed a number of new staff and are actively seeing others.

Growing Faith

“Growing Faith” our new Strategic Vision for 2023-2028 is in final consultation and we will be actively engaging supporters with some new partnership opportunities in the new year.
There is a famous quote that says “Aim for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.” This is terrible advice for an astronaut!
InterVarsity aims to follow the one whose name we bear, the one who is Lord of all the earth, who put the moon and stars in place. And when I look at the moon and marvel at the human ingenuity of the Apollo program that took people there, I remember that he who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power at work within us. To him be glory and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

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