Author Info: Josh is passionate about studying the Bible and having deep conversations with college students at American University and Georgetown University. In his spare time, he can be found with a book, a video game, or outdoors in a hammock, normally fueled by caffeine. You can connect with him via our AU Chi Alpha Staff Page.

The older I get, the more I realize that I like simple things. 

Simple meals. 
Simple dates. 
Simple technology. 

The last one is big. I love technology. I love being on the forefront of the newest thing, and I love when it is simple to use. Recently I had a conversation with a friend about the new trend towards 3D movies and virtual reality. It is intriguing to me that these things are becoming popular, but that there are many people who stay back from them due to the fact that it is more complicated than we are used to. I don’t want to have to put another set of glasses over my own glasses to watch a movie, or play a video game a specific way. Yes, I know that it is supposed to be more “immersive”, but to me, it is just complicating things that were fine to begin with. I’m only 26, but the older I get, the more I like things to just be simple. 

Simplicity. What is it about simplicity that we tend to be scared of? We live in such a complex world. If you don’t believe me, or if you don’t see it in the news, all you have to do is bring home something from IKEA and try assembling it. 

In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster talks about what seems to be this forgotten discipline of simplicity. He states, “The Christian discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle.” 

...a lot of times, when we have that much stuff, we begin to let stuff define us instead of letting Christ define us

Moving from a three bedroom house to a studio apartment has taught me a lot about how to live simply. Frankly, there is just a lot of stuff that we do not need. And a lot of times, when we have that much stuff, we begin to let stuff define us instead of letting Christ define us. We are living in a generation that is all about the stuff that we have, and does not find joy in living simply, therefore the identity of this generation is based in what’s new, what’s hot, and what’s not. 

Foster goes on to list ten principles on living simply, and ones that I have found to be very helpful in evaluating the discipline of simplicity in my life. I encourage you to read over these, and implement them in yours. You’d be surprised at how much more refreshing living a simple life can be! (Personally, #5 has had the most impact on me!)

  1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
  2. Get rid of anything that is producing an addiction in you, anything you can’t do without.
  3. Develop a habit of giving things away.
  4. Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
  5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
  6. Develop a deeper appreciation for creation.
  7. Look with a healthy skepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes.
  8. Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech. (Matt. 5:37)
  9. Reject anything that breeds oppression of others.
  10. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the Kingdom of God.

Published on August 4, 2016 • Short Link: http://bit.ly/2anStIA

Author info: As a recent graduate with her degree in Cross-Cultural Studies from Toccoa Falls College, Brittney has been on staff with Chi Alpha at American University since Fall 2015 with her husband, Josh. This small-town Georgia native has embraced urban life,  and become part of the big city. She has a heart for international students and a passion for exploring new cultures - specifically trying new international foods. In her spare time, Brittney enjoys taking short trips to new places and scouring local thrift stores for a new project. She is passionate about having deep conversations, and about creating home wherever she is. You can connect with her via our AU Chi Alpha Staff Page.

As campus missionaries working at American University, we are continually challenging our students to have deeper and more meaningful conversations. Often our default is to remain in the realm of small talk, surface level interactions become our normal, and in turn we suffer from a deplorable lack of depth in our daily interactions with those around us. There are many reasons that could be pointed out that create this culture of relational complacency, but I believe that we are often battling a simple lack of knowledge. We must realize that as Christians, when we allow ourselves to indulge in relational complacency, we not only penalize ourselves, we miss opportunities to engage others in gospel centered conversations. Simply put, we are missing opportunities to share the love of Jesus with those that we come in contact with on a daily basis! 

Online fundraising for Reach the City - 2016

We often find that students, once engaged and challenged to overcome the anxieties that cause them to disengage initially, are simply unsure of how to ask questions that create a gospel centered conversations. As XA staff we all individually have our go to questions to engage students in deeper conversation, and to help us personally take our relationships to a deeper level with those that we are walking with in discipleship relationships. Whether in conversation with a believer or a non-believer, we believe that there are a few questions that can help anyone to have greater success in creating conversational and relational depth that opens windows for the gospel. It takes a bold step to take a surface level conversation to a deeper level, but we know that the rewards can be great. 

We would love to share several of these simple questions with you below: 

Questions to ask non-believers or those who you are unsure of their religious background:

“Do you have much of a spiritual background?”  
Their follow up questions include:
-    “Does your background have any impact on you now?” 
-    “What people have most shaped your beliefs?”
-    “What’s most influenced you to come to your current conclusions?

“What do you think about Jesus?”
Other related questions include:
-    “What have you heard about Jesus/ Christianity?”
-    “Are you a spiritual person?
-    “Have you ever thought about God in your life before?”

Questions to engage believers on a deeper level: 

“What are you learning in your time with Jesus this week?”
Other related questions include: 
-    “What are you learning in your bible reading this week?” 
-    “Do you have a devotional time? Tell me more about it.”

“How does your Christian faith impact your life on a regular basis?” 
Other related questions include: 
-    “How does your faith effect your work life?”
-    “In what ways do you practice your faith regularly?” 
-    “How big of an impact does your faith have on your relationships?”

We hope that these help you to engage someone within your influence on a deeper level this week!



Published on July 27, 2016 • Short Link: http://bit.ly/2ak2M1n

GUEST POST From time to time, we have special guests whose voices we totally love sharing with you. This is a post from Seth Collins, he is a bearded man with a heart of gold who currently serves on staff at Yale Chi Alpha. HIs wonderful wife Brooke, used to live in DC and work with Chi Alpha, so even as we root her on, we miss her deeply! You can follow him on Twitter and Medium.

Find Part 1 here: http://bit.ly/29Gm91o

It was late November and around 11pm on a Friday night. I was getting ready for bed after an exhausting week of study and ministry. Scrolling through Facebook to get one last glimpse of what my Facebook friends were up to, I received a group message notification from my small group. One of the guys decided that it would be a terrific idea to go hiking up a mountain to catch a meteor shower... 

At 11pm. In November.

Being an introvert, my initial reaction was to say, "You guys have fun; I'm calling it a night." But, then I recognized that it would be my co-leader's birthday, and I didn't want to be that guy who bailed out when everyone else didn't. 

So, I put my warm clothes on and got in the car to go on this nocturnal adventure. Even though the hike to the top was just over a mile, it was much harder to get there because 1.) it was dark and we had to use our phones to see where we were putting our feet, and 2.) there was ice on the rocks that we would be walking across. 

What was I getting myself into?

Several minutes later, we're at the top and the wind was just ripping through us. It was so cold. We all clung to the rocks as best we could, trying to find some kind of shielding from the wind. At first, I thought to myself, this is crazy; I could be home right now in my warm bed. 

But then I looked up and saw the stars. 

The night firmament was incredible. I'd never seen so many stars in my life!

We started counting how many shooting stars we saw as we watched them race across the night sky. I think we lost count at around 15.

Before we made the trek back down to warmth and security, a couple of the guys from the group had hiked up the mountain with provisions: one guy had a grill strapped to his back. Another had a bag of charcoal and a dozen eggs. They were on a mission to scramble some eggs and enjoy the co-leader's birthday before heading back down!

We ate, traveled back down, and drove home.

I could have missed all of that if I'd chose to stay at home. I could've missed the memory, the laughs, the frozen chatter, the blanket of stars, and the eggs! But I went because God sometimes reveals His character and nature in such a way that reading a textbook can't fully convey. You have to get out and engage people! Engage the world around! The disciples were role models in such endeavors and, because of their companionship with Jesus and their actions, they helped change the world we live in.

The third aspect of being a small group leader is actually my second point.

2. Mentorship

I don't know if I can say enough about one-on-one discipleship (or sometimes referred to as mentorship). I love it. If there were one aspect of ministry that I could do for the rest of my days, it would be this. 

Through mentorship, I learned how to process life with students on an individual basis. The space and meeting would create an atmosphere that would allow them to ask more personal questions that they might not feel comfortable with asking in a small group setting. 

They would often ask questions about my life or how I handled a certain situation. This would create inner-reflection on my part and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the graces that I'd forgotten about or didn't appreciate as much. A perk for being in a mentoring relationship! 

Again, being an introvert, it's tough to engage a crowd, but a one-on-one setting is entirely different. Sure, there's always small talk to get through, but when you get to the deep stuff, then it gets exciting!

Mentorship created a deeper need to be vulnerable with the young men I was meeting with. By modeling vulnerability, I allowed the student to be as vulnerable as I was allowing myself to go. I couldn't ask them to do something that I wasn't willing to do myself. (Note: you should have wisdom in what you're willing to share. No need to air all your dirty laundry, but having something on the clothesline helps build rapport with your mentoring relationship.)

Mentorship also created deeper friendships. Five years later, I'm still good friends with the co-leaders I led my first small group with. I'm still friends with some of those guys that were in the group. I've been in one of their weddings, I've had a weekly home when I served as Interim Director for VCU Chi Alpha from one of them, and nearly all of them have been so impacted by my involvement with Chi Alpha that they have supported me financially.

You can go down the street and ask someone else what discipleship means to them and they could give you a totally different answer than what I just did. But, for me, small groups and mentorship are the key elements of building a discipleship culture: a culture that invites both insiders and outsiders to engage in the God-man, Jesus Christ, and to follow His teachings and lifestyle.


Published on July 14, 2016. • Short Link: http://bit.ly/29KZKsd

Posted
AuthorBlane Young

GUEST POST From time to time, we have special guests whose voices we totally love sharing with you. This is a post from Seth Collins, he is a bearded man with a heart of gold who currently serves on staff at Yale Chi Alpha. HIs wonderful wife Brooke, used to live in DC and work with Chi Alpha, so even as we root her on, we miss her deeply! You can follow him on Twitter and Medium.

 If there's one thing that Chi Alpha has taught me that I'm going to take with me for the rest of my days, no matter where I may end up, it's discipleship.

Growing up in the church, this was something that was not practically taught for me. Sure, I'd heard the stories from scripture how Jesus called the twelve and made them disciples. But, I had no idea what that process looked like or how they had earned that title. I eventually settled into my spirit that they were disciples because Jesus said so.

Early on in my ministry, I modeled what I'd seen on Sunday mornings and Sunday nights: preaching to the crowd and standing in prayer with those who wanted hands laid on them for the altar call. 

What I didn't see happening (because I had a job and couldn't hang out at the church all day, everyday) was the process of what happened to those who had made a decision for Christ: how were they processing sanctification? Did they even know what that word meant? How were they engaging with Jesus throughout the week and not just living from Sunday to Sunday? These were just some of the questions I had.

It was when I decided to quit my job, move 5 hours away from my family, and become a U.S. Missionary with Chi Alpha that I learned what discipleship looked like.

There were two parts to this discipleship model that will stick with me as long as I'll live. If I were  hired on at a church, I would want to ask if these two parts exist. If they didn't, I would negotiate my job description to include the development of these two parts. That is how important these two things are for me.

1. Small Groups

I was first exposed to being in a small group by leading one. As an intern with Chi Alpha, there were minimal job roles I took on—one of them being a Small Group Leader.

I, along with two student leaders, led a group of nine sophomore men. These meetings were held on another day during the week, apart from our weekly large group gatherings. 

As a leader, I was responsible for three things: leading a bible study, being a community facilitator, and providing mentorship in a one-on-one setting with a handful of guys from the group.

The small group night itself taught me to facilitate, not preach, the bible study. For me, this was brand new because I'd never seen this modeled before growing up. I had to be okay with the hanging silence when one of us leaders asked a question and no one made a move to answer. I had to make the room feel less awkward when one of the guys would ask a question that I felt everyone should know who had spent anytime at all in the church.

The small group taught me that life can be an adventure and that we don't have to have our noses in the Bible 24/7 to learn more about Jesus (though, it is a good place to find him). Through community, I saw elements of the guys in my small group that I did not perceive when we were in our bible study. One of the guys was a huge Pokemon fan. Another guy loved to be crafty (he made a ping pong table out of chicken wire and four desks once). Yet another loved to be at the gym and would constantly be marinating chicken to get his protein intake throughout the week.

Community exposed me to these guys in a way that I recognized that God does not make us the same. His creativity allows us to be different in healthy manners that reflect His nature.

Speaking of community, I'll never forget one of the events we did as a small group...

(Part 2 of this post can be found here: http://bit.ly/29KZKsd


Published on July 14, 2016. • Short Link: http://bit.ly/29Gm91o

 

Posted
AuthorBlane Young

Jesus was a master teacher and in creating our own culture of discipleship, we'd be wrong to stray too far from his example.  He invited those who would follow Him into a pattern of transformation. Dallas Willard in Renovation of the Heart describe His 3 basic steps: vision, intention and means.  

Jesus shares the vision of the kingdom through the parables.  They’re in a sense the doorway for a new way of thinking about God and the world.  That's great, but by itself a doorway serves only a decorative purpose. It does nothing unless it’s used. That’s where the intention comes in.  

 Written by Mike Godzwa          Facebook     | |     Twitter  

 Written by Mike Godzwa

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Intention is catalyzed when our will responds to the vision presented. Jesus shares a parable, a teaching, performs a miracle and presents a picture of the world first century Israelites were unfamiliar with, but at the same time were captivated by.  There were those who chose to just relate their experience with others. “Do you remember the time when Jesus healed that guy who was born blind--that was amazing!”  There were those who stood on the sidelines keeping track of the rules.  “Yeah he may have been healed, but it was done on the wrong day.  Jesus is a phony.”  Then there were those who knew Jesus’ actions and teachings were pointing to something more.  As Jesus spoke, they recognized the seed of truth and responded to the stirring that was in their hearts.  They were the ones who pushed through the crowd, who dropped their nets, who asked the questions.  That’s intention at work. They weren’t satisfied to sit on the sidelines and criticize or capture a memory--they wanted to be changed.  

Then Jesus presented the means: “Follow me.” And that’s what they did, literally. They gave up their old way of life and followed Jesus around, absorbing his teaching, discussing the details of the kingdom and helping to bring it about through their direct action.  Little by the little that action, coupled with the means changed everything about them.

That same process is available to us. Jesus' teachings are compelling, but they're not meant for just inspiration, they're meant to produce action. As you allow your intention to respond to Jesus' vision you begin to put his words into practice. Where there's a step of obedience to take, you make it. Where there's a habit to implement, you start it. Little by little the kingdom grows in us in both our understanding and our action.  

When we do this as individuals, we grow to be more like Jesus.  When we share this pattern with others, it develops a culture of discipleship that can deeply impact the society around you.  

Posted
AuthorBlane Young