Building a Community of Faith on Campus
KEENE, TEX. – Matthew 18:15-20 is often seen through the lens of conflict management within the Church. While this passage outlines how the Church should approach disputes, I believe this passage is really counsel for building the faith community. It reminds us—the Church—that to be God’s faith community members, we must listen to each other, speak clearly and lovingly and remember that we are God’s reconciliation agency to draw the lost to their Savior. Sometimes when this passage is read, verse 20 is omitted, but verse 20 is the anchor point of the passage. Matthew wrote that when two or three gather in Jesus’s name, He is with them. This is not just a memory verse, it is a promise. The point of this passage is that Jesus is with His followers.
Some of the more visible opportunities for building a faith community on the campus of Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU) are in its classes and worship services. There are also small groups, Knight’s Worship prayer meetings, weeks of prayer and service events. While these are essential to building the faith community, often it happens when two or three believers meet together to hold each other accountable.
Recently, after one of her classes ended and students filed out of the classroom, one young lady lingered behind. She chose her words carefully and said, “I related to what you were talking about in class today.”. As the conversation unfolded, it became clear that the Holy Spirit was convicting her of the need to reevaluate who Jesus is in her life.
On the campus of SWAU, the building of the faith community is often found in late-night conversations in the dorm, when a student has the opportunity to talk one-on-one with a dean, or maybe after a game when a student athlete and coach pause to talk. Growth also happens at work, when a SWAU staff member listens to the concerns of a student worker.
Faith grows in the conversations before and after class, during office hours when students meet with professors and chaplains and in university vehicles, as our students travel with music groups and sports teams and go on Honors Program tours, biology trips and mission trips.
Building a faith community is helping our students to develop a clear, biblical picture of a loving God who has gone to great lengths to have a relationship with humanity. As students see who Jesus is, our prayer is that they will choose to live under the complete authority of Jesus. This means to trust Him in big and little decisions while living lives that reflect the loving character of God. While Christianity is not defined by suffering, we want our students to understand that following Christ may include being willing to suffer for Him. To study the lives of the original 12 disciples is to see lives so committed to God that no matter the hardship, living for Christ meant more than a life of comfort.
Building a faith community is really growing disciples. Matthew 18 promises that where growing disciples are, Jesus is, and He is at Southwestern Adventist University!
By Russ Laughlin
Vice President for Spiritual Development