In Acts 8:26-40, we find the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Philip hears the voice of God telling him to go to a place and he goes, with no idea what is waiting for him when he gets there. What Philip finds is someone seeking to connect with, and understand, a God that he’s heard about but does not have a relationship with. Philip fills in the gaps, as they journey together, and the Ethiopian’s life is changed forever.
Recently, as I reflected on this passage, I realized that it powerfully parallels what it’s like to follow God’s call to young adults through collegiate and campus ministry:
First, like Philip’s call to journey the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, effective collegiate ministry needs people who are called and are willing to journey a long, wilderness, road with young adults. Like Philip, we often step onto a path with no clear direction and trust God’s call as we do so. We’re not sure what or who we’ll encounter, but we know that lives will be impacted when we get there.
Second, college students are a lot like the Ethiopian Eunuch: many are coming from “worshiping in Jerusalem,” but still journey with no real recognition of who Jesus is in their lives-or what faith really means to them. They yearn for a personal faith that they can claim, but they have no idea how to reconcile that yearning with their lives.
As Philip provides understanding of the Gospel with the Ethiopian, collegiate ministry seeks to do the same for young adults who are on a similar journey. It is important to note that there is an increase in the number of young adults who still journey, but unlike the Eunuch, they are not “coming from Jerusalem.” To reach them, we’re going to have to think outside the box and be willing to follow that call to go and journey alongside them as they seek to find answers to tough questions and discover who God is calling them to be.
Third, like the Eunuch, young adults are not seeking answers as much as they are guides. When Philip asks the Eunuch if he understands what he is reading from Isaiah, the Eunuch replies: “how can I, unless someone guides me?” This question is similar to the desire of young adults today. When you simply throw answers at them and tell them what to believe, they often will turn away, but when you show them that you are willing to journey with them- to help them figure out what their faith means to the personally- they stick around and claim the community of faith as their own.
Fourth, the message that Philip explains to the Eunuch has not changed. This is still the message we take to the young adults in our midst: that Jesus loves us enough to die for us and that, in him, we find restoration and resurrection.
While the message is the same, like Philip running down a dusty road in an ancient time, or a baptism in road-side water source, we must be willing to go outside the box when sharing it with young adults. It does not take statistics for us to know that young adults are not packing our churches like they used to, but this does not call for despair- it calls for us to be willing to find ways to take the community to them.
Campus ministry, when done well, serves as an on-site resource to bridge the gap between the local congregation and the young adults that need the ministry of our churches. It aids young adults in figuring out who God is calling them to be and how God is calling them to serve in the world.
May we have the faith of Philip to hear God’s call to go and journey with those young adults that seek God’s voice in their lives.