I arrived at Auckland medical school yesterday for a lunch time evangelistic talk on "Don't All Religions Lead to God" to discover the whole of the medical school gathered outside in the (very welcome) spring sunshine. It was clear from the buzz that this was not normal - something was happening. The fire brigade then arrived. It seemed more than a fire drill. I wondered what was going to happen - would the lunchtime event be called off? would we be allowed back into the building? would I find the medical group leaders?
The emergency was over, the crowd began to move into the building, the fire brigade left and the leaders found me. We headed inside. The lecture room we were to use was full of students and a lecturer quickly running through the lecture that had been interrupted, we gathered outside. Pizza arrived, which was duly eaten in the corridor. More and more students arrived. The atmosphere was relaxed, people were welcomed, pizza was devoured and then we were allowed into the room and I was asked to speak.
I had no idea of the 'faith' mix of the group - the 40-50 students there listened attentively as I spoke about the God who doesn't leave us guessing as to who he is and what he is like but has revealed himself in Jesus. At the end they asked good questions about how can we assume God exists (the belief in the divine is a persistent imperative in every culture, which suggests that it is more that just an assumption but rather a requirement of human existence), about the purpose of religion/belief and the role that fear plays in people's religious life (the purpose of knowing God in Jesus is Life in all it's fullness, the thing which drives religious activity is the hope of escaping judgement - Jesus does not call us to religious activity but to faith by grace and the hope of freedom from fear, death and judgement) and about how we can trust Jesus to tell us the truth (investigate for yourself - discover the quality of the man who is God and offers eternal life).
I walked out of the group really excited about the Christian students there wanting to engage with the questions of faith and life that make a difference, wanting to provide a context for their friends to consider the truth about Jesus and their building a context of community where all are welcome to come, to share in friendship and food and to live out the life that they have in the Lord Jesus in an open and dynamic way.
I'd arrived at the med school thinking that things were starting to go wrong. What a pessimist! It provided a perfect opportunity to pray for the school and the students (and to take photo's!); it provoked me to think about the opportunity and the challenge that lies at the heart of making Jesus known on campus - regardless of the subject - here are real men and women (not 'students' but people) from different racial, social, ethnic and faith backgrounds. The good news of Jesus as Lord and Saviour is to be proclaimed to all in a way that makes sense to them. This is not about inventing new way of making the message palatable but in persisting in true ways of making it intelligible to a dying world. And it is a great privilege and really rewarding!
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? Romans 10.14-15