Thank you to Daniel Drake and our friends over at the Summit Church for providing us with top notch reasons why the City Project is a no brainer for you (if you’re in college). Stay tuned later in the week for a couple more reasons why you should do the City Project.
If you’re a college student, I would bet that you probably take one of two approaches to formulating plans for your summer. Some of you are characterized by a basically nonchalant attitude. You’re not really into planning or goal setting. Your only “schedule” is the one in your head and you go old school with note taking – no Evernote for you, all you need is a pen and the back of your hand. In fact, you and I would probably be friends, because I just noticed the word “roommate” written on my thumb. Not sure what that’s for…I’ll have to think about that later.”
I like to call this easygoing method the “bubble approach” to decision-making. You float through life like a bubble, with little intentionality or direction, making most of your decisions based on what’s in front of you. You’re so open to the numerous possibilities that you wait until the last minute to make any commitments. Then, when you finally do land on a decision for the summer, it ends up popping your bubble, because you aren’t adequately prepared for the prickly circumstances, restrictions, and requirements that come with an actual commitment to something.
On the other hand, some of you take the “Amtrak approach” to decision-making. To you, there’s only one track and one destination, with several predetermined stops along the way. So, you plan every minute of your life obsessively. You already know what you’re doing this summer, and every other summer of your undergraduate career, and you’re sticking to it. Your eyes are on the final destination. But when you finally arrive, you look back on the train tracks and realize that you completely missed the airport next door to the station. Sure, you reached your goal, but you were so focused on getting yourself there that you were never open to the possibility that, in all your diligent planning, you might be overlooking a better way. You glided through life, but you could have soared…and no, I did not steal that line from a Hallmark card…
Clearly, these two approaches both have their pitfalls. Therefore, it’s our hope that the City Project would offer you a third approach to thinking about your summer. We want you to take seriously the value of your summer and the Lordship of Jesus over it. Instead of having your summer determined by a lack or excess of commitments, we want your decision to be guided by just one question: “If Jesus is your Lord and the Kingdom of God is your highest priority in life, how does that change your summer plans?” If you’re riding the bubble or the Amtrak and can’t honestly answer that question right now, then let me offer you four reasons to consider (or reconsider) why one of our projects might be the right fit for you.
1. You become like your context in a formative season.
Paul says that bad company corrupts good character (1 Corinthians 15:33). Your context affects you, for better or for worse. We could say it positively like this: “A gospel context forms Christ-like character.” There’s no question that what you value is largely determined by the people you value. And this is never truer for you than during your college years.
I wore braces on my teeth for three miserable years of my life. Imagine trying to eat a burger with a mouth full of barbed wire…it was kind of like that. Even worse, I wore that embarrassing head-gear that the high school nerd always wears in those 90’s Rom-Coms. But those braces straightened my teeth into a mold that will remain with me for the rest of my life. Similarly, you find yourself in a highly formative season. You have an impressionable heart that is always bumping into new ideas, temptations, and aspirations. And the ideas you ascend to, the temptations you say “yes” to, and the dreams you pursue during this season will permanently mold the shape of your heart. You can think of the college years as braces for the soul. My Duke friends might argue that college is more like the barbed wire than the braces, but you get the picture.
So I ask you, “What is your greatest passion? What skills do others affirm in you? What beauty thrills your their heart?” If you answered “a successful career,” “a boyfriend,” “fantasy football,” “the girl on the fifth floor,” or “I don’t know,” it’s probably because your friends would answer the same way. Do you do life with people who prioritize the kingdom of God, use their gifts to serve the church, and captivate themselves with the beauty of a Savior who took thorns to his head and nails to his hands to make them into a whole new kind of student?
You are in a highly formative season, and placing yourself in a powerful gospel context this summer will pay dividends for your soul for the rest of your life.
2. The Mission of God must be tasted.
Imagine we fast-forward your life twenty years from now. You’re a computer engineer, and your boss pulls you in to his office for a performance review. To your surprise, he gives you a promotion. When you hear about your raise, what sorts of things do you think will go through your mind? Maybe you’ll remember that boathouse you passed by on the way to work. Or if you end up a cheapskate like me, you’ll remember those home improvements that you’ve been putting off for the past three years. But imagine a different you with a different impulse. When you hear that offer from your boss, you begin to remember…
- That there are 6,000 unreached people groups with no access to the gospel.
- That you are a sojourner and exile on this earth.
- That the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.
- That the gospel actually saves people.
Where does an impulse like that come from? It comes from tasting the mission of God firsthand. When you go overseas for the summer, they cease to be “unreached people groups,” and start to be actual individuals, like Jacob in Serbia who has nobody to read the Bible with him.
It’s an impulse birthed out of the conviction that hammered you on the plane ride back to the States after a summer in India – the conviction that the earth and its lusts are passing away but your true home is in heaven. It’s an impulse fueled by the memory of that time you shared your testimony in New York City and asked a Muslim if she wanted to repent and believe the gospel, and she actually said, “yes.”
In other words, when you participate in the mission of God, it ceases to be a concept that intrigues you or a guilt trip that commands you – it becomes a reality that defines you. Only seeing real faces, sharing real burdens, and witnessing real lives changed through the gospel can create that. Summer projects give you the opportunity to experience the mission of God. These experiences make you a missionary down to your core, and whether you’re pastor, a teacher, or an engineer twenty years from now, you’ll continue to be defined by God’s desire that people hear the gospel, repent of their sin, and place their faith in Christ.
Daniel Drake is on staff at the Summit Church in Raleigh/Durham and serves as the Duke Campus Director.
Applications and more information about the City Project can be found here on our website.