At 9am yesterday I was wandering around the Sant Marti hipster district of Barcelona sipping a flat white and enjoying some sunshine and the gentle buzz of a city getting going.
At 9pm I was in the city of London, in the oak panelled halls of a Livery company, sipping red wine and enjoying stories of bold innovative students sharing the good news of Jesus with their friends.
(being herded on a RyanAir flight in between was less fun)
The evening was the inaugural Student Mission awards, run by the Fusion movement.
An ‘awards ceremony’ for student mission … really?
Yes, that was my reaction.
Is ‘honour’ standing on a stage being cheered by the crowds or is it loving the person in front of you, regardless of any identity markers our world or our own choices place on us? I believe it’s primarily the latter. Jesus had some pretty harsh words to say about preferential seating (Mark 12v39).
Like everything, to understand this event, we need the context, not react to the headline.
Fusion were offered a generous gift of an evening using the Mercer’s Hall, right in the heart of London for this event. It was a chance to tell the stories and celebrate the students in universities up and down the land, who are living radically, generously and full of faith, to bring the good news of the kingdom to their campuses. These stories are inspiring, encouraging and profoundly counter cultural, they are good news and I’m up for shouting good news from the rooftops. (You can read more about them here https://www.fusionmovement.org/sma)
As well as being a great party, like everything Fusion do, this was put together with joy, kingdom thinking and a passion to make Jesus the focus. The student mission was rooted in local churches, but it was the stories of students themselves which were celebrated. Over 100 stories were nominated, 40 shortlisted and there were awards in 10 categories. Each winner has been offered a grant to empower these radical world changers to take more risks, develop new ministries and see more of their generation encounter Jesus.
I was on the judging panel of the event, I looked at every nomination and read their stories, saw their videos and discussed each one, I can’t remember any of their names this morning. (sorry winners!) – but I can remember their stories.
I can remember those who fasted, prayed, chose discipline to fulfil daily commitments to share grace and blessing. I can remember those who put themselves out to pursue justice for the poor, those who offered constructive loving resources to help those with mental health, I can remember those who went out on the streets late at night, not to go clubbing, but to show care and listening support to those in distress from drugs, alcohol and broken relationships. Those who found ways to discuss Jesus with their sports teams, invite friends to church and make new connections in order to listen and bless.
Celebrating these stories, and bringing people together to hear of the courage, commitment and contagious love of students wasn’t about creating celebrities or awarding success, but letting others know that those in our universities who let Jesus be Lord of their lives are making a real difference. There are 25 million students in Europe, what can we as God’s church do to value our students and empower them to live out their calling now, where they can make the most difference?