John Larsen's Articles

Relationships and Their Role in Campus Ministry

 

This post originally appeared September 4 in the Partnership blog on Reachingcampus.org. It has been modified slightly to fit this space.


The majority of campus ministry leaders at Colorado State University agree that there is oftentimes a bit of competition amongst Christian student groups. Upon digging deeper into the topic, we’ve discovered that the root of this competition often grows from a lack of relationship with one another as campus group leaders.

Over the past few years, we’ve attempted to combat this tendency and our efforts have resulted in a recent surge of growth in our interactions, meetings and prayer times together as leaders. And this fall, for the first time, CSU ministry leaders united at an overnight retreat, a retreat that was all about relationship!

The highlight of our time together was, hands down, the wisdom shared by a campus ministry director/local church pastor, Johnny Square, who spoke to us about his personal experience with unity amongst pastors. About 16 years ago, Johnny and a group of pastors joined together to create the Fort Collins Church Network (FCCN). FCCN has become what I would consider one of the greatest things about Fort Collins, as it has led to flourishing relationships and unity amongst the pastors of the churches in the area.


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And He Gave the Shepherds: Some Quality Time with John Larsen

 

Editor’s note: This is the third post in a series looking at pastoral development and recognition at Summitview. On March 9, John Larsen was brought before the congregation as the next possible pastor at Summitview. Barring any major concerns or irreconcilable offenses, we will formally recognize John Larsen as a pastor on Sunday, April 6.

In the meantime, you can get to know John a little bit more in this post. If you have any thoughts about the recognition of John Larsen as a pastor, email Mitch Majeski at mmajeski@summitview.com.



There's a good chance that if you're reading this, you know me pretty well because you are in the Rock. For the rest of the readers who aren't in the Rock, you probably know me as that young guy who does announcements about once per lunar cycle at Summitview's Sunday morning service. I wanted to use this post as a window into my life and this process of becoming a pastor.

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The Gospel Response: 40 Days of Sharing

 

Recently, I've been reading through the book of Acts and have been struck by the lives of the early disciples and the commission Jesus gave them. Acts 1:8 says:

 

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8) 

 

For a number of months, I have felt God's fatherly voice reminding and encouraging me to grow in living out my identity as a witness of Jesus Christ. I've noticed that while I was once very zealous for and regular in proclaiming my faith in Jesus Christ, over time, I've let it become a less pressing priority. Slowly, good things have trumped the mandate to be a witness.
 
This quote hit me while reading Radical by David Platt. He said, “The gospel does not prompt you to mere reflection; the gospel requires a response.”
 
It's not enough to merely revel in the marvelous truths of the gospel. It requires a response, which includes proclaiming Jesus and his gospel of grace.
 
I'm going to follow in the footsteps of others who have gone before me, committing to 40 days of witnessing daily to someone about Jesus.
 
Two pastors in the Great Commission Churches have at various times vowed to share the gospel/give out a tract everyday for 40 days. One is Steve Nelson, a pastor of The Rio Church in El Paso, Texas. He wrote a book called The Adventures of a Chicken Evangelist. The other is Bill Young, a pastor of The Rock Church in Salt Lake City. He kept track of his witnessing on a blog called Forty Days Of Sharing.
 

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Reaching the Nations in Fort Collins: Opportunities for International Connection

 

Looking for an opportunity to impact the nations for Jesus right here in Fort Collins?

Many of us probably have never heard about the opportunity to meet international college students through the Fort Collins International Center (FCIC). Though it is not a Christian-based organization, I believe that we as Christ's followers can have an amazing influence through the services they offer.

Home-stay program

When international students come to CSU, they often come without their housing arranged. FCIC pairs up students with host families for their first few days in Fort Collins as they look for housing. This is a time when they are very ready for help and hospitality while they get life under control, and the FCIS's Home-stay program allows us to do that just. I love this opportunity because you, your family or your D-Team has the chance to be the first Christians and Americans that a student will meet here. Some studies suggest that 80 percent of international students never step foot in an American home.

While I was single living with a group of Rock guys, we hosted two Chinese students in our home. Many other Rockers came to rally around and help these students feel welcome. This hosting experience was just the gateway experience of an on-going relationship that was full of meals, memories, spiritual conversations and even the sharing of the entire gospel!

To become a Home-stay host, fill out this form.

International Friendship program

This opportunity is a more of a long-term commitment. Basically, you get paired up with a student (often you get to share preferences for gender and nationality), and then commit to getting together once a month. You get to do whatever you want! Whatever you or your family or D-Team are up to, they jump in with what you're doing.
 
A few years back, I became friends a graduate student from India. He first spent an extended time with me at my parent's house over a Christmas break. He saw us pray and talk about Jesus, and we even took time to discuss the difference between Hinduism and Christianity. From there, our friendship took off. I introduced him to the game of racquetball, which we ended up playing together on a regular basis. Though he has since moved to another city after graduating, I look back on our time together with fond memories, and am grateful for the chance to represent Christ to a friend from another country.
 
To become an official International Friend, fill out this form.

Community welcome dinner program

At the beginning of each semester, new international students sign up for a family to eat a dinner with. It is a very natural time for asking lots of questions, sharing about life, culture and beliefs from both sides. The students often keep in touch with this family, as the meal is the first they eat in an American home.
 
In January, my wife and I hosted an Indian student in our home for the Home-stay program. One of his first nights here, he got dropped off at our home after enjoying a community welcome dinner with a nice young family with three boys. While he was there, he found out that the husband worked at a church. He asked him, “Do you happen to know John Larsen? He works for a church, too.” He ate dinner that night with the Ritters and was talking to Aaron! It was fun to see God’s sovereignty in that, and how we were working together to touch the same student with Jesus.

This coming fall is going to be a very big year for the welcome dinners. Since the program is run on volunteers, it will only continue if lots of families sign up. Over time, Summitview has gained a good reputation in adding a lot of support to the community welcome dinner program (and the other programs mentioned above). The probable date for this year's welcome dinner is Wednesday, August 21. To sign up for the community dinner, email Jean Griswold at jean.griswold@gmail.com. Tell her you’re interested in helping with the community welcome dinner.

Here is a very key detail on all of these opportunities to note: These programs have a very clear policy discouraging proselytizing. Although we should never stop talking about Jesus, there is some wisdom in knowing when to talk about Jesus. I've had the opportunity to share Jesus with each student I've known through these programs. However, I've been patient. Though I did make it clear I was a Christian from the get-go, I did not necessarily invite the student to follow Christ immediately. Jesus told the disciples to "be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." I think we should do the same in this opportunity.

Summitview's International Student Ministry (ISM)

God is doing an amazing work among international students through Summitview's International Student Ministry! In the past year, somewhere around a dozen international students have come to faith in Jesus Christ!

One of the ISM's events is a sport's night on Friday nights in our Gym. Recently, around 50 people have been showing up for these nights! The ratio leans toward internationals who don't know Christ than those who do know Christ.

Another tasty ISM gathering occurs on the first Sunday of every month. The ISM team and international students gather around some ethnic food, usually cooked by a "chef" from that country. They call it Sunday Night Chef. Also, each Sunday morning before our service, an international Bible study takes place in the Fellowship Room.

If you’re interested in joining in what our church is doing to touch international students with the gospel of Jesus Christ, feel free to get in contact with Aaron Ritter (aaronritter@summitview.com) or Ching Yu Wang (chingyu@e3lg.org). There is also an opportunity for long-term missions work in Asia. If you have a heart for the nations are interested in a long-term missions trip beginning this fall, contact Aaron and get all the info from him. Our Missions Fund campaign in April will also be a great time to connect our hearts and gifts with what God is doing around the world.

So, whether you have a free night here or there to help with an international event, or are looking for long-term missions opportunities, we would warmly welcome the help. As Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”

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You Can Smile Now

 

I've been thinking about joy recently: Finding true happiness in God, no matter the circumstances. I write as an eager novice in the area of joy, not a seasoned expert.

My wife and I recently watched an episode of Jeopardy! featuring kids. Check out this clip, especially the last 30 seconds.

I can tell you what I would be doing if I won Jeopardy!: jumping up and down, hands in the air, smiling and laughing! As I watched the young winner's composure and lack of visible elation, and heard Alex Trebek say, "You can smile now," it reminded me a bit of what we can be as the church. We know inside that we have the most amazing news possible in Jesus Christ, despite our circumstances, and yet we tend to refrain from showing elation in God. Maybe it seems more mature to hold back displays of joy. Maybe we don't always tap into the reality of the joy in God that is constantly ours through renewed mind and heart in the gospel.


I recently read a quote from Martin Lloyd Jones, a famous British preacher from the 20th century, who said this about the Church's display of joy:

 

 . . . the greatest need of the hour is a revived and joyful Church. . . . Nothing is more important . . . than that we should be delivered from a condition which gives other people looking at us, the impression that to be a Christian means to be unhappy, to be sad, to be morbid, and that the Christian is one who 'scorns delights and lives laborious days' . . . Christian people too often seem to be perpetually in the doldrums and too often give this appearance of unhappiness and lack of freedom and of absence of joy. There is no question at all but that this is the main reason why large numbers of people have ceased to be interested in Christianity. (When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper, page 80)

 

He is basically saying that our lack of joyful display to the world is the primary reason why non-Christians have lost interest in Christianity.  

I don't know about you, but it is very easy for me to be devoid of any joy despite feeling very joyful, content and peaceful in God moments earlier. It is sobering for me just how quickly my eyes move off of Christ, and onto merely horizontal things. Just the slightest change in circumstances throws me off.

I liked this commentary note from Matthew Henry, a 17th century Bible commentator, which expands on two famous passages on joy in God (Philippians 4:4, Psalm 37:4):

 

“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice” (v. 4). All our joy must terminate in God; and our thoughts of God must be delightful thoughts. "Delight Thyself in the Lord" (Ps. 37:4). . . . Observe, it is our duty and privilege to rejoice in God, and to rejoice in him always; at all times, in all conditions; even when we suffer for him, or are afflicted by him. We must not think the worse of him or of his ways for the hardships we meet with in his service.  There is enough in God to furnish us with matter of joy in the worst of circumstance on earth. . . . Joy in God is a duty of great consequence in the Christian life; and Christians need to be again and again called to it.

 

For me I need continual reminding of Hebrews 12:1-2:

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

Cliff notes: For sustaining joy, I keep my eyes on Jesus, who kept His eyes on the Father to sustain His present and future joy.

I'm encouraged by the way this concept of joy in God is captured in the lyrics of a song called "Beautiful One," by Steele Croswhite, a pastor, songwriter and musician from our sister church in Salt Lake City, Utah:

 

You’re the author of all that is good in life, the reason for all my joy

You’re the maker of music, the victor of death, the reason for all my joy

You’re the hope of all men, the marvel of angels, the reason for all my joy

Yes, You are . . .

 

You can listen to the entire song here.

Next time you check your spiritual pulse, and don't feel joy pumping from your heart, remember to set your eyes on God, the reason for all our joy in all circumstances.

And don't forget, Christian, you can smile now.

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