"Seeing Christians come together for mission as they were captivated by Jesus was amazing. It was encouraging to see people so willing to serve one another, because it is of the upmost importance that those on our campus hear about what Jesus has done for us."
It’s 8am on a Wednesday morning, Will is already up and praying with other students for the day to come, reminding themselves of the message of the hope they have in the gospel and the deep need for those around them to hear it.
Will is a student at Newcastle University, and on the cross-country team, in February he took part in a mission week on campus run buy his university Christian Union. Over five days, students ran events with the aim to share the good news of Jesus with people across campus, with the support of the Christians in Sport student team and interns.
We sat down with Will to chat about the encouragements and challenges he’s taken from the week, and what life looks like for him as a student athlete with a passion to make Christ known.
It’s a busy time of year, my dissertation is due soon! Outside of studying I’m usually out training with the athletics club 2-3 times a week. On a Monday we train at the track in Gateshead and on Thursdays we also jog out for a threshold session, a few of us run over there together, it’s often a good time to catch up and sometimes have some deeper conversations.
Our team recently competed at the BUCS (British Universities & Colleges Sport) cross-country championships. It was great to have a weekend away with my teammates, to enjoy having that chance to compete together and enjoy my sport as worship to God, as well as time to share my faith when there was opportunity. I also got together with Christian runners from other universities before the race, it was really helpful to be able to pray together, reminding each other that our identity is in Christ as we compete!
I meet with the Christians in Sport university group every Wednesday morning which is a great time together to remind ourselves of the need and the privilege it is to share the gospel and to pray for our teammates. Some of the Christians in Sport staff team came down recently in the run up to our mission week to help us as we thought practically about how to share the gospel with our teammates, Duncan (Christians in Sport student team) also asked if I might do a dialogue dinner.
A dialogue dinner is an opportunity to invite your friends, or sports team round to share a meal together and set aside specific time to chat about the gospel, you could start with a testimony, or a simple gospel presentation then have time for questions afterwards.
I was quite excited but unsure about how it might work at first! There were a couple of guys who I’d become quite close within the cross-country team, and I really wanted to share my faith with them, but I didn’t quite know how they might respond. I imagined it could just end in stunned silence or I’d have to answer some really tough questions, but, at the same time, I knew it was a really good way to share my faith – to show my teammates that it’s really important to me and something I want to share.
The meal was really the focus of my week, some of my athletics teammates and a couple of my course mates had agreed to come, so there was a mix of people, but they all knew each other to some degree. We ran it early in the evening with time for them to go off to sports socials afterwards.
Between dinner and dessert I got up to share a five minute testimony, then opened it up for questions. This was the bit I was quite nervous about. I didn’t think anyone would ask any questions, but it ended up developing into over an hour of conversation about different aspects of the Christian faith, particularly around security and identity. I was grateful for Christians in Sport interns who helped to answer some questions when I was unsure, and overall, I was hugely encouraged by how it went. I was reminded of Ephesians 3:20 where we’re told that God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, I certainly hadn’t expected the evening to go as well as it did.
We wrapped up at about 7:45 and I headed straight to our Christian Union evening event where Graham Daniels was speaking on the theme of justice with time for questions from the audience afterwards.
Seeing Christians come together for mission as they were captivated by Jesus was amazing. It was encouraging to see people so willing to serve one another, because it is of the upmost importance that those on our campus hear about what Jesus has done for us.
My main reflection was that it’s so exciting to follow Jesus, it’s thrilling when we take seriously the truth that we are completely secure in him and so we’re free to take risks. Especially as I prepared for my dialogue dinner, the uncertainty of whether it would be a success or a total shambles was exciting, but nerve-racking at the same time! Knowing and trusting that my security is in Jesus meant I was able to step out and take that risk, I was challenged to think how often I act like my security is completely in Christ. Do I really truly believe that I’m secure in Jesus and let that inform the way I live and step out?
"My main reflection was that it’s so exciting to follow Jesus, it’s thrilling when we take seriously the truth that we are completely secure in him and so we’re free to take risks."
I think the main challenge after the week was to continue with that passion to see lost people come to be saved through Christ. Is my passion for people to come to know Jesus the same every day as it was in that week? If I’m honest, the answer is probably not, I’d love to have the same heart that Jesus has, to have his compassion for those around me and a longing to see them saved. So I’d love it if people could pray that for me and for other students!
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