As a part of our moderator Bruce’s challenge to have a Presbyterian Bloggers Unite Campus Ministry Day, I want to pay tribute to The Annex, the university ministry of First Pres Boulder. The Annex meant a lot to me during my time at the University of Colorado. It provided a home for me as a lonely freshman. Faithful adults from from First Pres like Jim Fletemeyer and Dean Schulz lead “core groups” where students who were leaders in the university ministry came together for fellowship and Bible study. The Annex was also (one of the places) where I met Eileen – a full seven-and-a-half years ago. Recognizing all of these blessings, I’m very grateful for The Annex and First Pres Boulder.
As I go about the work of church-planting now, though, I’m especially grateful for one thing: My experience with The Annex taught me to be a missionary.
First,the culture of The Annex was “missional” long before missional became a buzz-word. It was assumed that The Annex existed not for our own sake, but to proclaim Jesus to CU’s campus. Of course we did this in large outreach/advertising things, such as giving away thousands of cans of pop and bottled water on the first day of classes with tags inviting people to the Tuesday night worship gatherings. But more importantly, students in The Annex were taught that their witness in personal relationships, in their academic work, and in their vocations mattered. The message that all Christians have a vocation of gospel-proclamation was implicit in all we did. Living in a city like Boulder and attending school at CU, no one had any delusions of “Christendom” – the fact that the post-Christian West is a mission-field was readily apparent to anyone involved. This was a reflection of First Pres Boulder’s missional nature: as a church concerned with growing the Kingdom, they generously supported a very large university ministry, even though few of those students went to worship there on Sunday mornings. That is Kingdom-thinking.
Second, The Annex emphasized global mission and provided mission trips all around the world which helped students grow in their faith and gave them a chance to serve in other countries. As freshmen, Eileen and I went on a short trip to Jamaica. Two summers later, I spent two months in Chiang Mai, Thailand, teaching English through their Messenger program. The next summer Eileen went to Poland. My time in Thailand transformed me: I came back healthier spiritually, mentally, and physically; I had a confirmed sense of call to ministry; and I had experienced cross-cultural ministry in powerful and challenging ways. Messenger didn’t just have this effect on me, but on a number of my friends, too: Sarah (married to Jonathan, both of whom were in Chiang Mai with me), Jimmy, and Anna (and a number of others who don’t have blogs for me to link to here).
The Annex grew from about 120 students on Tuesday nights to over 700 over our four years there. I’m convinced that this was because it took its missionary vocation seriously. Of course, success in ministry shouldn’t be measured solely by numbers. That’s why I wanted to share my story here today: if so many of us Annex alumni see the world with missionary eyes, then the ministry of The Annex and First Pres Boulder has had an exponential effect in growing the Kingdom of God. This is what leads to seeds “multiplying thirty, sixty, and a hundred times” (Mark 4:8). And that should be the hope of campus ministry – reaching people at a time and place in their lives when they can go forward and have an exponential missional impact for the Kingdom of God.