Following Jesus

discipleship • the inner life • prayer
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Following Jesus

Musings on Chi Alpha Conference

March 23, 2017 by

The lights dim, the volume increases, and seven hundred voices sing together, “You can have all this world; give me Jesus.” I’m at the Chi Alpha winter retreat, a weekend of gathering from college campuses all over the northeast, a time when staff from the Chi Alpha Christian campus organization can connect and share joys and challenges, a time for young people to commit themselves to Christ and be supported by their peers, and a time for believers to renew their conviction and prepare once again for the mission field. For those who have not encountered the brilliant red T-shirts on a college campus somewhere, Chi Alpha’s mission is to be “ambassadors of Christ” following the words of 2 Corinthians 5:20 – from which the Greek letters of the organization’s name are drawn.

Members of the WVU chapter of Chi Alpha at the Conference

From my first Monday evening with the West Virginia University chapter, I have been impressed by the way the students and staff care for each other and support each other. The next thing that struck me was how loud their music was. Coming from a more restrained worship tradition, I learned a new definition of worship as the keyboard and electric guitar, wailing solo voice, and throbbing percussion shook the lecture hall. As others raised their hands in the air, swaying to the music, I resisted the temptation to put mine over my ears.

The theme of this year’s retreat was Christianity in the marketplace. Pete Bullette, a campus minister from the University of Virginia, set the tone with his statement that in the kingdom of God there is no “A team” and “B team.” He described the common sentiment that some people are called to lives of ministry and to foreign mission (the A team), while the rest of us just live out our faith where we are (the B team). He countered that every follower of Christ is charged with the responsibility to be an “ambassador for Christ” and each of us has a task to share what we have received from God with our coworkers, classmates, employers, family, and friends.

This means that school is my mission field. While I am here at WVU to get a teaching degree, that is the lesser part of my task. As a follower of Christ, my main purpose for being on campus should be to share his gospel and urge people to “be reconciled to God.” I’ll admit that it doesn’t always feel like this – think rainy Monday mornings after finishing a paper at one a.m. – but the challenge to share the love and forgiveness I have received with others is a far more motivating goal than any college degree.

People streamed to the various elective sessions, but I noticed one that did not seem popular: “Right on the Money,” presented by Charlie Rosser from Fairmont State University, focused on the idea of Christians being good stewards of God’s gifts. He pointed out that as stewards rather than owners we should respond quickly and eagerly when someone asks us for financial help. He asked us to consider whether having wealth makes us evil and being poor makes us virtuous. The Bible does not say we should not be wealthy, but it does warn us against worshipping and desiring money. He then went on to say that he believes God wants him to use the money he has provided to care for his family. He explained that the rich young man was told to sell all he had and give it to the poor because Jesus knew that this particular man could not fully follow Christ without getting rid of his wealth, not because that is required of all his followers.

But what if you could give every cent of your money away and still be assured that you and your family and everyone you knew would be cared for above and beyond your immediate needs?

He wasn’t taking questions as this thought blazed across my brain, and because he ran over his time there was no chance for questions at the end either. But what if that was the case?

Because it is. I can say with conviction that everything I have belongs to God. I have no bank account, I have no material possessions to my name, and yet I am sure I spend less time worrying over where my next meal, or new winter coat, is coming from than people who keep a comfortable sum for themselves. The community I belong to is made up of families and single people who have given all of their material possessions to the church community and do not own anything. Instead of working for wages which I then use to buy my food and clothing, I work voluntarily in the community and when I need something it is provided by the community. In this way, we are not distracted by money, and yet make sure that everyone is cared for according to his or her need.

To every student who attended “Right on the Money,” to Charlie Rosser, and to every Christian who struggles to balance “sell all you have” with “do not worry” I say this: Yes. It is possible, and yes, I do believe it is what Jesus demands of us – but it takes equal commitment from the other Christians around us to make it reality.

Anetta Shirky lives at the Morgantown Bruderhof community house and attends West Virginia University, where she is studying elementary education.


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