If you are a Texan, you have probably heard the phrase “keep Austin weird.” I have, because Austin is my hometown. Growing up there for 18 years gave me a vision for salting the earth with Christ and His Gospel through a lot of creative avenues. I held little to no distinction between secular or sacred work. I thought it was all sacred! I could not escape the world, so I thought I might as well change it for the better.
But while I had grown up believing all spheres of life were sacred unto the Lord, including my public school education, I grew tired of it. I was tired of being a light in the darkness when I had so many friends tucked away in Christian bubbles at Christian universities. After graduating from high school, I thought going to a Christian university would be an oasis.
I looked forward to spending a few years hanging out with fun college friends and Christian professors and exploring new horizons. I wanted life to be exciting and excitingly Christian! I thought I was done with the world. I wanted to escape from my weird town, my weird unsaved friends, my weird single life and my weird family.
My freshman year in college was the year I fell in love — with everything. I fell in love with a boy, I fell in love with my friends, I fell in love with my school, and I fell in love with my church. Everything was new. I missed nothing from back home. But the one thing that I thought I held on to, I had all but forgotten about. That was my faith. A faith that was willing to reach a lost world for Jesus Christ.
At my Christian university, I discovered I could reap the benefits of a church community with little to no accountability to pour myself out into the world. The Christian life quickly became all about me and my role in the church body. Figuring out my calling became my obsession. I had no reason to want to be a light anymore, apart from building up the church and the Christians around me. But so many people were caught in theological arguments. I began to second guess my reasoning for jumping into my so-called oasis.
No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light (Luke 8:15-17).
As a teen, I had always defined my mission field by the circumference around me. I believed, “Wherever I am, that is where I am called to be a light.” You don’t hide that light. When light is hidden, it goes out.
I may not have carried around a Gospel track or Bible wherever I went or necessarily gave the ABCs of salvation (which the world really does need) but I had always operated with the mindset of being a culture changer wherever I went. To me, that was the essence of shining the light of Christ. That light had to make an impact.
At my university, I had many people pouring into my life that I never had before. That was great! Yet if you’re raised to be a culture changer, there is not much culture to be changed in a Christian bubble. People can easily be set in their ways and their theology, and not want to change. I learned how to respect people for this, but always found it tempting to get lost in theological debates myself.
In the Christian bubble, I also wondered, Where are all the unsaved people? I did not agree that all unsaved people were “out there,” overseas in a foreign country. In my opinion, unbelievers could hide from a faith that has become extremely introverted and church communities that are in conflict with each other. In other cases, unbelievers are waiting for our introverted faith to engage them in their questions and their needs, but we are too busy debating.
I believe Jesus references this very dilemma when He says, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21).
Christian universities are a great place to get an education. I would not trade that education for one at a different university. I am thankful for it. But many of my friends and I will attest that it’s disheartening to feel like you have to wait until a big missions trip or after graduation to impact the world for Christ.
The mission field is not “out there” or four years down the road. It’s right here. It’s right now. In the middle of all the mess of life, the light of Christ is needed.
So let your light shine. Wherever you are.