Jeff VanderLaan (no relation to Ray, for those of you familiar with my teachings) is the Vice President for Impact Campus Ministries and has become one of my closest friends. He has served with ICM for over 24 years and knows our organization and its DNA intimately. Jeff was discipled by ICM's founder, Dean, and knows these principles in ways that few of us do. I could think of nobody else to close out this year's blog posts then by having Jeff share his perspective on PASSION.
“Will you pursue God with all your heart, mind, body, and soul?”
It was the fall of 1994, and I was a senior at Michigan State University attending His House Christian Fellowship when Dean Trune asked me that one question. That question was the whole application and interview process to join the first Impact Campus Ministries campus ministry plant in Albany, NY. There was no written application, no reference checks, and no skills assessment. All Dean cared about was if I would have a passion for God.
For the next 15 years, while Dean was my boss, the question about my passion for God led every conversation and was included on every report I had to turn in to the organization. Often my answer would start with ministry success stories. Dean would politely listen, then re-ask about my personal relationship with Jesus.
Dean knew what I needed to learn. Ministry is hard. It would be easy to lose focus on God and get distracted by the ministry. It was not that Dean was anti-ministry. He just knew we cannot control “making an impact” or “fruitful ministries,” but we have absolute control over developing intimacy with God. He would say, “We must not allow ‘ministry for God’ to crowd ‘intimacy with God’ out of our lives.”
Dean knew that passion for God would naturally lead to ministry. Actually, it would lead to a ministry where you would willfully do more than is required to do. It would lead to a ministry driven by more than enthusiasm or excitement when successful. Your passion for God would lead to an ambition that is materialized into action through the good times and the bad.
Dean was right. We called the first year the year of tears. It was hard. Between Satan opposing the expansion of God’s kingdom to the University at Albany through campus ministry, and God’s appreciation of my choosing to serve him, I discovered the need for God to refine me to be a more usable vessel. It was never clear if the blow was from Satan trying to stop me or God trying to shape me, but I was sure it hurt. Yet passion for God gave us the strength to continue into year two and eventually through year 15.
Through the years, Impact’s value of passion for God has continued to teach me so many things.
- When I focus on ministry, people will be drawn to ministry. Focus I on God, people will be drawn to God.
- When I focus on ministry, I often take the credit. When I focus on God, I often give him the credit.
- When I focus on ministry, my weaknesses limit the ministry. When I focus on God, his strength empowers the ministry.
- When I focus on ministry, I often choose the direction taken. When focusing on God, he directs the ministry.
There was so much learned from such a simple concept.
Impact Campus Ministries values passion for God. May this value continues to underlie everything we do and continue expanding our understanding of what it can teach us in the future.