Back when I was serving as a campus minister with Asian American Christian Fellowship (AACF) at Cal Poly Pomona, I used to think that my most effective ministry was driving college students home after our fellowship meetings. I spent hours and hours preparing Biblical, relevant messages and training leaders and planning events, and maybe there was some fruit from all of that. But frankly, I don’t remember most of what I taught, and I was the teacher! So I don’t expect that many of the students remember much–if anything–from what I taught in those larger settings either.
But it was the conversations in the car on the way to someone’s home, or sitting in the car in their driveway at 11pm or later, which really seemed to hit home in those students’ lives. It was driving up the mountain to pick someone up who had just wrecked his car on the way to go snowboarding. It was sitting on the floor in my home with a few students, playing with my toddler. It was washing dishes while someone leaned on the counter and chatted. Those were the “unguarded” moments where real life was shared and I had the opportunity to point someone to Christ in a deep and meaningful way that connected with where they were at in the moment.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that those were the moments that seemed to be my most effective disciple-making times. After all, much of Jesus’ teaching with His disciples happened while they were “on the way” and as they simply shared life together.
Maybe that is why I love retreats so much (I just got back from one this past weekend, and it was awesome!). Because there are so many unscripted moments like that, where God opens the door for a deep and significant conversation with someone, which rarely happens in a large classroom setting. And because that conversation is happening in the midst of the messiness and reality of life (not just in the polite, put-together confines of a classroom), God’s truth sinks deep and real change begins.
I’m not serving with AACF anymore, but now my own daughter is in college…and I’ve had some significant conversations with her while driving her to or from her dorm. With other people, those disciple-making moments have come while standing on my back patio watching our kids play together, or in late-night “interruptions,” or in hallway discussions at a beach-house retreat.
Don’t get me wrong–I’m not opposed to teaching in a large classroom or preaching from the pulpit or organizing a big event. Certainly God uses those platforms as part of His process of change in peoples’ lives (including my own). But I’m learning to make space for those unplanned, unscripted moments with just one or two people, because often it seems that those are the places where the truth that has been taught in the larger setting then gets applied to the reality of a person’s life. And that is an exciting thing to see!