From College Ministry to the Local Church: 3 Things I Learned in my Journey to the Local Church

By Taylor Lazenby

The greatest and most challenging time of my life came when I was working for a college ministry. The late nights, the weekend trips with students, and the week-long staff development workshops two hours away from home where my wife and my newborn daughter were made life difficult for a season.

However, college ministry was also extremely rewarding spiritually. I saw God do unbelievable things in the students I ministered to. I saw several students come to faith in Jesus Christ, students discipling other students, and students sharing the faith with their peers and enjoying reading the Bible together in authentic community.

But most of all, working for a college ministry prepared me well to serve in the local church. Here are three things I learned working for a college ministry.

Life on Mission

Primarily, working for a college ministry made me adopt a lifestyle that was constantly on mission. Matthew 9:36 says of Jesus “when he looked out upon the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” A college campus is full of those people who are in desperate need of a shepherd. 

 As the truth of Matthew 9:36 changed my mindset and my heart’s posture toward other people, I began to have compassion for them as well. This truth was a fuel for me as I was prompted by Jesus to step out of my comfort zone and engage others even if it was uncomfortable. How could I not if I truly did care for them and see them the way that Jesus saw them?

 The local church is no different in this respect. Everyone within the local church should look outside the church walls to a lost and dying world and have compassion on them, for they too are like sheep without a shepherd. Many are longing for the answers that only the Gospel can provide. It is our duty as those who have experienced the grace of God to share it with others. It is the only true hope there is.

“You Can Change the World Over Lunch.”

Something Randy Pope, founding pastor at Perimeter Church in Atlanta, said always stuck with me (He may have gotten it from Frank Barker but who knows): “You can change the world over lunch.” 

Everyone has to eat lunch. Most people like eating lunch away from where they work or where they go to school. It gives them a little bit of a mental and emotional break for an hour or so as they refuel their body and mind with food and the next cup of coffee so that they can make it through the remainder of the day. 

This is the best time to meet with people to have Gospel conversations. My schedule as a member of a college ministry was filled every week with lunches where I would meet with people to share my testimony, to hear their story, and to share the Gospel explicitly. 

What if the members of our local church were using their lunches strategically for the sole purpose of sharing the Gospel with friends, family members, and coworkers? If every member of our local church was doing this, then we would share the Gospel with over 600 people a day. That means that we would share the Gospel with over 3,000 people during a typical work week. By the end of the month, the Gospel would be going to the nations because of our faithfulness to use our lunches strategically for the sake of the Kingdom.

The Dire Need for Evangelism and Discipleship

The rise of parachurch organizations over the last 75 years can ultimately be attributed to one thing: the failure of the local church in many specific areas, whether it be missions, evangelism, mercy and justice, discipleship, etc. You name it. The parachurch organization was founded because of the local church not engaging or accomplishing the mission that it was tasked with.

Many local churches are great at preaching the Gospel, singing Gospel-centered songs, fostering community, and meeting felt needs in the community. All of these things are great, and they are needed. Yet many more local churches are falling short in their primary calling: reproducing third-generation disciples.

The true measure of the success of a church does not reside in the budget. Or in attendance. Or in membership. The measuring stick is and always should be this: are current disciples of Jesus Christ multiplying their lives in such a way that more disciples of Jesus Christ are being made through their witness?

The local church needs to recapture the need for purposeful and deep discipleship for its congregation. Purposeful and deep discipleship starts with learning personal spiritual disciplines, or habits of grace, and learning proper doctrine. Those things coupled with meaningful accountability and missional engagement will propel our churches and our congregations to replicate their lives in others.  Discipleship will ensure a lasting legacy of a church long after the current generation is in glory. That should be our aim.