Spurring on Evangelism

By Jess Dager

Most summer nights, Ben and I walk after supper. Recently, he casually mentioned he’d started working on his first talk for Nav Night on evangelism. When he said the word, “evangelism” I confess I kinda tuned out. It’s an area that makes my stomach hurt. It’s part of training women that is hard to do as a mom. Every fall it lands on my list of areas to prioritize with the women I’m discipling, but it feels like the Titanic setting sail - I know it’s going to sink.

That Titanic feeling is my own doing. My idealistic self believes I can and should swoop onto campus after a long night up with a barfing child and an early morning getting kids off to school and effortlessly share the Bridge illustration with 7 or 8 perfect strangers. I expect that even though I no longer spend my primary working hours anywhere near campus, I can just show up and lead a few students to Christ while fielding calls from carpet cleaning services and friends who need to borrow my shop vac.

When that doesn’t happen (and it doesn’t), I tell myself I will absolutely make it happen when the kids are settled at school, or after soccer season, or once I master my insta-pot and suddenly have more time. And then the Titanic sails off into the sunset and you know the rest.

Modeling and prioritizing evangelism as a Mommy Missionary is THE most challenging aspect of my contribution on campus. It’s required me to be honest with myself about my capacity and the practicality of modeling evangelism in the same ways I did as a younger woman before kids. It’s been humbling and hard on my heart to surrender my unrealistic ideals, and it’s been a hit to my pride to confess the realities of my season of life.

The truth is, the women I meet with are living in an alternative universe called “Campus.” They are in the midst of a season of life that is filled with unique characteristics that are vastly different from mine. They can and should live out Jesus’ call to share the gospel with methods and in contexts that don’t match mine.

The best gift I can give them is to champion them in their unique season, encouraging them to take full advantage of both its opportunities and challenges. Envying it, or trying to pretend I am somehow still in it with them doesn’t serve them or me.

If I can’t go with them, it doesn’t mean they cannot be prepared, encouraged, and challenged to go themselves. It’s a myth to believe that without me physically by their side they cannot be trained in evangelism.

It is not hypocritical to train women in a style of evangelism that no longer fits my season of life. It is not insincere to teach them to share the Bridge despite the fact that I haven’t had the opportunity to share the Bridge in 2 years. It is not wrong to challenge them to share the gospel strategically because the people in their spheres of influence change semester to semester.

We can train, emphasize and spur students on to maximize their collegiate years while simultaneously sharing with them what evangelism looks like in our season. Most of them will spend years as mothers too, and they will remember us telling them about how we are sharing the gospel with our kids, the struggles we are having to find openings for the gospel with neighbors and how we are persevering with difficult relatives.

Let’s not beat ourselves up about how difficult it is for us to do evangelism on campus. Let’s not give in to the lie that says if we can’t do it with them, they can’t do it. And when they (sometimes) bemoan the fact that our husbands are able to be side by side with guys on campus, let’s challenge them to see that obstacle for what it is - a small hurdle, not a brick wall.

Let’s cheerlead, pray and believe with them for revival in their spheres of influence. Let’s go “with them” in heart if not in body and believe that God can use them in powerful ways for the expansion of His kingdom on the campus.
And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2

Jess Dager and her husband Ben have been on collegiate staff for 14 years and currently serve at the University of Illinois. They have 3 kiddos ages 16, 15, and 13. Jess enjoys reading, singing, and laughter. Her favorite part of working with students is watching God at work in their lives.

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