Sunday, February 26, 2006

Reflections on being a CU Rep (2)

Being in Christian leadership is not about waiting till you're perfect before you accept - otherwise, we'll be waiting till kingdom come. One of the aphorisms I liked was that to be a rep, all you need is to be FAT - Faithful, Available, and Teachable. Well, of course one's gifts would be taken into consideration too, but character is the essential criteria, I guess.

Nevertheless, that didn't mean I didn't have apprehensions before accepting. Here's a couple:
Not being British. You might think, hang on, what's that got to do with anything? And certainly, I think for some non-Brits, that's not an issue at all. But I often find that it takes more time for me to be able to connect with a Brit, and so leading a CU full of Brits did make me wary! And over the course of the year, this did get in the way occasionally, as I didn't always understand the way the Brits do things. Of course, some people might claim that this is an advantage because I'm doing something different!

Witnessing. The main aim of the CU is to present the claims of Jesus to other members of the university, and that was certainly a scary prospect. It's easy to fall into the numbers game and wonder whether the fact that I've never "led anyone to Christ" (which can be a misleading statement) means that somehow one is more deficient than others. I had to remedy that way of thinking pretty quickly.

Busyness. Which turned out to be a valid, since I underestimated just how much work repping entailed!

Repping, as it turned out, came with a high frustration factor, and I've come to realise that no matter what aspect of Christian leadership you're in, whether pastoring a church, or being involved in a parachurch/mission organisation, or even if you're simply a small-group Bible study leader, this will always be the case. Things don't go the way you plan. People disappoint you. You go on and on about how important prayer is and then no one shows up at the prayer meeting. Or worse, you know your own prayer life isn't as it should be.

And there were other difficulties as well. A plural leadership is always encouraged, but what that means is that one is always working with other people who (thankfully) don't all fall down in awe at all the brilliant ideas you have. My co-rep and I don't do things the same way, and on occasion we might have very slight disagreements on theological matters. I'm less enthusiastic about my college chapel than he is, for example. But it was good to learn that simple but vital lesson, because it will be the same everywhere.

One of the hardest aspects was when a difficult pastoral issue popped up last term in my CU, and it certainly caused me to reflect a lot on the nature of Christian community. I'm not at liberty to elaborate, but I had to sit down with a friend of mine and have a serious chat that dealt with some core issues of her identity, which was quite a terrifying thing to do! Thankfully, with much prayer and also counsel from some wiser heads, it went well for the most part, but I never imagined for one moment that I would ever have to do such a thing while repping.

But even then, as I look back over the year, I've seen some subtle but positive changes as well, proof that God was working. I think about the fact that the core of my CU now turns up for early morning prayer week after week without any need for prompting. I think in particular of one girl who didn't want to have anything to do with the CU in her first year, but after joining us, grew from "a spirit of timidity" to one of confidence where her zeal for evangelism is infectious. I think about how the simple fact that we decided to meet in people's rooms (we're a small enough CU to do that) helped tremendously in strengthening bonds of friendship. I think of answered prayer to have an extrovert Christian in our midst to challenge our introvert-dominated CU. I think of the common vision that our CU shared during Love Actually.

I think I was helped too by the fact that we had a particularly gifted exec the year I was repping (well, in my opinion anyway!), plus being encouraged from the Word. Ps. Julian Hardyman, who's at Eden Baptist Cambridge preached at our Reps induction and he was extremely penetrating, and Rico Tice, evangelist at All Souls, preached a superb sermon on hell - not the easiest topic to talk about! - last term.

My term as rep is coming to an end, but I know for sure that long after I am gone, God will continue to grow the work here in Oxford, as He's done for the last 127 years. Soli deo gloria.


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