Fateful days. Fateful seats.
Early in the yearlong road trip, I very purposely made my way down (after weeks in New England) to Orlando to attend Ivy Jungle, which at the time was the top-of-the-heap in pushing the field of college ministry forward. I even attended the pre-conference. And sitting next to me was a gal named Charity.
Charity worked for a college ministry I hadn’t heard of before (this was, after all, early in the road trip). And sadly, I had just left the region the ministry inhabits – the greater Northeast – so any future explorations of her ministry, the Coalition for Christian Outreach, would have to wait.
But by the end of Ivy Jungle, I was hooked, as I got to interact with her and other CCO members attending the conference. (They were also really friendly, which of course was a special kindness toward this lonely road tripper.)
And like I said, I was hooked. Why?
This was a ministry that majors in preparing students for their transition out. Specifically, the CCO focuses – alongside the “regular” discipleship found across the field of collegiate ministry – on connecting students’ vocation with their faith. On bringing all aspects of life under the Lordship of Christ – not just those portions of life we live outside of the “workweek.”
Not long after that – a year or two – the CCO honored me with an invite to share a seminar or two at the Jubilee Conference. Get this: At the time, they felt like their emphasis on every vocation being a spiritual calling had led them to overlook somewhat the fact that some students were, in fact, called to “vocational ministry.” (Wild, eh? Many college ministries have been known in the past for erring in the exactly opposite direction.)
What’s the Jubilee Conference? It’s the CCO’s annual collegiate conference, a gathering to expose students to more of what they’ve already been hearing: God’s involvement in all areas of life, in all fields of study. And though God had touched my heart with such things before, it was this visit that locked in these convictions more than ever before, with message after message, and through rubbing shoulders with plenty of people who actually lived this stuff out.
One of the most formative moments came on the van ride from the airport. (So I guess it was ironically another sovereign seating situation, just like at the Ivy Jungle preconference.) On that ride, I listened enraptured to the viewpoints of David Greusel, the lead designer of Minute Maid Park and PNC Park (home to the Astros and Pirates, respectively). He spoke of building ballparks from/through/by his faith, of PNC being his gift to the citizens of Pittsburgh (the city where Jubilee is held).
This little van-ride dose of vocational theology provided an infection I haven’t recovered from. (A great interview that catches his viewpoint can be found here, it seems.)
I would continue to be around the CCO and their great people, through additional road trips and college ministry gatherings. (I’d run into others who saw this piece of theology as vital, too.)
So though I may be like a collegian untimely born, the CCO has worked its magic with me like so many students actually within its fold. I’m sold. I’m sold on this whole “vocation-faith-intergration” thing, and because I’m drawn to apparent “gaps” in Christian ministry, I’m particularly intrigued at the opportunity to push Christendom forward here.
And so when my team at church began jumping in with both feet last year – with Acton University, Made to Flourish, Center for Faith and Work, et al. – it strengthened what had already been stirring in me, ever since those early encounters with the CCO.
All this to say (Yes, this has just been introduction), I’m excited to go back to Jubilee this week. In my role at my church, I’ll be scouting and observing and reminding myself about the opportunity to tie vocation to faith, as my team and I are learning more and more about this underserved dimension of ministry.
I can’t wait. Stay tuned for what I learn, because the CCO offers something for the church at large (which is why I’m going), and of course for their own field of college ministry too.