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How students change

Mark Ellis, 03/04/19

We want to grow students who will lead growing CUs who will joyfully reach their campuses for Christ. That doesn’t just happen. Read more about what really brings about change in people.

How students change

It’s not difficult to get people to do what you want.

Why do companies spend millions on advertising? Because it changes behaviour. I didn’t know I wanted a holiday in Spain until I saw how incredible my family memories would be. Peer pressure affects behaviour too. I didn’t know how much I needed a BMW until my neighbour got a new one. Laws work too. I don’t ‘step on the grass’ because there’s a law against it. Although that very law makes me want to, just as ‘wet paint’ is not a warning but an invitation to touch and see if it is. But I don’t, because guilt is a great motivator too. If you want to fill a church rota, use guilt. It never fails. It’s not difficult to influence behaviour. But these are all about external change. And that doesn’t last. Inside–out change is harder.

How will I want to obey God, and do so joyfully? How will I hate sin, not just because I don’t like the consequences, but because sin itself is hateful? How will I want to walk closely with Jesus, day in day out? How will I share the gospel, not because I have to, but because I want to? Only when my heart is won to seeing that God is good and the gospel is true.

How do students change? How do CUs flourish in mission? Only when students see and savour Jesus Christ. At heart, mission is not a guilt trip or an organised event or a job just for odd or keen or geeky Christians. Mission is an overflow of the love of God in the hearts of his people. It’s uncontainable.

So yes, we will put on ‘how to’ seminars and skills training as we seek to help student leaders lead and CUs go out in mission. But never instead of, or divorced from, moving students to see Jesus in his Word. Because the more they know him and want to walk closely with him, the more they will want to look like him and draw their friends to enjoy him too.

And so the aroma of Christ will be more evident on every campus and in every flat or class where God has placed CU members. And so by God’s grace, students who do not yet know him will also come to treasure a gospel that is true and a God who is good, and who is for them.

Mark Ellis