CUI will not go on forever.
One day, Christian Unions will cease. There will be no more free sandwiches with a lunchtime talk. No more Mission Weeks. Which is not to say we plan to shut up shop anytime soon. Next year we’ll celebrate the centenary of students in Ireland meeting to hold out the gospel of Jesus Christ to their classmates. And by God’s grace, we hope to spend another 100 years making Christ known on every campus.
Unless Jesus returns first. Because on that day, our job will be done.
Missions like CUI only exist to build the Church; to bring more worshippers to be part of the bride for whom Christ died. Ultimately, we have no other agenda. We’re temporary. The Church is not.
So, why have CUs at all?
Firstly, because we can be where churches can’t. University authorities have a duty of care and are rightly wary of outsiders coming onto campus. We expect governments to continue to tighten restrictions and scrutinise anyone who seeks to influence students. But students themselves have a wide–open door. Every campus wants student societies to flourish. And with transparent integrity, every Christian Union is student–led. CUs are affiliated with Students Unions. They don’t just have a right to exist, they are welcomed. And CUs in turn seek to serve and bless the campus. So CUs are the best way to reach a vital demographic on behalf of the Church that it otherwise couldn’t.
Secondly, CUs model a vital aspect of mission and discipleship: that every believer is to live and speak for Jesus wherever he has placed them. How did it become normal for our “outreach” activities to mainly happen within church buildings? Because the Church’s global mission is not to protect and retain her people, but to disciple and release them. To send out disciples who will be salt and light, everywhere. Which is what students seek to be. And by God’s grace, students are the best placed to reach students. Students are at an age where what their peers think matters more than anything. But God has placed CU students in the same halls and classes as their non–Christian friends. They listen to the same music and share the same memes. They speak the same language and breathe the same cultural air as the people God has sent them to reach. Who better than students to reach students for Christ?
So CUs are no substitute for church. They are not the primary place where students are fed, pastorally cared for, or discipled. But until Jesus returns, they are places of dynamic and creative mission. They provide opportunities to train and develop future leaders for the Church. And they give an opportunity for students to prove God’s faithfulness and build the foundations for life–long discipleship and mission.
Mark Ellis, Director of CUI