Just over 200 years ago Rongopai, the good news message of Jesus, arrived on these shores. The first message came from the pages of Luke’s gospel and lives changed as people on these islands came to know, love and trust in Jesus Christ.
Today, much in the world has changed but the message of “good news of great joy for all people” has not. At TSCF, we still hold the conviction that this message is “the power of God for salvation for all who believe.”
In recent years, across our student groups, we have seen a steady stream of students coming to know Jesus for the first time and trusting him as Lord and Saviour. The numbers will never hit the headlines, but as each one commits their life to Christ we rejoice with those in heaven over sinners repenting.
In conversations with church leaders, they frequently ask questions that seek a secret to this “success.” I’m not convinced there is a silver bullet – as Jesus himself says, “The wind blows wherever it pleases … so it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” However there are two consistent features of most of the students we have seen come to Christ.
First, they have encountered Jesus in the pages of Scripture. For some, this has meant reading the Bible for themselves, whether a Gideon Bible left in a hostel or a gospel they have been given by friends. For others, it has been as part of a manuscript Bible study run by one of our groups. We consistently see students opening the Bible and meeting Jesus.
Of course, in our increasingly biblically illiterate age, this is a growing challenge. Students need help understanding some of the basics of Scripture (hearing students speak of “Pontius Pilates” is always a giveaway!) But it is one that we are committed to and one from which we have seen fruit.
Second, they have seen the lordship of Jesus in the lives of their peers. For some, this has been in the context of a group of friends living for and loving Jesus. For others, it has been a bigger group. Almost without exception, there has been some opportunity to see what someone who follows Jesus looks like in everyday life.
As TSCF, we are committed to sharing this good news with all we can and long to see more students come to know the Jesus whom this gospel is all about. So we have produced an edition of Luke’s Gospel that is designed to be personally given by individuals to their friends. This year we are challenging and encouraging students to consider who of their friends they can prayerfully give a copy of Luke to, along with the invitation to read it and the opportunity to study it further.
For most students, the prospect sounds daunting, but many have already taken up the challenge. We are already encouraged to hear about students who have given copies to friends and started to meet weekly to read the Bible together.
In the coming weeks, we anticipate numerous one-to-one studies taking place in student hostels, flats and cafes across NZ. We pray that as students meet Jesus in the pages of Luke’s gospel they will also see the impact he makes in the lives of their friends and come to know for themselves the one who came to “seek and save the lost.”
Ben Carswell is TSCF’s National Outreach Coordinator, based in Wellington.