The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
“We want people to remember their Creator during their youth, and then to run fast, shining brightly for His glory throughout their working lives”, says Graduate Impact coordinator Tim Vickers.
For many, the transition from university to the new challenges of professional work becomees a test about one’s faith.
In this context, Graduate Impact (a program of IFES) trains and disciples young graduates to help them connect “the most important thing in their lives - to believe in Jesus as the Lord of all -, and the biggest thing in their lives: their work”.
Environment sciences is the newest professional group started this year in Europe. Other small groups focus on law and justice, business, politics and science. The Cross-Current programme also seeks to create local groups for graduates in cities.
Tim Vickers, coordinator of Graduate Impact, told Evangelical Focus about the vision behind this work and faith movement.
Question. Why is Cross-Current working with small groups of certain professional spheres?
Answer. Let me tell you about what the vision behind of all of this work is. The International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) works specifically in universities around the world, in 162 different countries, to help young people hear the good news and grow into mature disciples who, we hope, will follow Jesus for their whole lives.
The work that we’re involved in, Graduate Impact, is part of the ministry of IFES, and it has a specific niche, which is to help people, as they leave University (as they leave the Christian student group and start professional life), to help them understand how to integrate their faith and work.
It is the most important thing in their lives - to believe in Jesus as the Lord of all -, and the biggest thing in their lives - nine to five, Monday to Friday, five days a week, forty-eight weeks of the year, forty years of their lives. If they fail to make this connection, then their life will never be what it could be. That’s the big picture.
The reason why we run professional groups for specific professions, is because we want to loan wisdom from one generation to the next. We want to go to people who already spent a lifetime thinking through the issues of what it means to be a follower of Jesus in their specific field, and extract wisdom from those people, in order to pass it onto the next generation.
It is an accelerated learning process, where we want to help people get great Christian wisdom in their field before they are 65. While they are still in their twenties, when they still have a lifetime.
It is like at the end of Ecclesiastes: we want people to remember their Creator during their youth, and then to run fast, blazing, shining brightly for His glory throughout their working lives.
Q. The Environmental Sciences programme just started this year.
A. Yes, there are two reasons to start an environmental science program. First, as Christians, we are given responsibility by Yahweh Elohim in the second chapter of Genesis. We’re given responsibility for creation. At no point in the Bible is that responsibility taken way, in fact, it is part of the reason for human existence.
As far as I can see, we are made, primarily, to have a personal relationship with the living God, secondarily, to have a relationship with each other. But thirdly, we were made to have a responsibility for all that God has created and He entrusted to us.
The very first thing we see in the Bible, the very first example of work, is when Adam is giving names to all the animals, in Genesis 2:19. In Genesis 1, as the Lord makes Creation, He gives names to the big things in earth, but then he specifically passes on this responsibility to Adam.
Adam has a role in the organisation, the administration of Creation on God’s behalf, and that is the first reason.
The second reason is that it is a responsibility that many non-Christians also take upon themselves.
There are many people outside the church who are much more concerned about creation care and the environment than people inside the church. It seems to me that, if we want to be able to talk to these people about the good news of Jesus, this is a key apologetic area for us to be engaged in. Not being engaged just because we want to have these conversations, but because it is important, recognising it as one of the key crucial issues that our world is facing at this moment. Christians have to have a voice, they have to be able to talk into that.
Q. How do you work on a local level, in European cities?
A. Besides the professional groups, we also run what we call city groups, which are groups of graduates from mixed professions, mixed disciplines, in one specific location.
They are discipleship groups which aim to teach material which I think it has not been taught anywhere else. This material is directly related to who these people are in their working life.
What we want to do there is to understand more about the Christian character, which would reflect the character and nature of God. What is His personality like? What is His attitude toward love, towards wealth, towards justice? We want to understand things like that, and then see how those can play out in our lives, in each of our individual workplaces.
The city groups meet twice a year for three years. We want groups of 12-16 people, and we want to get to know them, understand their work, situations and circumstances. And we want to see change take place in their lives over the three years.
Q. Why is studying the Bible central to these groups of young professionals?
A. We want to dig very deep in the Bible, looking at who God is, know Him better. We want to have a relationship with the living God, that’s the basis that changes our life. So we want to understand Him better, know more about who He is, His attitude toward us, His love for us, and how that is manifested in the world.
So we go deep into the Bible. Some of this we do with talks, but we also want people to build their own biblical wisdom.
Q. How will helping young graduates to “grow as followers of Jesus Christ” change Europe?
A. Sometimes people turn up at conferences, they hear a good idea, they go back home, and no change happens. We really want to fight against that trend.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus worked with 12 people for 3 years. That is the way our Lord God chooses to work, by developing deep roots in people, by filling us with His Spirit.
That is what we want to do, work with small groups of future leaders, give them great resources, great methodology and training, so that they can go and change the world.
This is, again, part of our apologetic. If we say that God is the Lord of all on Sunday morning, then it would be the same for every area or our life on Monday. Otherwise, either we have told a lie about who God is or told a lie about our lives, and there is no integrity in that.
We need Christians who are able to go into any part of society and speak loudly and boldly about the glory of God.
I used to go to church called All Souls Church, and we had a wonderful rector emeritus, John Stott, and he once said: “You can never blame meat for going rotten, that’s just what meat does. But you can blame salt for not being there”.
Our societies will increasingly move away from the Christian heritage that they have, as far as they can. And that is bad news for society, bad news for humanity. If the Christian voice is taken away, then something of incredible value the Lord has for the nations will be taken away.
Learn more about Graduate Impact and the Cross Current programme here.