Simply put, I want to start a revolution at Azusa Pacific University. Not against the academy, the administration, or policies—I firmly believe our God First university is an amazing place, and I count myself blessed to be a part of advancing the Kingdom from here. Rather, I want to start a Responsible Revolution that challenges our students to think and act differently—to harness their natural inclination for social justice toward His eternal purposes.
I do not stand alone. Those who comprise the Center for Student Action, members of our administration, and so many students want to revolt against the obstacles that hold us back from truly abandoning ourselves to King Jesus and His will for us as His followers, and create a community of young people who live a compelling life that is different from how our broken world defines success or happiness. I dream of a community where we would choose action over apathy, people over possessions, and grace over judgment. I am convinced that this is most likely to happen when we take seriously the concept that “everyone matters.”
Unfortunately, some Christ followers create division on issues that need action more than discussion. They ask, “How can we go share the Gospel in some distant land when there are so many unsaved people here?” Others debate the priority of a social Gospel over evangelism (or vice versa). The truth is, God calls us to all of these actions equally. We must not spread the hope of Jesus to the ends of the Earth while ignoring our neighbor, and we must not sacrifice caring for global citizens through the healing power of the Gospel while meeting only our neighbor’s need for personal salvation. The Center for Student Action stands in the gap of this dichotomous thinking by asking students to believe and act as if everyone matters.
We should be concerned when Christians take sides between evangelism and social justice, between the deified power of Christ to save and the incarnational power of Christ to serve, as if these concepts are at odds with each other. Stephen Charles Mott, in Biblical Ethics and Social Change, offers compelling reasons why the healthy Church must espouse evangelism and social action. He contends, “The absence of social action hurts the evangelistic witness of the Church. It is easier for a cynical world to dismiss the evangelistic efforts of the Church when the same Church fails to deal with challenging social problems. The message of God’s love makes little sense when the Church appears disinterested in human suffering.”
To avoid this tragic disconnection, we must work hard to live a life message of everyone matters. As the Center for Student Action challenges students to become world Christians who want to make the name of Jesus famous around the corner and around the world, the concept becomes a deep conviction causing all of us to consider how we live, pray, and serve. As our students and alumni embrace that concept, they discuss and act upon that conviction, channeling their knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm to aid a hurting world. We see an increasing number of students spending a semester studying around the world; going on a weekend trip to Mexico; working with Azusa children in after-school programs; spending a summer in Ghana, Tanzania, Peru, India, Camden, New Jersey, or Washington, DC; or leading small groups of international students on campus. The Center for Student Action staff remain committed to making sure these experiences are not a one-time, “done-my-service” checkoff on a list. Instead, each opportunity builds upon and supports living an everyone-matters life. One of my greatest joys is when students participate in a meaningful intercultural or international experience and return to challenge others in our community to care about human trafficking in Nepal, the plight of the homeless two towns over, or whatever else has profoundly impacted them.
The call of everyone matters sounded by APU’s Center for Student Action becomes crystal clear where the Great Commission and Great Commandment converge. When we really invest our lives in both the Great Commission (to make disciples from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation) and the Great Commandment (to love our neighbor), we manifest an everyone-matters culture that can radically transform the world.
This happens as part of a Responsible Revolution where we challenge and support each other equally to be more than hearers of the Word, but to be intelligent, compassionate, sacrificial doers of the Word—because everyone matters. This Responsible Revolution could very well ignite the future of profound local and international impact fueled by our 113-year mission to equip disciples and scholars to make a Kingdom difference. This side of eternity, we will not know the impact of the sacrificial service made by thousands before us. I pray that thousands more will continue writing the story of eternity from the simple, compelling conviction that everyone matters.
To see stories about students and alumni living out the belief that everyone matters, visit www.apu.edu/stories/.
Matt Browning, Ed.D., is APU’s associate vice president for internationalization. firstname.lastname@example.org