ENvision a Culture

By Anonymous

alife sat down with Jason Ostrander, director for Alliance Youth, to talk about young adults, the experience and God’s will

al: What is ENvision?
JO: ENvision is a combination of three offices at the C&MA: Alliance Youth, which I direct; Candidate Development, which is directed by Doug Bortner, and the Short-Term Missions Office, directed by Matt Peace. The three of us served as youth pastors together . . . and we realized pretty quickly upon working at the National Office that the synergy [we had] in the youth ministry world still existed here.
One area in which all three of our offices come together is young adults, ages 18–30. My concern is [to provide] care and spiritual formation for them, Matt’s concern is getting them to cross-cultural settings where they can get a vision for their life and open up their worldview and Doug, being in Candidate Development, wants to get them into positions in the C&MA.

In 2008 Ralph Trainer [former director for C&MA Missions Mobilization] put on a gathering in Ecuador called Quito ’08 for young adults. They were saying things like, “How come there has never been anything for us before?” So [Quito ’08] turned into ENvision Taipei in 2010. That’s when we realized that doing conferences alone is not going to help young adults—we need to create a culture. When they graduate from high school, whether they go to one of our four schools or not, they will know that the C&MA has opportunities to help them in their development as believers, whether that means full-time ministry or living missionally as they grow up. That is ENvision culture.

al: What does “living missionally” look like in The Alliance? In the United States?
JO: To live missionally in the United States is to understand that God has first called us to Himself. Obviously, we can only get to Him through Jesus Christ, who shows us and teaches us how we should live. I think believers have a distinct choice: we could either say, “Wow, those things Jesus said are great ideas, and if we follow those principles we will be great people.” Or we can be a bit more aggressive and say, “We need to do exactly what He asked us to do: care for the poor, defend the weak, care for widows—all those things—living in humility, seeking first His Kingdom, being Spirit led.”

I think living missionally does not mean living more urban or being more progressive. I think that gets confused a lot. It literally means doing the things that Jesus asked us to do. It is not connected to geography. [For example], it does not assume that if you are going to live missionally, it’s going to have to be in Zambia, but that you follow Acts 1:8 and do it here. If God asks you to go further out into the world, great. But missional living isn’t about where it happens; it’s about if it happens at all.

al: What was the process of developing Project Experience?
JO: Project Experience came from a desire to give students an opportunity to learn about third world conditions without having to raise money to go on a short-term trip. We had the ability to go around the world last year and see some of the really cool, less traditional ways of doing missions. From that journey I had a desire to show the students I work for what was going on in the C&MA. I feel that they didn’t know [or that they] felt that they couldn’t go on a missions trip unless they “look like this”____ (whatever your perception [of an international worker] is, implant that there).

But that’s not what I am seeing. I am seeing great new ways of dealing with human trafficking, poverty, medical needs and lack of education.

I and my friend who was filming [on that trip] thought, We have got to show this. How can we make a room that looks just like what we are sitting in? And that’s when we said, “That’s it!” We had been asked to do something for the LIFE 2010 Conference that was a bit more interactive, and we realized that we needed to grab these scenes. We took pictures of everything, and then we just made rooms.

At first, I thought we needed to depict different countries, but then we realized that the issues are universal. Human trafficking is just as much a problem in the U.S. [as it is] in Cambodia. So we focused more on the issues. I think that’s the freshness in Project Experience; we don’t just say, “In Africa, we have this situation.” We say, “Poverty—where is this evident and how are we dealing with it?” It’s a different kind of approach that creates a bit of a stir because [the C&MA] is not a social justice mission but a church-planting movement. But social justice gave us entrance into people’s lives that we never would have had if we just said, “Here’s a church—come on in.” It’s a different way of thinking about how to plant a church.

al: What has been the reaction?
JO: At LIFE 2010 I knew we were onto something. There was an expensive activities hall, and then we had this project, which seemed homemade by comparison. Yet kids waited in line upwards of three or four hours to go through the Experience. On one end, kids were jumping around, excited to get in, and on the other end, kids were coming out bawling. So we said, “Let’s tour.” We have taken it to three or four district conferences and a church.

One cool thing is that we have a basket inside that just says “give.” All that money goes to Great Commission Ministries, and people just unload their pockets, because they don’t know how else to help.

al: Beyond the basket, how do you follow up if someone says, “I really want to get involved”?
JO: First, we don’t highlight in the Experience any area that you yourself cannot go to. ENvision is like a culture, remember, but it’s also a means to get to these places, so it’s a mobilizer. When you come out of the Experience, you will find a coffee house area. A volunteer or I will be sitting there, and we say, “Hey, what did you think?” Some kids say, “I really want to go help at that school,” and we say, “That’s great! We can help you get there.” Some come out and say, “I can’t go now, but can I go once I graduate?” And we say yes and mobilize them in that way.

What the Experience has done well is put a unique face on the Great Commission Fund. The kids say, “Now that makes sense! I didn’t know why I should be involved with giving.” The kids who go through it are just wracked. And God can use that to create a simpler life. Our goal is to not pump out great international workers but to pump out a generation that is thinking missionally. Whether God calls them to go is irrelevant; that comes only through their relationship with Him.

al: Can you unpack that?
JO: I feel good to be in the position I am in because, through youth leaders, I can affect the thinking that says ministry is “only for those who have a call to it.” Or that even evangelism is “only for those who have the gift.” But every believer has been given the ministry of reconciliation; every believer has been asked to tell of God’s deeds.

We are calling students to a closer relationship with God. The question is not, “Should I go to Africa or should I be in Chicago?” The question is, “Would I know if God is asking me to do these things?” Anyone can get on stage and convince you to go to Africa; I can do it tomorrow with a bunch of kids, just by my passion. But the question is would they actually hear God say that? I believe they can, but I don’t believe they do, because we have confused the call of God.

If you look at God through the lens of Jesus Christ, the Incarnation, you see someone always on task with what the Father wants Him to do. That comes from a strong connection to the heart of His Father. I think that as you draw closer to God, He says to you all those things that Jesus said—love the poor, care for them, be compassionate. It’s not a question of should we bring the gospel or should we be compassionate; it’s both/and.

Kids always ask me, “Should I go to this school? Should I become a youth pastor?” I think they are asking the wrong questions. The question is, “Do I know what God wants me to do?” I could say, “Yes, you would be awesome in this kind of a job.” But that’s not what you are after; you are really after the heart of God for your specific life and what He wants you to do.

al: That is tied into what God wants them to be first, rather than “do.”
JO: Kids are always concerned: “I am asking Him, like, ALL THE TIME.” But He wants you at His feet, constantly seeking His will. If He gave you an answer sooner than later, then you might not draw back there. You might be like, “Thank you, I got it,” and you are off to do your own thing.

His whole desire is to be with you. What happens after that is completely secondary. When Judgment Day comes, no one is going to ask what they need to do; they just are going to want to be with Him.

al: Anything else you want to say about ENvision?
JO: The legacy that I want to leave in the C&MA is this: a long-term plan for caring for that untapped resource in our church, the 18–30s. And I think that the National Office is in a unique position to actually reach a people group in the U.S. faster than the churches do. We have an opportunity to model how to care for/mobilize young adults. When you deal with the 18–30s, every one of those core values come into effect: risk taking, people who realize I really don’t have anything, prayer. We prayed with the ENvision team for $30,000, and it was given in two weeks. We prayed for a trailer—given to us.

We are able to incorporate all of these things and it’s just because it’s new. It’s like that whole underground church in China principle. What are they seeing? They are seeing amazing, miraculous things, because there hasn’t been anything there before, and they are depending on God to figure it all out. It’s kind of what’s happening with ENvision.

I would love it if 20 years from now people would say, “You know who really works well with the young adults? The C&MA. They are really good at being able to mobilize young people.” That would be great.

—alife Staff

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