12.3 min
By: Jello de los Reyes

When Your Best Seems to Fall Short

We need to remember compassion, our calling, and Christ’s love all the more.

When President Rodrigo Duterte announced the community quarantine on March 12, it was like a huge bomb was dropped on us. 

I was in a coffee shop that night with my campus ministry team. When the lockdown became imminent, I’ll be very honest, I didn’t know what to do or how to approach the situation.

At the start of 2020, we had been gearing up for a major overhaul in our campus ministry. We were ready to recalibrate and reengineer our approaches, and we were prepared to go full throttle on the field. But COVID-19 stopped us dead in our tracks. We were ill-prepared for this scenario. 

I lead a pioneering campus ministry in a provincial city, serving alongside two other campus missionaries. All we have is a start-up social media team composed of students. We’ve never done a single online service, and none of us were comfortable in front of the camera. I, for one, cringe at the thought of recording myself on camera or listening to my own voice.

So when the quarantine was announced, I literally exclaimed, “Now what?”

Just like that, all of our plans went down the drain. How do we do campus ministry without the campus?

Perhaps many of you, if not all, can relate. Whether you’re a full-time campus missionary or a dedicated disciple-maker who leads and disciples students, you have felt or you can at least understand the confusion and exasperation from this unexpected plot twist.

In the face of such bewilderment, we’re also faced with unwise options on how to respond to the challenge. When I examine my own tendencies, I can summarize them into three things:

Copying. Emulating other people’s best practices is definitely a good thing, but copying for the sake of convenience is called laziness. A leader’s job is to help navigate the confusion while taking care of the people he is called to serve. He must first look within his own sphere and check the condition of his flock . After this, he can look to others for guidance, examples, or recommendations.

Complacency. If we’re being honest, the most convenient thing to do is just wait it out until we’re allowed to go back to our “normal” lives. After all, we’re facing legitimate challenges. Some are daunting and others just seem insurmountable. We’re not allowed to go out, so what can we do, right? This defeatist mindset breeds complacency. 

Comparison. While some leaders give in to complacency, others are tempted to compare themselves with others. Comparison always results in either frustration or pride—we can get prideful when we seem to be doing more than others, and we can get frustrated when it seems like our efforts can’t compare to what others are accomplishing. One might feel inadequate after having done everything to lead despite the challenges, yet seeing minimal results.

Comparison is driven by the need to perform and to prove oneself, and this mindset drags us down into the spiral of frustration. Frustration leads to discouragement, discouragement leads to burnout, and burnout results in complacency or apathy.

As I write this, we’re on Day 54 of the community quarantine. Many things have happened since the start of the quarantine. We’ve done our best to be agile and innovative. We’ve gone the extra mile and tried new things to reach the students, whatever it takes.

Yet despite our best efforts, we observe that fewer students are joining the weekly online gathering; many discipleship groups have started hibernating; many students have started to disengage; many of them are going through some serious emotional challenges at home—and we can’t seem to do anything about it.

The question I asked on Day 1 remains. “Now what?”

The thought that motivated me on the night of March 12 is the same thought that drives us to keep doing what we’re doing despite the challenges.

“I’ve seen how these students wrestle with depression, lust, and emotional trauma. I know the insecurities that haunt them and the struggles that enslave them. I’ve seen how they stumbled and got wounded, and I’ve watched them cry to the point of near-surrender. I’ve seen how they struggled in their walk even while being constantly surrounded by their friends and their church community. How much more difficult will it be for them, now that we’re apart from one another?”

I have to fight for them.

No, I can’t waste my time binge-watching at home or staying up late playing Mobile Legends. I can’t just accept defeat and leave them at the mercy of the devil who will try to destroy their lives and their future. 

No, I can’t just let social media shape their perspective of the world. I have to do something so that they’ll constantly hear the word of God.

They belong to Jesus, and I will not leave them to be discipled by the internet. If I won’t disciple them, the world will disciple them—and I shall not allow that to happen.

I have been called by God to shepherd those He entrusted to me. They can just as easily listen to podcasts and other preachers online, but these well-meaning people have not been entrusted with the care of such precious souls—I have. God has entrusted them to me.

I won’t let their values and faith be molded by the social media influencers they follow. I must do what God expects me to do. 

Because when God called me to lead others to Christ and journey with them in their spiritual walk, He called me to be where they are, and to do whatever is necessary to lead them to Jesus and empower them to fulfill their own calling. 

Jesus died for each one of these students. They’ve been bought by the precious blood of Jesus; He bled for them; He endured pain for them; He was crucified for them. I won’t let that sacrifice go to waste!

Compassion, not Convenience

I will not settle for convenience, but I will let compassion ignite my passion to fight for the next generation no matter what it takes. I will see them just as Jesus saw the crowds—harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).

Difficult times can potentially lead to “compassion fatigue,” where we get too weary to carry the burdens of the people around us. But in view of God’s mercy that we each have received, my prayer is that we will overflow with God’s mercy and love toward those around us—be it your classmates, friends, or the students you’re called to lead.

Calling over Complacency

I will fight for my calling and won’t allow complacency to rob me of the wonderful adventures with God that this season brings.

To my fellow campus missionaries, we’ve already gone so far in this journey. We’ve sacrificed a lot and have turned our backs on what the world can offer in terms of money and career—we were called for such a time as this! No virus will ever take that calling away from us. If nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ, then nothing can ever stop us from proclaiming this gospel to a world that direly needs it.

To the students who are reaching out to their fellow students—the same calling, power, and anointing have been placed upon you. You have a God-sized potential to make an impact in the lives of the people around you and even in the world. Don’t miss out on this wonderful calling. Preach the gospel in season and out of season. Don’t relent! We are not ashamed of the gospel that changed us and of the Savior who saved us.

You and I are spiritual front liners in this fight against COVID-19. While medical front liners lay down their lives for the sick, we lay down our lives for the spiritually broken. To live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). 

Christ’s Love, not Comparison or the Need to Perform

All in all, we will be driven not by a sense of duty nor by a need to prove ourselves. The only thing that will compel us to face the odds and lay down our lives is the one constant thing in the world: God’s love.

Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.2 Corinthians 5:14,15 (NLT)

Through us, God is making an appeal to the world: “Come back to Me!”

At the end of the day, our confidence lies not in ourselves, our abilities, or our hard work and sacrifice. Our confidence is anchored on the fact that God will accomplish His purpose in the world and in the students’ lives.

When our best doesn’t seem to be good enough, we can hold on to the fact that God’s power is enough, and He will bring into completion the good work He has started in our campus ministries, the lives of each of our students, and the world.

About the author
Jello de los Reyes

Jello is a hardened introvert, but because he loves and believes in the next generation, he goes out of his way to spend time with them. It shows in his empathetic writing and in his leadership as editor-in-chief of ENC.ph.

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