As Women of the Way, we seek Unity in the Body as we focus on Who unites us rather than What divides us.
We are One Body with many parts. We are One Church with many voices.
Join me in welcoming missionary, Elizabeth Chaplin, as she shares her voice on Unity.
Seizing the Opportunity to be The Church
Each February, over 22,000 university students flock to the beautiful city of Dunedin, New Zealand to attend the University of Otago. The school year begins with what is called O-Week, which is a week of partying as hard as you possibly can. All week, students are drunk or high, staggering from their flats to the bars and clubs. Broken bottles cover the streets, music blares, and general debauchery ensues. Yes, this is what the party culture looks like in Dunedin for the entire year, but during O-Week, the students party unlike any other week of the year.
A Living Example of the Gospel
In response, each year, most of the churches of Dunedin gather on the university campus at what is called the Combined Christian Group tent to hand out water and sausages (think hotdogs). From early in the morning until 2 or 3 am, the collective church shows up to meet the university students where they are in order to serve them how they need: with food and water, a place to rest and be safe, and a living example of the Gospel that we also try to verbally share.
Before each O-week, there are inevitable discussions within each church’s leadership teams on the effectiveness of serving alongside vastly different churches, but each year, each church concludes that we are all part of the larger Church and we are more God honoring together.
Loving People Where They Are
I work in university ministry, so alongside my staff team, I have had the privilege of serving at the CCG tent for 3 years. I love the thought that goes into setting up the tent and creating spaces to cultivate conversations and an enjoyable place to hang out.
I love getting to hang up church posters and set up resources that will present the students that we meet with so many options of getting connected to a church.
I love praying with my team and students that we will be able to make connections with lost students and serve the university in a way that honors God while also meeting its needs.
I love getting to meet new students and welcome them to Dunedin, help them feel comfortable and like they have a place to belong, introduce them to potential new friends, and help them see that the church is there to glorify a worthy God by loving them well.
The Beauty of Diversity
I love getting to chat with my students and staff team about the differences in the way churches operate and point them to the central truths of the Gospel and remind them of the unity that we have in Christ.
Lastly, I love to do all of this alongside other Christians that I do not see every Sunday at church.
I love knowing that so many different worship styles, methods of presenting the Gospel, interests, and burdens from the Lord are represented because together, we can connect with so many more people than we could alone!
How Can Unity Thrive in the Midst of Differences?
Believe me when I say that the CCG tent is a combination of some very different churches with vastly different beliefs. It can make me nervous to think that maybe something that I do not think is Biblical might be shared with a student.
However, I strive to remember the Biblical truth that God is sovereign. He is mighty to save, and He delights in His glory being made known.
So in response to Who God is, I can confidently unify with my brothers and sisters of different denominations on a small scale, not to stifle them or spend my time keeping an eye on them, but to serve the lost students alongside them with the purpose of making known the glory of our God, Who has commanded us to bring about large scale unity in Him by “making disciples of all the nations”.
Continuing the Work In a New Way
I recently moved back to the United States, so I will not be directly participating in the CCG tent in 2021. While I am so, so sad about this, it highlights the beauty of unity in the work of the Lord.
Because the CCG tent consists of many churches working together to glorify God, the ebb and flow of different teams will not affect the overall mission.
I can leave with confidence knowing that in 2021 and all the years after, for as long as the Lord deems good, Christians will show up to love the students of the University of Otago and point them to their Creator Who is the greatest Unifier of all!
Elizabeth Chaplin came to Christ while attending university, so she has a passion for glorifying God by sharing the gospel with university students and discipling and equipping those who know Him. She has served with an interdenominational university ministry called Campus Outreach for 6 years, 3 of which were spent in Dunedin, New Zealand. She recently returned to the US and will continue to work in a developmental role with Campus Outreach in order to send staff to a growing number of international locations. Since moving back to the US, Elizabeth needs to increase her financial partnerships, and would love for you to consider partnering with her financially to keep evangelising, discipling, and equipping university students around the world!
If you or your church want to financially partner with Elizabeth to continue her mission, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org