James Butler | Parachurch Ministry

“That’s not our thing.” This was their response when, as a Junior at Colorado State University, I approached one of our campus ministries about investing in the spiritual lives of young Black student leaders. I’ve recalled this story many times, in many formats, over the course of my academic degree quest because this story has served as a pivotal experience in my personal leadership emergence.

A few of my friends and I had just inherited the leadership of the student organization that had cared for us as Christian Black college students. The Seniors had graduated and commissioned us to reach and disciple the other Black students on campus, but we were new to the roles and had little idea as to how to go about leading them while also caring for our own souls. So, we agreed that we would go to another well-known and established ministry to ask if they would invest in us. By let us attend their student leaders’ trainings, spending some time asking us questions around our own discipleship.

By praying with and for us, giving us guidance as we encounter new and difficult dilemmas. To our disappointment and discouragement, they responded, “Sorry, but that’s not our thing.” What’s not your thing?! Students? Leadership development? Discipleship? But everyone in that conversation understood what it was that they perceived as not their thing: Black students (or, students of color). But it was in that season that God directed me to a missional community that I would later understand to be, “the best place in the Rocky Mountain Region for students of color”, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA.

In that multi-ethnic community I would learn that I was made in the Image of God and that the injustice that I was facing as a Black man mattered to God. My development towards participation in the ministry of the Gospel matters to God. My life matters. Sometimes I sit and wonder; what my life would have been, had I not been invited, empowered and developed as a missional leader in the work of the Gospel?

Since my experience at that meeting; I’ve had an intensifying ache for people of color, women and others in the margins to have the chance of hearing God say, “Te amo”, “Je t’aime”, “Wo aini”, “Serang Hay Yo” or “I love you” in their respective heart-language while being developed as
leading co-lovers of the world with the Triune God. This issue is what has kept me awake at night, and awakened me out of bed in the morning, excited to serve the college campus.

For this reason, I currently serve as a missionary to the college campus with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA in the Rocky Mountain Region. I’m an Associate Area Director and Assistant Regional Director, helping to lead the Region in continuing the tradition of InterVarsity as the best place in the Rockies for students of Color. I am also in the process of planting a new multi-ethnic ministry Area in the South-Central Rockies.

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