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June 3, 2020

Ministry in the Midst of a Pandemic

Here are the latest updates from Matt Bennett, Christian Union's founder and CEO. The most recent is immediately below. To read his previous updates, simply scroll down. Please pray for the ministry, and consider making a special gift today.

May 29, 2020 Update

Dear Friends and Ministry Partners,

Greetings in the name of our wonderful and great Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him be all praise and glory!

As I write, we are now in day 120 since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus to be a pandemic.

Like you, I have continued to hear heartbreaking stories about people and their loved ones who have become sick or have passed away due to COVID-19. I heard a story a couple of weeks ago about a student who plays basketball at one of the schools where we minister. Her father, a doctor, passed away after contracting the coronavirus as a result of his work serving the sick. Please pray for her and for her family. I live in New York, where similar stories are, tragically, not uncommon. 

I also continue to hear stories about men and women who have lost some or all their livelihood due to the far-reaching economic effects of the coronavirus. 

We will continue to pray. We will continue to pray for those who are hurting in this difficult time, and for those who are sick. We will continue to pray that we, as individuals and as a nation, will humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, and repent — trusting that God will hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our land. I cannot overemphasize the importance of repentance as we ask God to bring this pandemic to an end.  Every time a pestilence is mentioned in the Bible, the context is that of God using it to call people back to Him. May many return to Him.  

We also continue to hear from our faithful ministry partners that they would like me to keep the updates coming during this unusual time. So I will continue to communicate openly about how the pandemic is affecting our work. 

In short, we are seeing two realities as we survey all that is happening in and through the ministry. One is an enormous blessing, and the other is an enormous challenge.

First, because God is who He is and because He causes all things (even a pandemic) to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, He has been at work in tremendous — and even unprecedented — ways during this time. Don Weiss, the ministry director of Christian Union Gloria (CU’s undergraduate ministry at Harvard), reports that nearly 40 incoming freshmen have already connected in some tangible way with others in the ministry. This is remarkable.

If you’ve been around Christian Union long, you’ll know that outreach to freshmen at each of these schools is a concentrated effort in the late summer and early in the fall semester of each year. But we’ve never before had one of our ministries connect with this many incoming freshmen, this far in advance of their arrival. 

At Dartmouth, the story is even more amazing. Not only has Christian Union Vox, our ministry there, been intentionally connecting with incoming freshmen, but they’ve already started a Bible course for these students. As I write, 12 such students are involved. Each of these students is just wrapping up high school and is headed to antiviral-meds-info.com. This is both extraordinary and extraordinarily encouraging. 

Both of these stories are perfect examples of God working in new and creative ways that we may not have seen if not for the pandemic. Here is another encouraging update, a video update from four CU faculty members who serve as a part of Christian Union Nova, our ministry at Princeton.

The second reality is that we continue to face very real and not insignificant financial challenges as a result of the pandemic. One of the steps we’ve taken is to establish a new initiative we are calling Cornerstone Partners. 

We are asking anyone who wants to bring sweeping spiritual change to America and appreciates Christian Union’s work, but who is not already a Christian Union ministry partner, to consider making a financial gift to help maintain and even accelerate the ministry’s work at Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Harvard Law, Penn, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale — and in New York City.

Our very real need is to develop an army of men, women, and families who care about impacting the nation’s future and current leaders with the Gospel — and who will agree to help support this work on a monthly basis. If at this time that is not possible for you, we fully understand. But if you do have the capacity, we’d ask you to please prayerfully consider joining us, at any level. 

If you are inclined to give, I have even better news — if you act soon, your impact will be doubled. Because of a wonderful challenge gift from our partner, the BridgeHead Foundation, any gifts up to a total of $125,000 will be doubled! 

If you have the capacity and feel God leading you to give — thus doubling your Kingdom investment — please go to http://www.ChristianUnion.org/Cornerstone.

Please pray for us as well, for we know that “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” We are excited about all that God is doing, and our trust is fully in Him. In the days and months and years to come, we look forward to being able to continue sharing great stories about what God is doing in and through our amazing ministry faculty — because we serve a great God. 

Thank you for standing with us, and for your continued interest in our ministry.

Yours in Christ,

Matt Bennett 

April 23, 2020 Update

Dear Friends and Ministry Partners,

I recently asked Christian Union faculty to share a little bit about how their ministries are functioning in a COVID-19 environment. I think you will be encouraged by this short video (6:51) that they sent in response.

Without you, this transformation simply isn’t possible, and God will do abundantly more in the coming year. Please read the previous updates, below, to learn more about how the pandemic has had an impact in our ministry, and consider making a special gift today to spur the ministry on during this critical time. To God be all the glory.

Thank you again — and may God bless you richly in these difficult times,

mattbennett signature blue

Matt Bennett
Founder and CEO
Christian Union

April 9, 2020 Update

Dear Friends and Ministry Partners,

I know that many of you who are reading this letter may be facing uncertain or difficult times. If you have suffered personal loss of some kind in this season, as so many have, my heart goes out to you.

My prayer for you is that you will draw near to God, knowing that He will keep His promise to draw near to you. Even if you haven’t suffered loss, but are facing tremendous uncertainty professionally, financially, or health-wise, I will pray you’d cling to Christ and that you’d cast your burden upon the LORD and allow Him to sustain you. This is His promise from Psalm 55:22: “He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.”

Many who are reading this letter are looking for an update about the Christian Union ministry. We know people care because they are asking us, so we do want to be faithful to communicate well and with openness about the coronavirus-related challenges facing our ministry. We have seen encouraging signs that God is indeed at work in and through our ministry — from a distance, of course. I’ll share more about that in a moment. But first, thank you to all who have reached out and wanted to know how they could help financially. Thank you for your continued giving. And thank you for your prayers, as well. We need them.

This is not a time for subtlety, so I will be direct. The pandemic’s reach has been extraordinary, and we have not escaped unaffected. Like many individuals, companies, and nonprofits, Christian Union finds itself facing significant financial challenges as a result of the economic crisis. While I am thankful for, and humbled by, the growth this ministry has experienced since its founding in 2002, we are not large enough as an organization to easily absorb the financial impact this pandemic has had on our economy.

Its impact has come upon us with astonishing speed. A couple of key ministry partners have already sustained substantial financial setbacks and will be forced to delay meeting some of their financial commitments to the ministry. We totally understand — and are deeply, deeply thankful for their ongoing commitment to Christian Union — but because we do not know how long this will last, and can’t know when giving levels might rise again to pre-coronavirus levels, we have no choice but to take a hard look at ways we might need to cut (and perhaps dramatically cut) spending. One step we’ve taken to prolong our ability to meet payroll without having to look at more extreme measures is to temporarily reduce the pay of all employees by 5%, and of our ministry leaders by 10%.

Without a clear end in sight, these are obviously challenging waters to navigate. Thankfully, God is good. He is sovereign. And he promises to provide wisdom as we seek Him and ask.

We are exploring all available options to allow the ministry to weather the storm. So please pray. Obviously, the well-being of our staff and ministry faculty, students, and donors is my most significant concern — followed closely by the ability to keep doing all that the Lord has called us to do.

We have aggressively moved to continue ministering, online, to all who are part of Christian Union ministries. Bible courses are happening, as are mentoring and online discipleship, via Zoom and other online tools. Already, stories of God at work are rolling in, and we are deeply grateful.

Here are just a few:

    • At Harvard, students involved in the ministry are sober-minded, praying, and engaged. Our ministry director there reports that “because students have more time on their hands, we have been reaching out to students who had shown interest in the past but for whatever reason have faded away.” He went on to share that this frightening season is “already proving to be a blessing in disguise,” and shared about significant conversations he has been having with a range of students (individually and collectively) on the brevity of life, stewardship, understanding a life of surrender, and more.
    • At Penn (Christian Union Martus), students have started a weekly 24-hour prayer and fasting initiative that has been going strong for three weeks and that dozens of students have participated. Our ministry director there reports that new students have joined Bible courses recently (students not involved before the pandemic hit the US), and that the students have sensed an increased openness to spiritual things among other students in these uncertain times.
    • The ministry director of our ministry to students at Stanford (CU Caritas) reports that they have been incredibly thankful for rich times with students, and for some great student-led times of online prayer. He has been encouraged by the enthusiasm of the student leaders.
    • At Princeton, a student involved in the ministry (CU Nova) led a recent Zoom call on evangelism — and had 20 students attend. They had lively discussions that lasted nearly 2 hours.
    • The ministry director of our ministry at Harvard Law shared that they held a Bible course last week, online of course, that 20 students attended — after having had only 10 attend the week prior.

God is amazing. He gets all the glory, and we could not be more thankful that He continues to work in the lives of students. But we do need your help. Stories like those above are only possible because of the prayer and financial support of our ministry partners like you. Please pray with us. Please consider joining us in our current fast (go to www.dayandnight.org to learn more). Financially, please prayerfully consider a special gift to enable us to continue holding out the word of life to students at these very secular and influential universities.

Here are some specific prayer requests. Please pray for:

    • Revival — pray that God’s people who are called by His name, would: (a) humble themselves; (b) pray; (c) seek His face; and (d) turn from their wicked ways. God often uses times of crisis to open people’s hearts, making them more responsive to God than ever. It’s quite possible that by this fall, Christian Union will see the greatest response to the gospel at these universities than in its history.
    • Supernatural power and wisdom for our ministry faculty as they minister in this strange new context.
    • Students and adult professionals involved in Christian Union ministries — that believers would grow in their faith and trust in the Lord more deeply during these tumultuous times, and that non-believers would be drawn to saving faith by the Holy Spirit.
    • Students who are feeling a sense of real and significant loss related to their unexpected and abrupt departure from their campuses — many of the graduating seniors are particularly struggling. Though they obviously understand the greater suffering in our culture, this is still real.
    • Our faculty and staff — that God would protect them and their families from Coronavirus, for their own well-being and so that they will have strength and energy to continue to serve well.
    • Our national leaders as they continue to have to make hard decisions.
    • Our first responders and healthcare workers, for their tireless work and devotion. Pray that God would protect them as they serve others.
    • Our nation’s supply chain of essential goods and services.
    • Christian Union’s other financial and prayer partners (beyond you), that they would step up in significant ways.
    • Christian Union’s financial well-being over the coming months — that God would provide, that our faculty and staff would be well cared for, and that God would open up new sources of giving or raise up new ministry partners to help ensure that the ministry will be able to maintain current staffing levels and ministry programs.

Thank you again — and may God bless you richly in these difficult times,

mattbennett signature blue

Matt Bennett
Founder and CEO
Christian Union

March 17, 2020 Update

Dear Friends and Ministry Partners,

The past few days, as COVID-19 has literally changed the world before our eyes, I have experienced a range of emotions and am grieved by all who are suffering as a result of the spread of the pandemic. Yet even in the midst of the uncertainty facing our nation and world, I have a profound and complete trust in our almighty God and in our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 12:25 reminds us that "anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." 

I am thankful for the deep, rich resources God has given us to help us deal with fear and anxiety. I am grateful that the Holy Spirit Himself comforts the hearts of those who seek Him. I'm thankful that Jesus challenged all of His followers, who might be tempted to be anxious, to consider how much God cares for us, and how important our faith is, in the face of difficulty (Matthew 6). I appreciate Jesus' encouragement — the night before He was to be crucified — to not let our hearts be troubled, even in the face of a trial (John 14). Isaiah 26:3-4 reminds us that, "You [God] keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because He trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD God is an everlasting rock." 

Each of these passages contains good words, and I'd encourage you to meditate on these and similar passages in the coming weeks.

As you probably know, each of the universities where Christian Union has established ministries has taken extraordinary steps in the last two weeks to try to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. They have closed their campuses and sent their students home to continue their studies online. Other universities across America have followed suit. Companies and nonprofit organizations are also shutting down or empowering their employees to work remotely, hoping to slow the spread of the disease. 

As I write, I have no idea how fast this may continue to spread, how far it may reach, or how long it may last. But I do know that God is on the throne and will work for good, even in the midst of this horrible thing, for all who love Him and are called according to His purpose. So, in these uncertain days, we can take courage, not in hand sanitizer or social distancing (both of which are good and highly recommended), but in Jesus Himself, who is our peace. 

I'm also writing to let you know that after meeting with Christian Union's Executive Leadership Team, we decided to allow all employees to work remotely and have encouraged them to be good neighbors by staying at home as much as possible. I met via conference call yesterday with the directors of our university ministries to discuss ways we can — and will — minister to the students who have now scattered to all corners of America and the world. We have also postponed or canceled events in New York and Chicago, until further notice, as we've understood the importance of not contributing to the further spread of COVID-19. 

We have been in discussions with our ministry faculty and staff about how to appropriately use technology to continue to offer Bible courses and to speak into the lives of all who the Lord has brought into our various ministries. Please pray with us for wisdom during this time. We believe that, even in this unusual moment in history, God is still poised to work powerfully in people's lives, and that our ministry faculty is poised to minister in different but exciting new ways. So while we are changing gears to meet the new reality facing our ministry fellows, we will press on and trust God to work in ways that are beyond all we could ask or even think.

Like you, I am profoundly saddened by the impact of the coronavirus — yet I am also filled with hope. I have hope — and am praying fervently — that God would use this to turn people's hearts back to Himself. Please join me in these prayers. God has, in the past, sometimes used times like these to spur revival. For this reason — and due to the potentially catastrophic health and economic impact that the coronavirus could have — I have called on believers across America to join me and others in Christian Union in a 40 day initiative of prayer, fasting, and repentance, starting Wednesday, March 18. Please consider joining us by signing up at www.dayandnight.org. When Christians are faced with a potential calamity, the godly response is to examine ourselves to see if there is anything displeasing in our lives, and then to pray and seek His face for mercy (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).

If you sign up for the fast, you will receive daily devotionals during the 40 days, delivered via email, or you can read them each day by going to ChristianUnion.org/cu-today

At Christian Union, we remain — as always — deeply grateful to you, our ministry partners, who make the ministry possible. Thank you for praying with us during these difficult days. Thank you for your continued financial support. And please do consider joining me in our fast.

With warmest regards and love in Christ,

mattbennett signature blue

Matt Bennett
Founder and CEO
Christian Union