Feb 19, 2018


Gospel Grit on Campus

Bryan Wiles shares about the necessity of gospel grit at H2O Church and how it’s helping them reach and send college students.

One of the questions we get asked most often at H2O Church is, “How in the world do you reach college students?” To many people, seeing a college student, let alone hundreds of them in church on a Sunday is like seeing Bigfoot. To imagine them actively engaged… sacrificing… serving… helping to plant churches! It is unthinkable to most church leaders. Yet, by God’s grace this is exactly what we have seen year after year at H2O. So I want to let you in on our secret, because we believe reaching college students is one of the primary ways the world will be reached for Christ.

Of course, before I let the secret out I need to clarify what I am about to say. There is no substitute for praying in faith for God to move— we are not pragmatists. We wholeheartedly believe our churches belong to Jesus. Therefore, it is not our job to “produce” results—rather, our job is to be faithful with the mission God has given us. Nonetheless, our secret does involve something not many churches or ministries talk about. We call it “Gospel Grit.”

Angela Duckworth, a leading psychologist, has defined grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” She goes on to describe that grit is a much better indicator of success than education or intelligence. As someone who did not exactly ace the ACT, I like this thought

However, we know something many psychologists don’t know. We don’t want to just be gritty—we want to have gospel grit. We define gospel grit as the willingness to do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission God has given us. It is way less about our capacity to gut things out and way more about our ability to lean into what has already been done for us on the cross. We often quote Dallas Willard at H2O when he rightly states, “Grace is not opposed to effort; it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action.” He’s right. Faith and action are not opposites. They actually work together—in fact, they are both absolutely necessary in order to reach the campus.

I would contend that all ministry takes gospel grit, but planting churches on college campuses takes gospel grit to a whole new level. This is true because reaching the campus involves us going to the campus, not just waiting for people to come to us. This is true because reaching college students is emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and yes, even physically exhausting (if you don’t believe me, join our set up crew on Sunday mornings at 7 am). But trust me, it is worth it. To see God raising up a new generation of leaders and church planters… that is the mission God has called us to and we are willing to do whatever it takes to see this happen!

Questions to consider:

  • How have you seen God use gospel grit in your ministry?
  • Where are you most tempted to let your grit be about earning, rather than Gospel-fueled effort?

Over the next 4 months, Bryan plans to unpack the different attributes of gospel grit that H2O has come to embrace.  Stay tuned for a deeper dive into these topics:

  1. Gospel Grit is about faithfulness
  2. Gospel Grit is about courage
  3. Gospel Grit is about perseverance 
  4. Gospel Grit is about sacrifice and service

about the author

Bryan Wiles

Bryan lives in Bowling Green, Ohio with his wife Sarah and three kids. He serves as a pastor at H2O Church Bowling Green and H2O Akron (www.h2ochurch.com). He first joined H2O as a student in 1998 and witnessed first hand the power of living life on mission for Jesus. He is passionate about raising up leaders, planting churches, and reaching college students with the gospel.