Connections: E. Scott Martin
Sept. 28, 2014
The New Chi Alpha
E. Scott Martin became the seventh national director in Chi Alpha’s 60-year history in April following a yearlong search. For 32 years, Martin has been a part of the Assemblies of God ministry that is active on 313 U.S. college and university campuses in local, district, national and international capacities. Martin recently sat down with Pentecostal Evangel News Editor John W. Kennedy.
evangel: You have been a part of Chi Alpha for a long time.
E. SCOTT MARTIN: My first day in college in 1981, my biology professor asked how many in the class of 350 believed in evolution; 338 hands went up. He then asked, “How many of you believe God created the earth?” Eleven students raised their hands.
I was a good Assemblies of God kid, but nominal. I was a Christian narcissist who typically prayed, “Jesus bless me today and make all my dreams come true.” When I didn’t raise my hand in class, the Holy Spirit spoke to me: Scott, you’re a weenie Christian because you didn’t have the courage to take a stand. God knows how to speak our vernacular. I had a revelation that I didn’t have what it took to live for Christ outside the insular environment I had been in so long.
I saw posters on campus for an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship meeting that night. There were 80 students there with a passion for God I had never experienced in my own age group. I sensed the tangible presence of the Lord when I walked in that room, and it triggered a hunger in my heart.
At 18 I read the Bible through for the first time, and the words of Jesus became reality to me. During my freshman year at the University of Arizona in Tucson, I and some other young radicals for Jesus pioneered a Chi Alpha group.
evangel: You went with Chi Alpha full time after obtaining your bachelor’s degree?
MARTIN: I intended to go to medical school. I was doing cancer research. But I went to a SALT (Student Activist Leadership Training) conference where Rick Howard, who had served as the fourth national Chi Alpha director, shared about the judgment seat of Christ. I had a Damascus Road experience.
The Lord interrupted me and said, I don’t want you to go to medical school; I want you to preach My Word. I had no idea what that would entail. I didn’t have a model because I had been involved in a student-run Chi Alpha.
Soon the Holy Spirit stopped me on campus as I saw thousands of students walking. He said, This is where I want you. I had no credentials, no training, but I convinced the presbyters to release me as a Chi Alpha campus leader.
I was at the University of Arizona for 15 years of remarkable ministry. We really believed we could have global transformation from the University of Arizona. We were active in short-term missions. We started going into the Middle East before we even knew to ask permission.
Then God said to step aside and pioneer the student mission arm of Chi Alpha. My wife, Crystal, and I spent 18 years in that capacity. It was a joyful, alacritous time for us.
evangel: How do you follow someone who has held the national leadership post for 35 years?
MARTIN: Dennis Gaylor was and is a dear friend. He’s known me since I was 19 years old. I worked for him for 18 years, so I have a tremendous understanding of Chi Alpha at this level as well as the General Council. I served on the Chi Alpha national executive leadership team. So it’s not a big jump. The position had been one year in vacancy.
evangel: What are some of your specific initiatives?
MARTIN: A culture is either what you create or what you permit. Our first initiative is to make sure we create a leadership culture in Chi Alpha that is based on honor, respect, unity and prayer. We want the same values happening at the national level to be felt down at the local student level.
Secondly, names say something. They are a reflection of who you are. Jesus saw something in Cephas and called him Peter. Saul was changed to Paul. I want to change the image of what was formerly the national Chi Alpha office. I felt like it was seen primarily as an administrative and bureaucratic entity.
Our missionaries working here are Kingdom people. So we changed the name to the National Chi Alpha Ministry Center. Even though this is a corporate setting, we want to implement Chi Alpha core values.
Every morning at 9 our staff has a deliberate and strategic time of prayer. Every Wednesday morning at 9 we extend that and there is an impartation of Kingdom principles. We pray for visitors before they leave the office.
My third priority is to broaden the voice of influence in national Chi Alpha initiatives and programs. Although people are still serving in positions, let’s change the institution.
We’ve retained a group of national leaders and area directors who have served on a national leadership team. But we’ve opened the door to younger voices and created a platform for them to speak to initiatives by providing area-wide nominations for three-year terms on the new Guiding Coalition of National Chi Alpha.
In the field I’ve seen some people with tremendous potential, but not the opportunity to have a significant voice in the direction of national Chi Alpha. We are working to rectify that. The initial three items I would like the Guiding Coalition to strategize over are: elements that make a healthy Chi Alpha group; a national pioneering strategy; and increasing the diversity of our Chi Alpha missionaries.
We think these new structural initiatives will help us truly grow. I’d rather have one campus group of 300 students who can make a deeper impact rather than 30 groups of 10 people.
evangel: Talk about hindrances to ministry that didn’t exist earlier, especially the trend of “discrimination clauses” on campuses.
MARTIN: We are facing times of dynamic change in the secular universities. For instance, the California State University system is evaluating a potential antidiscrimination clause that would force the allowing of homosexuals or those of another religious faith to serve in Chi Alpha leadership.
The secular university is the fulcrum of societal evolution. Everything that happens in culture — health care, arts, political science, government — is driven from the secular university.
How we deal with antidiscrimination clauses becomes critical. We can be labeled beyond intolerant. Of course, Jesus wants us to be tolerant, but there are biblical truths we are unwilling to compromise under any circumstance.
Access on the campus as an official group often hinges on whether this clause is signed. A day may come when Chi Alpha will have to find a new place to meet because we are denied access on the university.