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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

5 Vital Reasons for Campus Ministry

By Dennis Gaylor
Sept. 26, 2010

If you could somehow picture the 18 million students who attend college in the United States, you would be contemplating a multitude larger than the individual populations of 153 nations.

Walk onto any large campus and you discover a city within a city. Housing, food services, recreation centers, social activities, movies, library, banking, sports arena and stadium, campus police and transportation services — all operate in a separate world.

The university represents every race, creed, culture, language, philosophy and religion. The university, by its very nature, is an open forum.

Millions of students, major population centers, the entire spectrum of humanity — the 21st-century university is an answer to world evangelization.

In Acts 17:16-34, the apostle Paul’s second missionary journey took him to Athens, the birthplace of democracy and a city of great influence with interesting parallels to the university campus. Athenian philosophers and poets, like millions of collegians today, discussed and debated and listened to the latest ideas. Paul determined to communicate the gospel to the Athenians, who were intelligent but spiritually lost and in need of salvation. He knew from these centers and crossroads of activity the good news would advance.

Chi Alpha sees an Athens in miniature on each of America’s college and university campuses. I’d like to share with you five reasons why we are targeting today’s university with the apostle Paul’s missionary zeal.

Openness and opportunities
Collegians are searching for meaning and purpose and truth. College students are making formative decisions and developing life patterns and habits that will affect them for a lifetime. In this open forum environment, evangelism opportunities abound.

Sometimes we fear the university or are intimidated by it. I’m convinced the university is gospel-friendly. Yes, there are issues and challenges we face on campus, but there is no setting with such unparalleled opportunities for evangelism, for changing lives and changing the world than on America’s campuses.

You can do almost anything on campus from dorm talks, to open-air preaching in free speech zones, to Christian literature tables set up in a highly trafficked area, to speaking in classes, to Alpha courses, to coffeehouse outreaches, to evangelistic Bible studies in residence halls.

At Purdue University, Chi Alpha participants stood outside the campus union, read the entire New Testament out loud, sang, preached the gospel, gave away ice pops and invited passers-by to their meeting.

Texas State University conducted a week of outreach including a live reenactment of the Passion of Christ, and sponsored a Christian illusionist to present THE MAZE, a creative presentation of the gospel, to 1,100 students. Some 200 students made salvation decisions.

Most students who are not Christians want to belong before they believe. Jodi, a freshmen at Louisiana State University, knew three students when she came to campus and was on the wrong path. She partied, skipped classes and made poor decisions until she came to karaoke night at Chi Alpha, fell in love with the students and committed her life to Christ.

Today’s students, tomorrow’s leaders
Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders in commerce, government, entertainment, education and science. And these future leaders are deciding what they believe about God right now on the college campus. Their decision now will radically shape how they serve in the classroom, the courtroom and the boardroom.

These leaders will direct countless organizations and local and state governments and make decisions about our lives. They will shape the minds and lives of our children and youth through teaching positions in our schools.

Universities are primary tributaries to cultural development or demise in terms of leadership. They are a wellspring of leadership, for better or worse, directing where the culture is headed. As a nation’s young leaders go, so goes the future of the nation.

What America is and what it will become are directly related to what happens on its university campuses. The college and university campus offers the last opportunity to reach this important segment of our population in one place at one time — tens of thousands of students concentrated on a few acres of land for a moment in time!

If we ignore the university, we ignore the culture.

Preserving the faith
Sarah from Western Washington University grew up going to church and youth group, but said her first semester was the hardest time of her life. Like so many students, she was lonely, hopeless, homesick and depressed. Her life at college was not working. She wanted to give up completely. Then Sarah met Jeff, and he invited her to Chi Alpha. It transformed her college experience.

According to the Fuller Youth Institute, approximately 40 percent of youth group seniors significantly struggle with their faith. Christian students tell us the three struggles with their transition from high school to college are 1) making friends, 2) being alone, and 3) wanting to find a church but not knowing how.

The relational connection is critical as students are separated from many of their anchor points — friends, parents, church — resulting in a heightened need to fit in, be accepted and be loved. This stress often leads them to bond with the first group that accepts them on campus.

After all of the investment in our youth during their first 18 years, we must take seriously our role in helping them successfully transition to college. Chi Alpha wants our students to thrive. We encourage a personal faith in Jesus Christ, promote growth in their relationship with God, help them find a place of worship and ministry, offer opportunities to develop a relational network of fellow Christians, and invite them to follow God in life wherever He may lead.

Every year we see 45-50 Chi Alphans earn ministerial credentials, and three times that number going into short-term missions.

Reaching the world
The Assemblies of God has always been a missionary-sending organization. God has blessed our Fellowship because of this commitment to the Great Commission.   

Walk on any campus in America and the world is there! Never in the history of the Christian church has a generation of Christians had a greater opportunity to reach the nations of the world than we have in the U.S. today.

In God’s wisdom and compassion, He has brought the world to us. Almost 850,000 international students and scholars study on U.S. campuses. Almost all of the 195 nations of the world are represented by international students. More international students come to study on U.S. campuses than anywhere else in the world. Many of these students will one day assume national responsibilities and are key for opening doors globally.

International students want to make American friendships and learn about our culture. Foreign students who want to study in the U.S. must pass an English proficiency exam, so to get into college they must speak English. Every year around 60,000 students come for Intensive English Programs to qualify for college entrance. This creates many evangelism opportunities.

Christians can reach the world right here in America without a passport, visa, or having to learn a language and culture. International students have come to us. And it works both ways. International students reached with the gospel on American campuses can take the gospel to their home countries. At a recent international student conference with 40 nations represented, 11 international students were saved, nine were water baptized, and 15 were filled with the Holy Spirit.

Students, revival and spiritual awakenings
The history of religious revivals and spiritual awakenings are interwoven with the campus. Because of their age, idealism, energy and openness, college students are always at the forefront of what God is doing.

Charles and John Wesley were students at Oxford University in 1726. They formed the Holy Club, which emphasized rigid self-discipline based on Judeo-Christian morality. They were called Methodist because of their methodical approach to life. John pioneered a formula for many Christian student movements to come — commitment and personal discipline enhanced and empowered by religious experience.

Robert Wilder, a student at Princeton, formed the Princeton Foreign Missionary Society. Luther Wishard, head of the evangelistic YMCA college ministry, invited D.L. Moody to speak at a student conference in 1886. Some 251 students from 89 campuses attended. Robert Wilder brought a delegation of 19 students with a sense of mission to enlist 100 volunteers for full-time missionary service. This birthed the Student Volunteers Movement, resulting in thousands of students sent to the foreign field between 1886 and World War I.

Our own modern Pentecostal Movement that began at the turn of the 20th century involved a college student, Agnes Ozman, who attended a school in Kansas. While studying what the Scripture had to say about the Holy Spirit, she experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues.

What’s next?
What will happen if there is another student awakening? What will happen if students from every nation and worldview encounter Christ on campus? What will happen if the thousands of AG students who already attend secular campuses are mobilized to reach their peers? What will happen if campuses known for partying and alcoholism and indifference to God can be recognized as hubs of spiritual awakening? What will happen if a Spirit-filled outreach is launched on every secular university campus in America?

Chi Alpha wants to create the opportunity for these happenings. Will you pray with us and encourage college students you know to join us in this effort?

DENNIS GAYLOR is national director of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries USA.

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