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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. ...

Pioneering a Campus Ministry

By John W. Kennedy
July 3, 2011

Oregon native Nate Banke played football for two years at the University of Idaho, but then told his coach Tom Cable that he wouldn’t be back for his junior year. Instead, Banke sensed that the Lord had told him he needed to move to Colorado for the fall semester of 2003. Banke managed to obtain an academic scholarship and to retain his course credits in transferring to the University of Northern Colorado.

Beyond educational training, Banke now understands that God had a grander purpose in moving him to Greeley: his life’s work. On the UNC campus, Banke discovered Chi Alpha, the Assemblies of God national movement involving nearly 25,000 students on 269 secular university and college campuses.

Banke, active in a fraternity all four years of college, says Chi Alpha kept him anchored in his Christian walk. He had made a salvation decision at age 5.

“On the campus there were different values, beliefs and lifestyles than what I believed,” Banke says. “Chi Alpha provided a community where I could stay grounded in my faith.”

Local Chi Alpha groups offer both Christian and non-Christian students a safe, God-focused environment in which they can communicate with God at their level and embrace a relationship with Him as they are ready.

Although Banke earlier knew the Lord had called him to evangelize and disciple others, his time in Chi Alpha at UNC crystallized exactly how to proceed.

“Evangelism became tangible when I was in a room of fraternity brothers and they asked me, ‘Why do you believe in God?’ I was the only witness they really had,” Banke recalls.

“Discipleship took on a whole new dynamic when I sat across the table from a friend of mine who loved the Lord, but wrestled with homosexuality and didn’t know what to do about it,” Banke says. “I learned how to depend on the Lord because I had real responsibility in helping others live out their faith.”

Rather than dread defending his views, Banke found himself energized in dialoguing with others on questions about personal beliefs, values, worldviews and purpose in life.

After graduation, UNC Chi Alpha Director Gabe Moya asked Banke to stay on staff. Banke spent two years as a campus missionary associate at UNC, knowing that he wanted to make campus ministry his vocation. He then went to Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, for a yearlong Chi Alpha campus missionary-in-training internship.

In 2009, he returned to the Centennial State to pioneer the Chi Alpha chapter at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Banke realized the daunting prospect of starting a ministry alone in the midst of 26,500 students — on a campus where only 4 percent of freshmen have any kind of Christian connection. So he convinced nine Chi Alpha friends from Sam Houston University to join him.

The 10-member Chi Alpha leadership team gained instant credibility.

“When you invite students to be a part of a community of people who know each other and love each other and care about the lives of each other, it’s attractive,” Banke says. “We have a common vision of fighting together for the lives of these students. We want to see them become part of the community and take on responsibility themselves.”

At the beginning of every spring semester, the CSU Chi Alpha team invites approved students to take twice-a-week leadership training classes in preparation to become small-group leaders in the fall. In the 2011 fall semester, Banke expects 30 small groups to be active, double the number in the previous school year.

“Students are the best people to reach out to their peers on campus,” says Banke, 28. “Those who are leading the ministry are students who are building communities of discipleship, walking with fellow classmates in their faith in Jesus.”

While college students frequently ask relevant questions about their purpose in life and the identity of Christ, usually they ask peers whom they trust, rather than a theologically trained clergyperson.

“If you’re going to make an impact on the lives of this generation, you must first build a relationship,” says Banke, who married his wife, Lindsey, in January. “When that happens, they open up about what is happening in their lives.”

CSU Chi Alpha small groups meet weekly throughout the school year, and the entire group also has a weekly gathering designed to enable the 80 involved students to mature in their Christian beliefs and to impact the world around them. On spring break, many CSU Chi Alpha students embarked on a missions trip to impact Mexico City high school students. This summer, an outreach is being held among college students in Costa Rica.

The nurturing Chi Alpha attendees receive from leaders in the group is designed to make a lifelong impact.

“Who we are will begin to have an impact on who they choose to be,” Banke says.

JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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