I love campus ministry – the college campus is exciting…it’s full of ideas, thought and learning. However it is also, unfortunately, a place where students can hide behind the guise of learning in order to try to escape and delay entry into the “real world.” There is a fantastic book I love…it has to be up there in my top 10 non-fiction books – called God on Campus by Trent Sheppard published by IVP. The back of the book sums it up pretty well when it says that it “traces a remarkable legacy of spiritual awakening [on college campuses] that streches from the founding of the earliest colleges in the United States to a global movement of nonstop student prayer.” Reading the rich history of God moving through college students on campus since the founding of colleges in the America (it began with Harvard in 1636…part of their original purpose statement in the college laws written in 1642 states “let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life.”) gets me excited about what God can and is doing in and through college students. I read this book a while back…in fact I read it almost immediately after InterVarsity sent it to me, but I felt compelled to pick it up again today and have skimmed and read through the large majority of it again. You see, I’m preparing to speak next week at large group for OU’s InterVarsity next week on the topic of engaging the campus and this book is chock full of stories of how students engaged the campus and changed the world (hmmm…that sounds a little familiar….IV’s vision statement anyone? 😉 It is an inspiring read!
On page 42 Sheppard writes, “One of the greatest myths and most disempowering concepts of our collegiate years is the faulty idea that real life starts later. As if the daily decisions that deeply influence our friends, significantly shape our campuses and regularly recenter our lives have no actual bearing in the real world. Had the Holy Club [a gathering that started with 4 student at Oxford in 1729 that lead to not only the first rise of Methodism, but also influenced George Whitefield who in turn helped to bring about the Great Awakening] bought into that bogus belief, the world they would eventually transform might still be waiting for some humble and courageous souls to take the risk of actually doing something in the present, rather than forever waiting for the idyllic environment of the future.”
If that doesn’t smack of the potential of college students I don’t know what does! The challenge is sometimes getting students to see that potential and see that they don’t have to wait until “their careers” to exert influence and exude passion. Yale, 1909 – William Borden, heir to millions of dollars from his family’s business, had a passion for Christ and reaching his classmates. He, along with a couple other students, began running prayer meetings and Bible studies with the goal of inviting every person on campus to join them. By the time he graduated in 1909 one thousand of Yale’s thirteen hundred students were gathering weekly for prayer. After graduation he set sail to be a missionary and died at the age of 25 in Egypt while studying Arabic – inside his Bible were the words: No reserves. No retreats. No regrets. He had a passion to make Christ known and he engaged the campus with the gospel and prayer.
Oakland Community College, September 2011. Thirteen students that are just getting to know me (some may have known me for minutes and some for a few weeks) took steps of faith to work an evangelistic table on campus where we interacted with hundreds of students over the question of whether or not the Bible was worth studying and invited them in to study the Bible with us. Those kinds of things excite me as I walk on campus. To see students willing to engage the campus with the good news of Jesus and students excited and passionate about it!! William Borden started praying with one friend at Yale…the Holy Club at Oxford started with four students…five students at the Haystack Prayer Meeting (which launched the American foreign missions movement) at Williams College… There is so much potential on college campuses and I am excited to be involved in campus ministry. I’m believing God for students who are willing to commit to reaching the campus with the gospel and to take risks to do so not only where I serve at OCC, but at OU and at colleges across the nation and globe. Indeed it is already happening, but I’m believing for more!