By James Donovan
“All things are possible if you give God the glory!” Those words are proclaimed enthusiastically and frequently by “Pa Harper,” father of Rick Harper, campus minister at Georgia Tech Christian Campus Fellowship in Atlanta, Georgia.
Little did Rick and Beth Harper know how those words would be lived out in their lives as they embarked on the journey of establishing the GTCCF campus ministry in 1987. Beginning with four students in a classroom on the Tech campus, Rick never dreamed of the day when some 600-plus students would participate in weekly events in their two-house ministry located right in the heart of the Tech campus.
Rick never would have imagined that from those four students would come 77 alumni who are currently involved in occupational ministry all across this globe!
Who could have imagined that from this small beginning would come campus ministries in Mexico City, Mexico; Santiago, Chile; Bangkok, Thailand; Salamanca, Spain; and Puebla, Mexico? Who could have dreamed that in 2007 campus ministries would be planted in Birmingham, England, and Tübingen, Germany? However, all things are possible if you give God the glory!
How did this seemingly small, insignificant campus ministry come to have such a global impact? How in the world did Rick Harper go from trying to build a ministry with four students to helping manage a global missions enterprise? How could he even dream of such things?
Dreaming is exactly what they did. The underlying theme for GTCCF has always been “to dream dreams, to hope hopes so large that the world will look at all that is being accomplished and know it is God at work.”
Rick made two tactical decisions early on in his work that helped “changing the world” become a reality.
First, as the ministry began to grow numerically, Rick saw the need to develop leaders from within. He devised a leadership development program that began with sophomores and continued through their graduation, culminating with a year-long ministry internship.
God has blessed this leadership design so magnificently that not only were leaders developed for CCF, but God called many of these leaders to kingdom work. From that targeted effort of leadership development has flowed a steady stream of enthusiastic Christians who have gone from Georgia Tech into seminary and to a diversity of global ministries.
The second significant decision Rick made was to expose each CCF student to a short-term mission experience. Initially, this happened through the annual spring break trip to build houses with Casas Por Christo. However, for many of these rapidly maturing college students, a week wasn’t enough. So Rick and GTCCF became heavily involved in Christian Missionary Fellowship’s (CMF) Summer Reach Internship program exposing students to several weeks on an international mission field.
It wasn’t long before students began seriously considering missions as a career option. The first couple to answer the call was Jonathan and Heather Powell who have become veteran missionaries with CMF in the Ukraine.
Soon CMF saw GTCCF as a potential partner for a new missions strategy. In the fall of 1998, Naomi Kouns of CMF approached Rick with this idea. After much dreaming, praying, and planning, a partnership, called Globalscope, was born.
Globalscope seeks to plant campus ministries at the leading universities of the world. The vision is to reach the next generation of world leaders for Christ.
This dream became a reality in the fall of 2000 with the first campus ministry being planted by five GTCCF alumni in Mexico City. From this beginning, Globalscope has established campus ministries around the world.
CHANGING, RISKING, LOVING
An amazing thing about this 19-year-old ministry is it constantly evolves. Rick’s mind never stops as he tries to reinvent . . . to change the presentation of the gospel and the development of leaders—to give a new look and feel to the CCF community. What Rick seems to grasp so well is that the world is constantly changing and we must be willing to adapt our methods and communities to accommodate the culture without diluting the message.
Another key characteristic of this successful ministry is that it fails. Rick and the leadership of this ministry are not afraid of failure and, frankly, relish the idea.
From campuswide musicals, to sophomore Bible studies, from service projects to seminars, CCF can list a number of failures. However, the fact that they’re failing means that they’re daring to reach out to an ever-changing student in a dynamic culture.
GTCCF is a community for Christ. There is no doubt from the moment you step into the campus house that this is a different group of people who will embrace you. Soon you realize the difference in this loving and fun-loving community is Jesus Christ.
However, what is striking about this Christian community is that it is not self-centered. The mission statement of GTCCF is to change the world. From the inception of this ministry and the writing of that statement, God has taken them up on the challenge and opened many doors to let them express that statement in tangible ways. One example was the Katrina Relief effort in which the student leadership raised more than $30,000 and took 260-plus college students to the Bayou to participate at no cost to them!
It is true: All things are possible if you give God the glory! Praise God for the great things he has done, is doing, and will do through Christian Campus Fellowship at Georgia Tech.
Jim Donovan, senior minister with Southwest Christian Church in East Point, Georgia, is chairman of GTCCF’s board of directors and a member of Standard’s Publishing Committee.