By Buzz Roberts and Greg Swinney
The Facebook post was the perfect picture of stepping out in faith:
I can finally make the official announcement. Many of you already know that our family was just accepted into the organization Mission Aviation Fellowship. We are honored to be headed to Papua, Indonesia, to a mission school where I will be teaching. Adel will help with the airplanes and maintenance. I wish I could get with all my friends one last time. Pray for our family as we are selling everything we own, and preparing our house to be on the market.
A few days later, Molly (who wrote the post) told more about her experience.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “God is so good, he helped us sell everything, even our house. All of this happened in just one week. We can’t wait to get to the island of Papau. There are no roads where we will be living, so they’ll fly us in. They need us there as school starts right away. We don’t have time to spend a year in language school, but we’ll be teaching missionary children in the school there.”
Were we hearing this straight? They sold everything they own in seven days through Craigslist, Facebook Exchange, and garage sales, to go halfway around the world to a place where there are no roads and they don’t speak the language?
“Yes, isn’t it great?” Molly said. “God is so good. We can’t wait!”
It hadn’t been that many years since Molly was baptized at a lake just outside of town. She was a college sophomore here at the state university studying to be a teacher. Her college friend, Monica, helped Molly understand what it would mean to follow Jesus. Their lives have never been the same.
Campus ministry is all about making disciples of all nations. We take seriously the mandate of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20. Our hope and prayer for the students we reach is total transformation into obedient Christ followers. For some, this culminates with a career in engineering, medicine, law, or education. And some feel called to vocational ministry through the influence of a Christian campus ministry.
Their stories, inspirational like Molly’s, are being told all around the country.
Third City Christian Church’s story could not be told without celebrating the influence of campus ministry. Half of the staff members of the church of 1,100 in Grand Island, Nebraska, earned degrees from Nebraska state universities where they received their calling as a result of their involvement at Christian Student Fellowship campus ministries. They include Taylor Jones, worship director; Parker Loghry, director of organizational ministries; and Jason Newman and Taryn Kohmetscher, two of five next generation ministry directors at the church.
In addition, Josh Sikes, lead student minister, and Nick Schonlau, director of small groups and care, both started at state universities and were active in CSF, before transferring and graduating elsewhere—Sikes from Nebraska Christian College and Schonlau from Grace University.
Scott Jones, senior minister at Third City, is also a beneficiary of CSF’s influence in the late 1970s. Scott said it was the persistence of campus minister Bob Milliken that caused him to consider God’s calling and pursue ministry.
“I can’t imagine how different our staff would look and our church would be without the influence of campus ministry,” Jones said. “When I began in ministry in 1983, the churches found personnel almost exclusively in Bible colleges and seminaries. We are still advocates of having strong Christian colleges, but we have experienced firsthand the value of a person who has been discipled on a university campus by a well-led ministry in the campus setting. Our DNA as a church is rooted in campus ministry.”
Megan became a Christian in 2010 at Washington State University through the influence of Impact Campus Ministries. Prior to that time, Megan described herself as an atheist who did not understand how much God really loved her. It wasn’t until she was locked out of her car at a church that she went inside and heard the good news that began to transform her life.
Training as an intern with Impact Campus Ministries gave Megan a fresh understanding of leadership and the larger mission field of the world.
“I followed God’s guidance and now I serve on staff with a public nonprofit in Portland, Oregon,” Megan said. “Our mission is to ‘love people because people matter.’ We do this through building relational environments that foster transformation, mobilization, and relief. We offer limited services, such as food, foot washing, clothing, and medical and dental assistance to the houseless population in Portland.”
Perry’s senior year at Pennsylvania State University was capped with a degree in electrical engineering. As president of the Christian Student Fellowship campus group, Perry wanted to make an eternal difference. Some years later, early in 2006, he was assigned to be Protestant chaplain of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. He was excited about the privilege of giving the benediction at the spring graduation ceremony, because President George W. Bush would be the speaker—the first time a sitting president had ever spoken at graduation in Kings Point.
“My role that day was to ask God’s blessing on the graduates as they went forth into the world and to shine the way forward for our graduates and the academy as a whole,” Perry said. “I also felt strongly that I needed to offer part of my prayer as an intercession for our president, as all of our graduates would become members of our military, and he was the commander in chief. He would be making decisions that would directly affect all of their lives.”
Perry’s prayer was short and to the point. He simply asked that God would continue to bless the new graduates, as well as the academy, and that “our Lord’s hand would continue to be upon President Bush and his family as he leads our great nation during these difficult times.”
When Perry finished and turned back toward his seat, President Bush stood, shook his hand, and thanked him for the heartfelt prayer. Perry sensed that the president was not just mouthing the words; he genuinely coveted prayers on his behalf.
“Little did I know that my involvement in a campus ministry during my junior year at Penn State would help me to understand God’s direction for my life,” Perry said. “The friendship and encouragement of that close-knit fellowship of college students helped me say yes to the call to become a Navy chaplain and later have the opportunity to personally pray for (and with) the president of the United States.”
Gary Hawes, former executive director of the Michigan His House Christian Fellowship, says, “We are blessed to have over one hundred of our alumni serving in full-time vocational ministry.” He added that two alumni of this ministry now serve as state legislators.
A student from Springfield, Missouri, who came to Christ through his involvement with Campus House there, now serves on the mission field in Southeast Asia blending entrepreneurship and missions.
Another from Arkansas became an Olympic athlete in 2004, competing in the high jump. His involvement with the Christ on Campus organization gave him a solid foundation to handle the stress and unique pressures found in the athletic arenas.
If space allowed, we could share many more stories of campus ministry grads becoming Bible college professors, missionaries in Asia, South America, and Europe, and elders and deacons in countless churches.
Our vision in developing spiritual leaders is to demonstrate a lifestyle that yearns for and desires to please God. The ultimate challenge for all of us is to faithfully live the Great Commission. To embrace a God-
given leadership vision means living to make a difference in someone’s life with lasting results.
Leaders aren’t born, they emerge from the crowd and are mentored to become culture shapers. Campus ministers continue to be in a key place in our society to serve as disciple-makers in mentoring students to shine as lights as leaders throughout our world.
Buzz Roberts of Pleasant Gap, Pennsylvania, serves as president of the Association of College Ministries, a fellowship of more than 120 campus ministries worldwide. Greg Swinney of Kearney, Nebraska, serves as ACM’s national representative.