Influencing the Leaders of Tomorrow: A Report from a Campus Minister

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As a campus minister with Power to Change (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), I have always been inspired by our founder Bill Bright’s visionary statement of “Win the campus today, reach the world tomorrow.” I still ponder and pray about these words almost every time I step out in faith to share the Gospel with a student, lead a discipleship group or host an apologetics themed outreach on campus. After 14 years of campus ministry I have had the privilege of seeing a growing number of students’ lives be transformed by the Gospel, yet to be honest, outside of hosting some well-attended events such as a debate or high-profile guest speaker, we are still trusting God to win our campuses beyond a few hundred new believers each year.

During the busy first week of school a few years ago, I had a short and friendly conversation with a Christian faculty friend in the hallway. After welcoming each other back to school my friend surprised me by asking if there was a way he could get more involved with sharing the Gospel with students this year beyond occasionally speaking at our weekly student meeting.

Then, I ran into two other professor friends who asked me almost the same question later in the week, including one who startled me by asking “Gary, how can I tell my students about Jesus without getting fired?”

I was really encouraged that the few Christian Faculty that I knew were all asking for opportunities to share their faith. I was convinced that God was up to something. After praying for wisdom, I felt led to host a luncheon for my faculty friends entitled: ”5 Simple Ways To Share Your Faith… Without Getting Fired!”

I was encouraged that five Christian faculty members and two Grad students joined me for lunch where we discussed and prayed about how we could reach our campus together. At the conclusion of our meeting my faculty friends challenged me once again. “As professors, we like to speak, we like to teach, if we were to put together a free class about the Christian faith, do you think students would come?  I thought it was a great idea, and it was worth a try.

G&R2

Students eagerly await for God & Reason to start at the University of Waterloo. January 2013.“I’ve been overwhelmed by the interest of students; it far exceeded my expectations”
– Dr Robert Mann, Professor of Physics, University of Waterloo 

We then stepped out in faith and started  “Christianity 101” (now called God & Reason) which is a free, not-for-credit course, taught by local Christian professors. The 8 week long apologetics-themed course is designed to address the biggest questions surrounding the Christian Faith that students are asking today, including Does God Exist? Are Science & Faith in Conflict? And How Could A Good God Allow Evil? Each class consists of a 30 – 40 min lecture by a  local Christian professor, followed by an open Q & A time, which often leads to many lengthy discussions. We also provide discussion groups for students who want to dig even deeper into the topics.

We have all been very encouraged by the enthusiastic response as the class has been well-attended by students from many faith and no-faith backgrounds with deep questions that their secular schools cannot provide adequate answers for.  We are seeing a growing number of students make personal decisions to follow Jesus as a result of attending God & Reason.

We have also been very encouraged by the growing number of Christian faculty that have been inspired to teach God & Reason on their campus. Last January, four highly respected Christian faculty members taught the class at the University of Waterloo where they were overwhelmed by over 240 students attending their lecture series. We have also started God & Reason at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford this past September through the help of local Christian professors.

G & RI recently spoke to a Power to Change Colleague in Toronto who has also been inspired by what God has been doing through Christian professors and has since started a faculty ministry at the University of Toronto. He also informed me that they are now making plans to teach God & Reason at the University of Toronto in the Spring of 2014.

It’s been amazing to see God bless these steps of faith. The biggest blessing has come from seeing my professor friends regularly share their faith with their students as they boldly invite their students out to God & Reason or to one of our guest lectures. Participating in God & Reason and taking an active role in sharing their faith has given my professor friends countless opportunities to answer students’ spiritually-related questions after our class and even during their office hours.

Through these initiatives God has begun to unfold in me a fresh vision for Campus Ministry that, I believe, could be one of the most exciting, challenging, and fruitful strategies for reaching our campuses and truly change our world for Christ: Partnering with Christian university professors.

 

The Power and Influence of Professors

In his missionary journeys, Paul the apostle followed a predictable pattern:

1. Arrive at a new city
2. Find the local synagogue
3. Tell people about Jesus.

The synagogue was one of the centers of cultural influence in Paul’s day. If you wanted to reach as many people as possible for Jesus and transform the culture in the process, the synagogue was a good place to start. Today, universities have replaced synagogues as a center of cultural influence. To put it simply, the most influential people on our universities are the professors who teach there.

Over the course of a standard 4-year degree, every single student spends around 2,000 hours in a classroom, being taught by professors and shaped by the worldview and values (often anti-Christian) that each of their professors holds. When you add textbooks, homework assignments, papers to be written, and so on, we begin to see the incredible influence university professors have on the shaping of our culture. This influence may be one of the most significant reasons why over 50% of  professing Christian students fall away from their faith by the time they graduate with a four-year degree.

Here are a few more reasons why I believe Professors are some of the most influential people in our culture today:

  • Professors are the permanent fixtures on a campus. Over a lifetime of teaching, each professor will influence thousands of students from many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
  • They teach the future teachers of all the secondary and elementary school children in our country.
  • They teach the future leaders of virtually every aspect of society—politicians, lawyers, businessmen, doctors, entertainers and so on.
  • They regularly influence our laws and public policy. The “experts” who offer their opinions on TV news-talk shows are usually professors.
  • University professors make up less than 1⁄2% of our population—yet through their teaching, writing and research they ultimately shape our world.

 

Christian Profs and the Secular Academy

Being a Christian professor in the secular academy is a unique, yet challenging, platform for ministry. A significant part of my new role in working with professors is to encourage them to to step out in faith and create opportunities for them to share the Christian worldview through the the connection between faith and scholarship.

Even though Christian professors may be a minority on secular universities like SFU, I have come to realize that there are a number of Christian professors who deeply desire to be involved in God’s kingdom work on their campus.

I feel very privileged to get to know and partner with so many exceptional Christian professors who have a great passion to strategically influence their academic community with the love and truth of Jesus Christ.

 

Apologetics Canada Networking Lunch for Christian Faculty

We are looking forward to partnering with Apologetics Canada by hosting a networking lunch for Christian faculty during the upcoming Apologetics Canada Conference on Saturday March 8th, at the Willingdon Church location. This casual luncheon will allow Christian faculty to connect with faculty from other campuses and share what God has been doing on their campus. For more information, contact Gary Stevenson or Steve Kim at [email protected]

More details will be posted on the Apologetics Canada Conference website soon.

 

DSC_0513 - Version 2Gary is on staff with Power to Change at Simon Fraser University and at the University of the Fraser Valley.

If you would like more information about being a part of our growing network of Christian Professors or God & Reason please contact: Gary at [email protected]

Or go to: Facebook.com/SFUCLI

 

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