How important is college ministry to the fulfillment of Jesus’ Great Commission?
I have served in college ministry since 1982. I believe reaching college students with the Person and message of Jesus is a critical endeavor worthy of the Church’s best efforts. Why? Jesus said to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). What better place to fulfill His Great Commission than the modern college and university campus? Here are three stories that will inform and inspire you to recognize the need and value of reaching tomorrow’s leaders today.
One. A college student named Royal G. Wilder had been influenced by the Haystack Prayer Meeting of 1806, and sailed to India in 1846 to serve in missions for 30 years. Royal returned to New Jersey in 1877 due to poor health. His son, Robert P. Wilder, born in India while his parents served as missionaries, enrolled at Princeton College (New Jersey) is 1881. In the fall of 1883, Royal and two of his friends heard Dr. A.J. Gordon speak in Hartford, CT about the work of God. Royal wrote, “The three of us returned to Princeton inspired to first, pray and work for revival in our college, and second, stir up missionary interest.” They met daily at noon for prayer. As a result, the Princeton Foreign Missionary Society was formed on campus. This group met on Sunday afternoons in the Wilder home to pray for missions. During the school year of 1885-1886, Royal and his sister, Grace, prayed together for “a widespread missionary movement in the colleges and universities of America.” God used Royal and Grace and their college friends to accomplish His purposes at Princeton and beyond.
Two. In the summer of 1885, Luther Wishard, National Director of the YMCA, persuaded the evangelist, Dwight L. Moody to plan a summer Bible Study conference for college students. In 1886, Dwight L. Moody hosted a month-long retreat for students at his school in Mt. Hermon, MA. 251 college students attended and a strong world missions awareness grew among the participants to take the gospel of Jesus around the world. By the end of the conference, 100 of the 251 students signed a declaration stating, “We, the undersigned, declare ourselves willing and desirous, God permitting, to go to the unevangelized portions of the world.” Their pledge became a watchword for them: “The evangelization of the world in this generation.” This was the beginning of the Student Volunteer Movement. While not students, Luther Wishard and D.L. Moody were used by God to accomplish His purposes, and the origins of the Student Volunteer Movement (SVM) are traced back to the 1886 Mt. Hermon conference.
Three. Two Princeton students, Robert Wilder and John Forman, were mobilized at the end of the 1886 Mt. Hermon conference to go on a nationwide speaking tour of American college campuses, recruiting for missions. Wilder and Forman traveled to over 160 colleges in 1886-1887. They passed on the Student Volunteer Movement (SVM) watchword, “The evangelization of the world in this generation,” adding that, “all should go, and go to all.” A businessman underwrote the cost of the nationwide tour. One result of the SVM’s influence was that by the time of World War I, 12,000 student volunteers had left America and went overseas. God used Royal and John, the Student Volunteer Movement, and business leaders to accomplish His purposes.
Serve globally. Royal, Robert, and Grace Wilder, and John Forman were college students at one time. Wishard, Moody, and business leaders resourced them. What can happen on a campus and beyond when Jesus gets a hold of a student? Local transformation leads to global impact.
Love is a verb,
©2019 by Mike Olejarz