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 is another story that will inform and inspire you to recognize the need and value of reaching tomorrow’s leaders today.
Robert Wilder was pursuing graduate theological work in seminary. He continued traveling and speaking in churches and nearby colleges and was successful in helping another 600 students decide to become foreign missionaries. In July, 1888, fifty volunteers met again at Mt. Hermon in Northfield, MA. They recognized that more organization was needed if they were not to lose the benefits of the student movement that had begun. They noticed the tendency to lose their unity, and a decline in passion and focus.
The result was the formation of an executive committee of students from several cooperating movements. John. R. Mott, was chosen to represent the YMCA, Miss Nettie Moon the YWCA, and Robert Wilder the Inter-Seminary Missionary Alliance. Mott was asked to serve as the chairman. Their slogan, “the evangelization of the world in this generation,” became the watchword of the Student Volunteer Movement (SVM).
Read Matthew 28:18-20 and 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.
John R. Mott said later, “I can truthfully say that next to the decision to take Christ as the Leader and Lord of my life, the watchword has had more influence than all other ideals and objectives combined to widen my horizon and enlarge my conception of the Kingdom of God.”
The growth of the SVM in the next three decades was extraordinary. The majority of students to whom it was meaningful understood the responsibility of each generation to make the gospel known to all mankind in their generation. No one else can carry the eternal gospel message to a particular generation. Its own members alone can do it. The watchword then, became a call to obligation. The result was over 20,000 students leaving for foreign fields.
The SVM was a model of missions, but ceased to exist in 1969. The greatest student missionary movement in the history of the church was quietly laid to rest eighty-three years after the Spirit of God had moved so powerfully upon students at Mt. Hermon in 1886.
No human movement is perfect, and can be expected to endure forever. But the great heritage of the Student Volunteer Movement can still speak to students today. The foundational principles to keep in mind are: (1) emphasis on personal commitment to Jesus on a lifelong basis; (2) acceptance of the authority of the Word of God and emphasis on personal Bible study; (3) sense of responsibility to give the gospel of Jesus to the entire world in our generation; (4) reliance on the Holy Spirit; and (5) emphasis on student initiative and leadership to carry out these objectives.
Serve globally. Mott, Moon, and Wilder were college students at one time. What can happen on a campus and beyond when Jesus gets a hold of a student? Local transformation leads to global impact. All modern American mission work can be traced back to five college students, led by a student named Samuel J. Mills, who took shelter in a haystack and believed, “we can do it if we will” in 1806. Will you join us in praying for, mobilizing, and contributing to another student volunteer movement today?
Love is a verb,
©2019 by Mike Olejarz