Perhaps the most critical period in the lives of young adults in America is their time in college. More habits are formed, more beliefs are challenged, and more long-term lifestyle choices like vocation and relationships are made during those four years than in any other stage of life.
The transition to college also presses questions of faith and spirituality on young adults. Some say that the current generation of college students is the largest since the 1960's, but the lowest percentage to grow up in church. And 90% of the students who were raised in the church may never return after their graduation from college. This means that during the college years, young adults are becoming disenfranchised with the church and with Jesus. This is a full-blown crisis.
It's easy to see that there are millions of Muslims worldwide who need to hear the Gospel, but it's also easy to forget about the prodigals and the unreached from our own churches and workplaces who may have just lived across the street from us.
Why are campus missionaries a vital part of the Gospel witness and the Great Commission? Here are five simple reasons:
In many ways, university campuses are like cities and nations. They have a population with their own culture, entertainment, traditions, and government. For most students, college is the first time they are "living on their own". It's a time where many partake in new experiences as they figure out who they are and what they really believe. Of course that's why drugs, alcohol, and immorality are rampant on college campuses. With little or no effectual witness of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, most college campuses could easily be added to a long list of unreached people groups on the earth today. This makes campus missions just as vital as overseas missions.
The students of today are the engineers, lawyers, politicians, and homemakers of tomorrow. Not everyone goes on to become a pastor or missionary, so campus ministries prepare students for a life of enduring, sincere faith in Jesus (Hebrews 12:1; 1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 4:7) and to be to "salt and light" (Matthew 5:13-14) in the specific vocation God has for them. Many say that the discipleship they received as a student was an extremely important part of their walk with the Lord Jesus, either because they came to faith or they were strengthened in the faith in college.
In college, students are exposed to new people and new ideas as they marinate in an intellectual atmosphere of human reason. College cultivates creativity, critical thinking, and communication skills, but is often extremely hostile towards faith in Jesus and the truths of Scripture. If there's any place where the wisdom of God and the foolishness of the cross of Christ must be preached (1 Corinthians 1:23-25), it's on our university campuses.
The loving care of parents and the tireless discipleship of the church's youth pastors - perhaps two of the main things that encourage high school students to remain faithful to Jesus - are both missing in college. The nurture of students therefore must extend beyond the boundaries of the home, the church, and the youth group gatherings. Campus missionaries are the hands and feet of Jesus and are critical for the church to remain "on campus" for college students.
Through the work of campus missionaries and local churches partnering together, students can emerge from their time in college with sincere faith in Jesus' work on the cross, a full hope in His return, and a "cross-shaped" lifestyle of love for God and neighbor. As students are discipled and bear the fruit of the Spirit, Jesus' glory is seen more brightly.
Though more could be added to this list, these are some of the reasons that I labor as a full-time campus missionary at Texas A&M University, America's 4th largest campus that enrolls nearly 60,000 students. Find out how you can stay connected and be a part of this crucial Gospel work on this page.
Did you come to know Jesus through a campus ministry while you were in college? What's your story? Leave a comment below!