By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
The Spirit of God is moving across college campuses in Maryland and Delaware. This week, over 230 college students are involved in one-on-one discipleship with either a Baptist collegiate staff person, or another mature Christian student. That’s ongoing and it’s in addition to Bible studies, outreaches, fellowships and other ministries. There is a huge emphasis on evangelism.
“We’re not making disciples if we’re not leading them to evangelize,” said Blake Hardcastle, director of Baptist Student Ministry at the University of Delaware.
Mike McQuitty, collegiate church planting missionary for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, said that as a collegiate ministry team, campus pastors intentionally model evangelism. Each staff member personally has goals to achieve, from witnessing to 50 to 250 students in a year. That’s individual or small group presentations, not mass evangelism, McQuitty clarified, adding, “That’s explaining the Gospel and asking for a response.”
Jen Saunders, campus minister, Towson University, said students are eager to be discipled and learn how to evangelize. Saunders said she leads students individually or as a group to introduce themselves to other students, engage them in conversation, get to know them and where they’re from, what they’re majoring in, and ask them about spiritual matters.
“We’ll ask, ‘What do you think about God? How do you think God sees the world today?’” Saunders said that question and answer opens the students’ eyes to acknowledging sin in the world.
“I asked one young woman, ‘Are you willing to give your life to Jesus?’ She said, ‘I think so. I just don’t know how to do it.’ I said, ‘Let’s pray together,” Saunders said. That day the student gave her life to Christ.
Recently, Hardcastle led a summer missionary training, modeling evangelism strategies, and pairing mature student believers experienced in doing outreach with those with a desire to learn. The students had over 70 conversations with others and 40 included sharing the Gospel.
“It’s really fun to expose them to this,” Hardcastle said. Students get excited at the possibilities.
“One student, ‘Charlie,’ had not been sharing his faith for some time and got reenergized. He began talking with a Middle Eastern Chemistry major who said he would read the Bible—if ‘Charlie’ would read the other’s ‘holy book.’”
Charlie agreed and the two young men meet at least once weekly to discuss what they’ve read. Hardcastle said the international student recently attended Bible study.
“What we’re finding, especially with international students, is that they’re far more open than if we were trying to share with them in their own country,” Hardcastle said.
McQuitty said the BCM/D Collegiate Ministries also participated in “Engage 24.” Southern Baptist collegiate ministry leaders developed “Engage 24” to help college students share the Gospel, developing a lifestyle of evangelism. The goal is for each student to share the Gospel with at least one person in a 24-hour period. Last year nationally, the response was overwhelming.
University of Maryland, College Park students decided to take it one step farther and extended it to the whole week. Students were challenged to share with at least one nonbeliever each day for seven days.
The collegiate ministry team committed to work towards 1,500 Gospel presentations from May 15, 2013, to May 15, 2014.
“As of January 15, we were eight months into the process, and we presented the Gospel 1,603 times,” McQuitty said.
For spring break 2014, Baptist Student Ministries’ leaders and students are grabbing their Bibles along with their boogie boards. They’re headed to Florida for annual evangelism training and to intentionally share the Gospel.
“They come back with a real commitment to share the Gospel on their own campuses,” McQuitty said.
The special strategic outreaches and trainings are besides the ongoing Bible studies, prayer meetings, one-on-one over coffee discussions, donut distributions, trash cleaning, and an assortment of other ongoing ministries to love, share Christ, disciple evangelize and be obedient to the Great Commission.
“The way we view evangelism is that it’s a larger view of discipleship—‘holistic’ discipleship,” Hardcastle said.
And it must be authentic, he stressed. “If I’m going to tell people Jesus is the most exciting thing in my life than He has to be the most exciting thing in my life. If I’m going to be declaring that I need him in my life. I need to have a vibrant walk.”
Will McRaney, BCM/D’s executive missional strategist said he is thrilled with the leadership of Mike McQuitty and the entire Baptist Campus Ministries team.
“In the midst a very strong cultural tide against the church and against owning and sharing your faith, these staff are leading these courageous students to intentionally and effectively share the Greatest News on earth with those around them,” he said.