The Nations on Campus: Evangelism and Your Time in College

by Derek Brown

College is a unique time in a Christian’s life. For those who leave home to live at school, it is a season of unprecedented freedom. Where you once were under the immediate supervision of your parents, you are now allowed to come and go with relative autonomy. Although you are still in a preparation phase, you are learning how to navigate life as a young adult and will, in just a few short years, be expected to make your own way in the world by providing for your own needs and bearing the various responsibilities of adulthood. 

The Spiritual Challenge of College
As you learn how to traverse the terrain of adulthood during college, you will quickly discover that your profession of Christ—if you are not attending a distinctively Christian school—is not happily embraced by many of your fellow students or professors. Yes, folks you meet at your new school may treat you with kindness, and they may respect your right to believe what you want to believe—at least I hope they do. But you will quickly realize that biblical Christianity—as a worldview and in its truth claims—is either vigorously opposed or met with utter indifference by your fellow students and teachers. 

Indeed, if you are attending a public school or a non-Christian private school, you will encounter direct challenges to your faith on a weekly if not daily basis. These challenges will occur in and out of the classroom; they will come from professors and students; through books and class notes; from teammates and roommates. The challenges to your faith will come in the form of sophisticated philosophical arguments and sensual temptations, skeptical opinions and pressure from friends.

The challenges to your faith will come in the form of sophisticated philosophical arguments and sensual temptations, skeptical opinions and pressure from friends.

For these reasons, I make sure to tell prospective college students that they need to find and join a local, solid, Bible-teaching church as soon as they step on campus (and preferably before they get to school). If a Christian college student fails to locate faithful Christian fellowship and accountability while in college, it is almost inevitable that they will become ensnared in sin and spiritual compromises they never thought possible, perhaps even leaving Christ altogether.

But for those who make it a priority to tether themselves to the local church and Christian fellowship, college can be a time of tremendous spiritual growth. As you are anchored to truth by weekly preaching and discipleship, you will be able to not only withstand the torrents of attacks on your faith; you will also be prepared to uphold Christ as Lord and Savior to your friends, roommates, classmates, teammates, and even your professors.

College is a Stewardship
As the title indicates, it is my hope that this article will be a means to help you to make evangelism a priority while you are in college and to equip you for this important task. (We’ve also provided several other resources on this website to aid you in your evangelism endeavors.)

I love college students, and I long to see the gospel pervade college campuses throughout the country. In fact, I see college campuses as a particularly fruitful mission field. Why do I believe this? Because college is a time of transition into adulthood for young men and women. Many students are thinking seriously—perhaps for the first time—about the important things of life. Undistracted from the pressures that attend careers and family, students have time for extended reflection on weighty matters like personal identity, religion, spirituality, politics, marriage, relationships, the course of history, and so on.

Yes, there are many students who avoid thoughtful engagement with these matters, choosing instead to push through classes on their way to the next party (and eventually to graduation and a well-paying career). Nevertheless, the very nature of the college environment coupled with this transitional phase of life creates unique opportunities for evangelism.

In his good providence, God has brought students from all over the world to American college campuses. It is very likely that you will attend class with, study alongside, and compete against fellow students from across the globe during your time in college. For Christians, this is particularly exciting. Think of it. Those who come to the United States for college, hear the gospel, and believe in Christ will take the truth of the gospel back to their homeland to share with others. Evangelism at college, then, taps directly into the church’s desire to see the good news of Christ reach to the ends of the earth. Granted, this unique opportunity to disciple the nations while they are in America doesn’t take away from our responsibility to go out into the world to preach the gospel (see Matt 28:18-20). Nevertheless, we should recognize the uniqueness of this present prospect to reach the nations while they are among us and make the most of it.

Even the opportunity to share Christ with those who have been born and raised in the U.S. is unique. If you attend college in, say, Arizona, you will likely meet students from several other cities and states. If they hear the gospel and believe in Christ, they will take the gospel back to their homes in neighboring towns and regions. Evangelism on college campuses, therefore, leads to a geographically broad influence for the gospel almost immediately because students, especially those who live in the United States, will return to their homes and families many times during their four-year college career. When else in your life will this be the case? Only in eternity will we see the full impact of faithful campus evangelism on the greater world. My hope and prayer is that God will enable you to see the mission field that lies just outside your dorm room (and often inside your dorm room!).

What this means for Christian college students is that your time in college is a stewardship. When Jesus told his disciples the parable of the talents, he wanted to impress upon his followers the importance of making the most of the gifts, resources, and opportunities he had entrusted to them (see Matt 25:14-30). Those who “invested” the resources he had given them received the glorious commendation: “Well done good and faithful servant.” The one who didn’t—claiming that he thought Jesus was a hard and unjust master—was not merely rebuked: he was consigned to eternal judgment.

This passage does not teach that we are saved by our works or by our efforts to multiply Christ’s resources. We are saved by God’s grace in Christ alone (Eph 2:8-10; Rom 4:5; Titus 3:4-7). Rather, Jesus’ parable of the talents teaches that those who have true faith in and love for Jesus will make good use of the gifts, resources, and opportunities he has given them. Part of this stewardship is working hard in your classes to make the most of your education so that you might become a productive member of society. Another part of this stewardship is using your time in college to reach out to the lost with the good news of Jesus Christ.

A Word to Christian College Students
While this article is most immediately applicable to students attending non-Christian colleges, I believe it is useful to students in Christian colleges as well. First, even if you attend a Christian college that requires a profession of salvation and a letter of recommendation from one’s pastor, you will find unbelievers among you. These students need the gospel. Indeed, some of the most difficult people to reach with the gospel are those who believe they are already saved.

Second, it’s possible that you are attending a college that is Christian in name only. If this is the case, then there will surely be unbelievers at your school who need to hear the gospel. In this kind of scenario, your situation is not much different than a student who is at a public university.

I pray that you will see the necessity of embracing a holistic approach to evangelism. It’s not enough to walk in godliness and never open your mouth to share Christ, nor is it helpful to get the gospel right but walk in religious hypocrisy. Constantly hammering away at sin while never explaining God’s grace won’t draw people to a merciful Savior. But only talking about God’s love and never speaking of the Creator’s holiness won’t produce young men and women who are genuinely repentant over their sin. Repeating favorite Bible verses but ignoring your friends’ important questions will impede evangelistic effectiveness; however, so will camping out on every philosophical, historical, or scientific objection to the truth of Christianity while failing to boldly proclaim the gospel. In your evangelistic endeavors, strive to keep together what Scripture keeps together: grace and truth, life and doctrine, proclaiming the gospel and reasoning with unbelievers from the Scriptures.

In your evangelistic endeavors, strive to keep together what Scripture keeps together: grace and truth, life and doctrine, proclaiming the gospel and reasoning with unbelievers from the Scriptures.

In everything, depend entirely upon God in prayer (John 15:5; 1 Thess 5:17). Unless God grants salvation, your fellow students will remain in unbelief (see Phil 1:29; 2 Tim 2:24-26). They need the powerful grace of God to raise their hearts from death to life (Eph 2:1-8). Follow the example of the apostle Paul and pray regularly for your friends and your fellow students (Rom 10:1). This prayer should come before you share the gospel (Col 4:1-6), during your conversation (John 15:5), and after, as you ask God to water and protect the seed you just planted (Matt 13:18-23). Our God is good, and He loves to answer prayers for the salvation of the lost.

Pray. Plead. Share. Proclaim. Rejoice. And boldly bring Christ on campus. 

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