Mike Duggins has served on the staff of Christian Leadership Ministries for 13 years. He is currently the director of CLM's field staff. He and his wife have three children, and live in Carrollton, TX.
Inviting a group of students over to theirhome didn't seem like a big affair to Byron and Jackie Johnson. As a sociology professor, Byron had a lot of contact with students, both in and out of class. Byron commented, "I invited my students to join our family as we grilled burgers, played basketball, and just spent a fun evening together as a family. . . . I wanted them to see our kids, and see how Jackie and I interact with them and each other. . . . Many of my students had never been in the home of any professor, much less a Christian professor."
"One evening, a certain student hung around after the others had left," Byron continued. "She began talking about her background and home life and then she became choked up as she talked about how much fun our evening together had been.
"She went on to share, through tears, painful memories of her home life and how much love she felt she had missed."
Byron concluded, "Jackie and I agreed that evening to reach out in a special way to this student. We also determined to take every opportunity to reach out to my students with the love of Christ . . . if we didn't, who would?"
Byron and Jackie, and hundreds of other faculty members and their families, are having a great influence for Christ on the campus. And it's not by coincidence; all those faculty members share something in common: a calling as ambassadors of Christ to the university.
Just before he left the earth and ascended to the Father, Jesus said to his disciples, ". . . you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."
For the previous three years, Jesus had been building into the lives of those gathered on that hill top. He had patiently explained principles of the Kingdom of God. They had watched Him in his public ministry as He healed the sick, raised the dead, preached the good news, and debated His adversaries.
They had also watched Jesus' private life as He would often slip away to pray or share his heart with His few best friends. Jesus had demonstrated by His life how to be "salt and light" in the world; that is, how to make people thirsty for spiritual truth and then bring them the truth of the gospel.
As Jesus's disciples watched Him ascend, I wonder what they were thinking when they heard His final statement, "you shall be my witnesses."
For more than 15 years, we at Christian Leadership Ministries have been committed to building spiritual leaders on the campus. We do this through encouraging, assisting, and resourcing Christian professors as they seek to live out their Christian faith on campus, and as they touch the lives of their students and col leagues for Jesus Christ.
This edition of the Real Issue is dedicated to helping you, as a Christian professor, fulfill your ministry of being His witness on your campus with your students and your colleagues.
I am often asked, "What are the steps to beginning a Faculty Ministry on our campus?" Let me outline some thoughts (drawn from over 20 years of ministry with students and professors) that have been helpful to many faculty.
Perhaps the most important element in beginning or expanding a ministry among faculty on your campus is seeing the need for Christian professors to be "salt and light." It is vital that you and your colleagues capture a clear vision for the necessity of Christian professors visibly living out their faith on campus.
For example, we contacted the national office for each of the major evangelical Christian ministries working on university campuses in America (InterVarsity, the Navigators, Campus Crusade for Christ, Baptist Cam pus Ministries, and others). We asked the question, "How many students a year is your ministry exposing to the gospel?" The answers were surprising. When we complied all the numbers from all the ministries, it became apparent that TOGETHER we are only touching approximately 30% of today's 14.5 million college students with the gospel even once a year. That leaves over 70 percent going unreached each year.
Why is that so? I believe it is because an increasing number of students are working to pay for their educa tion and, therefore, come to campus each day, go to class and then immediately leave for work; their sched ule makes them essentially "untouchable" by more traditional means of campus evangelism. Consequently, it is imperative that Christian professors take every opportunity to give a brief testimony in class when appropriate. You and your Christian colleagues may be the only Christians on your campus who have con tact with many of the students in your classes. No one else can step in like you can and have a positive impact for Christ with your students.
Realizing that we are in a battle of ideas for the hearts and minds of students should move us to more actively express our faith on campus. Other voices on the campus define Christianity as bigoted, homophobic, intolerant, and anti-intellectual. Unless students and professors meet Christians who "break the mold" and reflect genuine Christianity, they are unlikely to seriously consider the claims of Christ.
Jesus had His sights set on reaching the entire world with the gospel, and yet He told his disciples to begin in Jerusalem; after that, they were to go to Judea, then Samaria and beyond. Those of us working on the campus would do well to remember that our objective is to help reach and change the entire worldbegin ning with our own campus. Even considering a single campus, it is wise to begin "close to home." Many faculty have begun simply by inviting several Christian colleagues to meet together and pray for their de partments. Later, they expanded their prayer focus to include their college, the entire university, and beyond. Ask God to show you how He might want to use you to touch the world beginning with your "Jerusalem."
The quality of the relationships between the Christian professors on a campus will usually determine the effectiveness of their collective ministry impact. Although various ministry activities or tools may be em ployed (lecture series, ads, banquets, etc.), lasting fruit will only come as the Christians on your campus develop committed, trusting relationships. Meeting weekly as a group of Christians to pray for each other and the campus can be a good first step to deeper relationships.
If you are beginning a new ministry or trying to revitalize an existing faculty ministry, let me strongly encourage you to focus your attention on building a core of committed Christian professors who can work together as a team, trust God together, and lead the ministry on campus.
There are so many possible ministry opportunities, how do you decide which ministry activities to do in any given year? How do you decide the order in which to do them? How do you keep from "burning out" your core of committed Christians?
The principle that brings order to the chaos of planning a ministry on campus is that of "involvement builds commitment." The most important question to ask is, "What spiritual commitments need to be built into our team of Christian professors?"
For example, as the year starts, you might plan some activities to help build commitment to deepening relationships. In that spirit, you could organize a pot-luck at a professor's home. Also, it's a good idea to schedule a regular (preferably weekly) meeting for prayer and encouragement. Later in the fall, the faculty could sponsor an activity to build commitment to evangelism. Such an outreach could be an advertisement in the school paper placed by the Christian professors, or a lecture or series of lectures. The outreach could be something as simple as inviting some international students to a professor's home to view the Jesus Film, a video on the life of Christ, followed by discussion and dessert.
Following an outreach, it would be a good idea to plan a few small-group studies to which you could invite those who indicated an interest in knowing more about Christ. Involvement in helping to "follow-up" those who indicate an interest in knowing Christ builds commitment to discipleship. In each of these cases, the Christian professors who participate in ministry activities grow in their commitment to the Lord and to being "salt and light" on campus.
Christian Leadership has assembled a team of professional field staff located on campuses around the country to assist you in starting a ministry on your campus or revitalizing one that already exists. In addition to our team of campus ministers, we also offer a wide-range of resources to help you reach your campus. These resources include:
Are there students and professors on your campus who could be considered an unreached people group? Are there some who are going untouched by more traditional means of Christian outreach? You and your col leagues have a unique opportunity to represent Christ to your campus community. You are the key to the work of God on your campus.