Louisville—A shift in the way Kentucky Baptists take the gospel to colleges and universities has led to an explosion in the number of new Christians on campuses across the state.
Kentucky Baptist Convention Collegiate Ministry Strategist Brian Combs said nearly 1,000 students made professions of faith in Christ over the past year. Of those decisions, Combs said, 876 were made on campuses and 110 were off campus, primarily in nearby churches.
Numbers began to rise when the KBC’s campus missionaries, who are assigned to nearly every college and university in the state, shifted their strategies to equip and empower churches to engage the colleges and universities.
“We also shifted from a general approach to the campus to an affinity approach that seeks to gather groups according to affinity and present the gospel in a contextually relevant manner,” Combs said.
Combs said the KBC has made intentional evangelism on campuses a major focus under the leadership of Executive Director Paul Chitwood, who is in his third year of leading Kentucky’s largest religious organization with some 750,000 members.
“No longer are college ministry workers the group that no one knows what to do with,” Combs said. “We are increasingly being recognized as missionaries on the front lines of one of the darkest and most strategic mission fields in the world.”
Some studies have shown that up to 95 percent of college students in Kentucky don’t have a relationship with Jesus.
“This is an environment where people are literally like sheep without a shepherd,” Combs said. “They are wandering, jumping from one thing to another in search of peace. Their definition of truth is based on whatever the most socially popular view is at the time.”
Often, Combs said, college students see Christianity as outdated, and they reject Christian principles. Yet, research also points to as much as 85 percent of students, faculty, staff and administrators wanting to develop spiritually.
“This is an open door for us,” he said. “Higher education realizes that the spiritual component to education is missing. This component is what helps students connect what they are learning to their lives. It brings the practical to the classroom. Christians in all spheres of influence within higher education and any business or entity that is connected to higher education have a tremendous opportunity to engage and teach Christian principles.”
267 commitments at WKU
During one evening last year at Western Kentucky University, 267 college women committed their lives to Christ.
More than 600 sorority members gathered for what was billed as “Girls’ Night Out,” an evangelistic event organized by WKU Campus Missionary Tommy Johnson. He invited Christian speaker Marian Jordon Ellis, founder of Redeemed Girl Ministries, to share intimate stories of her life before Christ. She talked frankly about searching for love and acceptance through sex and alcohol, and how those things left her feeling empty inside.
Then, Ellis told the ladies, she accepted Christ and her life was forever changed.
More churches engaged
Combs said people are drawn to the light of Jesus when biblical principles are presented in a relevant manner.
“We have a tremendous resource among us in the young adults of Christ’s body,” Combs said. “When we equip them and empower them to be light in dark places, they are willing to respond—and God uses them to help people encounter Jesus.”
Essentially, the KBC is emphasizing the need for local churches to get engaged on campuses.
“The support from churches, in unison with a mission strategy provided by our campus missionaries, is a powerful combination,” Combs said. “It’s the same method we have used for years on the international mission field. We are merely bringing it home and empowering God’s people to work together for His greater glory.” (KBC)