“Without vision the people perish.” – Proverbs 29:18 KJV
The SoldOut Discipling Movement deeply believes in the evangelization of the nations in this generation! Therefore, this is a heartfelt appeal for all SoldOut Movement Churches to rededicate ourselves to Campus Ministry as this is the greatest “fountain of leadership” for our family of churches. Both in the past and in the present, the vast majority of our full-time ministry leaders come from this almost limitless source. Equally important are those leaders who are converted on campus, and upon graduation secure well-paying secular jobs and therefore give generously; lead Singles, Marrieds and Teen Bible Talks; and in time become our Shepherding and Deacon Couples.
To deepen our convictions about the importance of Campus Ministry, we need to remember the miracles of the Spirit in the past through this “fountain of leadership!” All through Scripture there are warnings against “spiritual amnesia:” “Be careful that you do not forget [spiritual amnesia] the Lord your God, failing to observe His commands…” (Deuteronomy 8:11) “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge… brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love… But if anyone does not have [these qualities in increasing measure], he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten [spiritual amnesia] that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” (2 Peter 1:5-9) According to this last Scripture, when we have “spiritual amnesia” we become “nearsighted” – we cannot see far, thus we are without vision – and “blind” to how God worked in the past! And God wants us to learn from the past – both bad and good! (Romans 15:4)
In the first century, Campus Ministry had a tremendous impact in Ephesus! “[Paul] took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the Word of the Lord.” (Acts 19:9-10) Paul focused on converting young, energetic students. Capturing the hearts of idealistic young people has sparked and sustained many movements such as the “Umbrella Revolution” presently in Hong Kong! Let us not have “spiritual amnesia” even about Jesus’ ministry where most if not all of His chosen apostles were teenagers or in their twenties!
In the modern era of the 1950’s and 1960’s, the Mainline Churches of Christ encouraged their college age students to attend “Christian Colleges.” They reasoned their college sons and daughters would be protected from the world and find other Christians to marry. Little focus was given to the secular campuses. However, near a few secular campuses in the Bible Belt, Churches of Christ built “Christian dorms,” and a few of these “Campus Ministries” even offered accredited Bible courses to attract students to Christ. Though good-hearted, these efforts had little evangelistic impact.
In 1967 in Gainesville, Florida, the 14th Street Church of Christ (later renamed the Crossroads Church of Christ) initiated a pioneering effort to evangelize the University of Florida. Chuck Lucas (later assisted by Sam Laing) spearheaded this endeavor. Their efforts included calling each student to “total commitment,” counting the cost before baptism, small group evangelistic Bible studies on campus (“Soul Talks”), and emphasizing “one another passages” in paired-up relationships called “prayer partners.” These heroic efforts were propelled by a vision to put dynamic Campus Ministries on every campus in America! Baptized and then inspired to go into the ministry were Sam & Geri Laing, Tom & Kelly Brown, Bruce & Robyn Williams, Martin & Carmen Bentley, Elena & me and many others. In all about 70 campuses in America were either affected directly or indirectly by this pioneering ministry.
As time passed into the later 1970’s, these young zealous ministers (collectively called the “Crossroads Movement” or the “Total Commitment Movement”) were able to build vibrant Campus Ministries by baptizing scores of students. However, the majority of the other segments of these campus congregations were often very uncommitted to Christ. This brought conflict, divisions and factions between the College Ministry and the rest of the “members of the church.” In some cases, church splits occurred. These discouraging and disorienting challenges were likewise faced by Elena & me in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Charleston, Illinois.
In 1979, God placed a dream into the hearts of the Lexington (Massachusetts) Church of Christ (later renamed the Boston Church of Christ). Desperate, because of dwindling to 60 members with only two baptisms in the previous three years, the elders invited Elena & me to lead the ministry. We came with a radical vision that everyone – seniors, marrieds, singles, teens not just college students – should be “totally committed” to Christ! On June 1, 1979, 30 “would-be disciples” gathered in the Gempels’ living room to make this dream a reality. In the next 12 months, the other 30 uncommitted members left one-by-one but were replaced by 103 fired-up, totally committed baptized disciples mostly off such campuses as Harvard, MIT, Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts. The dream of a church of only “sold-out disciples” had become a reality! In the ensuing years, with this foundation of only disciples and a fountain of leadership from the campuses, unheard of multiplication occurred! In 1981, the Lord blessed us with 170 baptisms; in 1982 – 250 baptisms; in 1983 – 322 baptisms; in 1984 – 402 baptisms; in 1985 – 594 baptisms; in 1986 – 703 baptisms; in 1987 – 818 baptisms; and in 1988 – 1,227 baptisms!
In 1981, sensing that sending out our newly trained ministry couples from the Boston Campus Ministry into existing congregations was “pouring new wine into old wineskins” ruining the “old wineskins” (churches) and the “new wine” (young ministers), God put on our hearts a radical plan “to plant” new congregations. (Mark 2:21-22) Each planting would consist of a ministry couple and a small group of young disciples which we believed could evangelize the entire city no matter the size of the population. (Acts 5:28) As we began to target the mega-cities of the world and as we began to study out world missions in the Scriptures, God placed the revolutionary dream into our hearts to “evangelize the nations in a generation!” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
It was noted by both the Mainline Churches and the Crossroads Movement Churches that the Boston Ministries far outgrew them. Also important was that in 1985, Chuck Lucas resigned from the ministry for personal reasons. Therefore, from 1985 to 1988, about 2,000 college age and young single Christians came to the Boston Church and her plantings for training to be in the ministry and/or to be on mission teams from mostly the Crossroads Campus Churches. They realized that a congregation composed of only the “totally committed” of all ages was God’s plan. This “young remnant” helped to multiply the Boston Movement Churches even more rapidly. By 2001, the Boston Movement (renamed the International Churches of Christ – “ICOC” – in 1994) had multiplied into almost 400 churches composed of 135,000 disciples in 171 nations!
As the ICOC returned in 2002 to a “more Mainline Church of Christ theology” which led to its demise and scattering by God in 2003, the Holy Spirit began to “gather a new movement” in Portland, Oregon! Sensing that the Portland Church was the “only” congregation composed of “totally committed” disciples in discipling relationships, during the next three years disciples would move to Portland from 26 different states from around America! So when the SoldOut Movement officially began in October 2006, quite different from the 1980’s, God brought together an “older remnant” composed for the most part of married couples thus making the need for an abundantly fruitful Campus Ministry all the more important to once again be a “fountain of leadership.”
Already, many of our newly planted congregations in the SoldOut Movement are being led by those influenced by the SoldOut Movement Campus Ministries: Tyler & Shay Sears in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Ricky & Coleen Challinor in Portland, Gabe & Stephanie Reed in Eugene, Jared & Rachel McGee in Mexico City, Mike & Chenelle Patterson in Gainesville, Joel & Courtney Parlour in Syracuse, Richie & Elizabeth McDonnell in Santa Barbara, Princeton & Joy George in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, and Coltin & Mandee Rohn in Boston. Especially noteworthy is that the majority of the SoldOut Movement World Sector Leaders are campus converts from our former fellowship! Truly Campus Ministry is the foremost “fountain of leadership” for the SoldOut Movement!
Given that 2014 is “The Year of Prayer,” my plea to the SoldOut Movement’s over 3,000 disciples in 55 congregations in 26 nations is:
- Pray for all fulltime Congregational Leaders to be intricately involved in the Campus Ministry. In 1979, when Elena & I moved to Boston we began a new Campus Ministry Ministry every few months: June 1979 – Boston University; September 1979 – MIT; January 1980 – Harvard; May 1980 – Northeastern University. In time, some of our students began Campus Ministries on all the other campuses. In 1981 when our first child was born, Elena continued to go to the campus and reach out to college women. However, in 1982 when the second baby came, we started a Bible Talk for Marrieds at our home on Monday nights. I continued to lead the Harvard Campus Ministry – by being on the campus five days a week – until mid-1985 when my traveling to other churches would not allow this schedule. Though Elena, the kids and I would have dinner together every night, I still led two Campus Bible Talks on Tuesday evening – one at 7:30PM and the other at 10:00PM as mentioned before till 1985. In 2003, with only 25 members at Elena’s & my first midweek leading the Portland Church, we had only four college students and one baptized teen – Coleen (Untalan) Challinor! Now, Elena at almost 48 and me at 49, once more “hit the campus” five days a week for several hours each day to create a “fountain of leadership” for the Portland Church! Key to building the Portland 1. Portland Campus Ministry – which directly and indirectly gave birth to all the SoldOut Movement Campus Ministries – was having a “Solomon’s Colonnade” where Christians could always find us and where we studied the Bible with many non-Christians. (Acts 5:12)
- Pray for our Teen Ministries to multiply. When Elena & I became the leaders of the LA Church in January 1990, there were 154 members, only one of whom was a teen. Since we already had a seasoned fulltime Campus Ministry Couple, Elena & I began the Teen Ministry with a young woman named Vicky. By 2001, the LA Teen Ministry numbered over 1,000 baptized teens! After converting the SAT tutor that worked with our children, he began to work with the high school junior and senior disciples “to up” their SAT scores so that they could be admitted into prestigious campuses where we did not have disciples. Thus we started new Campus Ministries through the fruit of the Teen Ministry.
- Pray for Friday Campus Devotionals to be led by Campus Interns and actual college students while the “Lead Congregational Couple” is present to shepherd the students. Since Bible Talk and Sunday mornings are geared to reach out to non-Christians, Devotionals are a time for college disciples to enjoy an evening of intense fellowship, singing, sharing and Bible Study to their deepen the love for the Lord and between the students.
- Pray for every college student to become a Bible Talk Leader while still in college. Therefore pray for more “All Women’s Bible Talks” so that our dear young sisters can teach! Though “commuter campuses” must have their Bible Talks during the day, pray as well for the more established campuses to have “Dorm Bible Talks,” “Fraternity Bible Talks” and “Sorority Bible Talks,” because these are best led at night thus stretching the number of hours that a fulltime worker can evangelize and teach non-Christians.
- Pray for unpaid interns to be identified while still in college. As well, pray for some of these gifted students to be “paid part-time” by the church so they do not need to have a job that “steals” their precious time and energy. Pray that upon graduation, all of these unpaid and part-time interns can be paid fulltime as they are “very inexpensive” at this point in their lives.
- Pray for all of our Lead Congregational Ministers to complete at least their ICCM Master’s Degree which will allow them to have an ICCM Extension Campus in their city. This will augment the already awesome daily discipling our campus students receive by strengthening their Bible knowledge and thus their convictions. The “ICCM – Toronto” is already inspiring our Toronto disciples!
- Pray that every one of our students will not only be able to attend the Annual Global Leadership Conference in LA, but at least one time during their “college years” each of them will be able to participate in the European Missions Conference in London, the Central & South American Missions Conference in Santiago, or the first African Missions Conference in June 2015 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast! These conferences not only expand our students’ visions, but often seeing literally millions of lost souls in a distant land allows the Spirit to stir their hearts to heed the call of God for leadership in His Kingdom!
In closing, let us not get “spiritual amnesia” about God’s hand working through the Campus Ministry in the first century as well as in the 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s, 1990’s and the 2000’s! For many of us “remnant (veteran) disciples,” do not allow “spiritual amnesia” to take away the joy of salvation that you first felt in college. “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering… because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” (Hebrews 10:32-34) Let us support with our hearts and our finances this renewed focus on the Campus Ministry. For the younger disciples, “Remember your leaders [do not get spiritual amnesia], who spoke the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7) You too need to appreciate that Campus Ministry has been a fountain of leadership for God’s Movements in the past, and prayerfully, God will use these zealous disciples to multiply His Movement into all 196 nations in this generation! And to God be all the glory!