In nearly 30 years of ministry as a pastor, layperson, and college minister, I have received enough letters, e-mails, and advertisements on church renewal to wallpaper every room in my house. Programs, conferences, Sunday School curriculum, and an endless stream of Christian literature all promise me and my church and ministry that if I just subscribe and adopt to their particular event or agenda that my congregation will be transformed. I won't take the time here to expound the theology that is behind this, and the biblical doctrines that are ignored in their presentations. Instead, I want to state why the churches I have been a part of have experienced renewal and transformation in two words: college students.
There is nothing that can bring new life and vitality to a church than the presence of college students who have taken hold of the redemptive events of Jesus, experienced the touch of the Holy Spirit, and see the sovereignty of the Father in directing their lives. They are truly a unique breed of people who, with their boundless energy and optimism born of their walk with God, proclaim to us Christians in the church that the Lord of Creation is still active and involved in doing what God does best: changing lives for his glory and honor. College students bring a spiritual dynamic to a local congregation that encourages an examined life of prayer, confession, repentance, and obedience. It is no wonder that the revivals and renewals of church history have been influenced and numbered by college students and twenty-something believers. George Whitefield, perhaps the greatest revivalist in history, was 19 years old when he began preaching and leading hundreds to Christ. Even a cursory look at the scriptures point to the vast contribution of young men and women to salvation history. David, Daniel, Mary the mother of Jesus, Jeremiah, Stephen, and Timothy were all young people who were mightily used of God and had a piety far exceeding the older religious establishment.
It would behoove us in the church to place less hope in our programs and plans and to be intentional about giving greater attention to reaching college students. In a later blog post I will address the importance of mentoring students in the church. But for now, consider the vast possibilities and opportunities the church has in students, and make every effort in prayer and ministry to spiritually form them in Christ. If we are looking for renewal and revival in the church, we need look no further than the 17 million college students currently enrolled in universities around the country, and rely on the Holy Spirit to change them and use them to their full potential as believers.