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Posts by Steve Murrell

Blog / Book / Leadership

Leadership Is… (Part 1)

February 20, 2017

Fill in the BlankDUBAI—Complete this sentence: “Leadership is … ”

What word did you put in the blank?

Influence? Power? Responsibility? Authority? Position?

I imagine that unless we’re all reading the same leadership book at the same time, this fill-in-the-blank statement will yield a number of different responses—some helpful and others not so helpful; some accurate and others flawed.

When Jesus defined leadership to his disciples, he put it this way:

You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant (diakonos), and whoever would be first among you must be slave (doulos) of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:42-45)

In Jesus’ day, most people would have completed the sentence this way: “Leadership is authority.” That’s how the Romans did it. And that’s how many Jews in Jesus’ day thought about leadership (including his own disciples). To them, leadership was all about getting people to serve you.

Jesus claimed the exact opposite.

He argued that leadership is all about serving others. In fact, Jesus said that whoever wants to lead well needs to think and act like a servant.

This is what he told James and John when they asked him if they could sit at his right and left hand in heaven (Mark 10:35-37). They were looking for position and authority, and Jesus was trying to tell them that they had missed the point.

I think we often miss the point as well when we teach this story from the Bible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard pastors (including myself) explain this text by saying, “You see here, Jesus doesn’t rebuke James and John for wanting to be great, but rather, He redefines greatness by saying that we must become servants.”

What’s wrong with that explanation? Well, nothing really. But here’s what’s often implied by the pastor and understood by the listener in this illustration: service is the pathway to leadership. If you serve, then you’ll become great. Serve today, so that one day, you’ll lead.

In other words, service is the means, and leadership is the end.

As good as that sounds, it’s not what Jesus was saying. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what Jesus was trying to teach His disciples.

Jesus makes it clear that He came to serve. Serving and saving sinful humanity was an end in itself—not a means to leadership and greatness. For Jesus, leading was a means to serve. Not vice versa. When correcting the way the disciples thought about leadership, service, and greatness, Jesus suggested that their desire for greatness looked a lot like the desires of the oppressive Roman leaders of the day, wanting leadership for the sake of leadership. The disciples were thinking like people who grasp position and authority not to serve others, but to have others serve them.

What motivates you as a leader? Do you look more like Jesus, or James and John (in Mark 10)?

Over the next few weeks, we will explore what biblical leadership looks like, and think about how we can all lead more like Jesus.

[NOTE: This blog was adapted from my new book, The Multiplication Challenge. For further discussion on leadership and service, check out Chapter 1, entitled, “How to Think Like a Leader.”]

Blog / Missions

Why Every Nation Music?

February 15, 2017
Doxology

Worship leaders from Every Nation churches around the world participate in Every Nation Music’s live recording, “Doxology.”

SINGAPORE —As the president and cofounder of a global movement of churches, I think a lot about the future of our young movement.

Where will we be one hundred years from now? Will we stay faithful to the mission of establishing Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered, and socially responsible churches and campus ministries in every nation? Will the churches and campus ministries we are planting in 2017 still be around (and thriving) in 2117?

I am hopeful, but I am also aware that many movements and denominations that started well did not end well.

So how do we keep our focus, not only in our lifetime, but across multiple generations?

There are many helpful strategies—investing in theological education, building a healthy organizational structure, equipping and empowering emerging leaders, etc. But I want to focus on one strategy that is often overlooked: Writing songs that remind us of who God is, who we are, and what we are called to do.

Songs have the remarkable capability to speak across generations and centuries. Think about the hymn “Amazing Grace.” It was written by John Newton in 1779, and over two hundred years later, God is still using that song to communicate to people all over the world about the amazing depths of God’s grace. Songs like “Amazing Grace” put the core truths of Scripture into a form that is easy to remember and easy to pass on the next generation. Songs like these serve as both a check on theological drifts and fads and a reminder of historic Christian doctrines.

About one hundred years after Newton wrote “Amazing Grace,” many Christian denominations in America began questioning the doctrine of original sin and humanity’s need to be saved from God’s wrath. I wonder how many pastors during that time were reminded (and convicted) of the orthodox doctrine of salvation when singing these words:

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

In a similar way, my hope is that the music we produce in Every Nation Music will serve as a reminder to future generations of who God is and what He has called us to do.

My prayer is that if Every Nation churches in 2117 begin to lose their focus on the world and become churches that exist for themselves (rather than for mission), then this song would bring conviction and remind those singing it who we are called to be and what we are called to do:

Fill us up, pour us out
For a broken world that is far from you
Fill us up, pour us out
To be your hands and feet, O Lord.

Holy Spirit draw me near
Holy Spirit we are here
To seek your face and know your ways.

With your power, your presence,
We will go to the ends of the earth.
With your power, your presence,
They will know you’re the light of the world.

Blog / Church / Leadership

9 Tips for Young Preachers

February 6, 2017

pulpit-web-versionSAGADA, PHILIPPINES—The pastor of a large church recently asked me if I would be willing to provide sermon coaching to help his youth pastor. After a couple of phone conversations about ministry and preaching, I sent a stream-of-conscience email to the fledgling preacher that included nine somewhat random preaching tips.

1. INTRO. Concerning a sermon introduction, shorter is always better. Get to the text as fast as you can. Long introductions are rarely helpful, and often become a distraction. Move all non-essential stories, words, ideas from the intro, and if those stories, words, or ideas deserve to be in the sermon, you can always insert them after reading the text.

2. READ. While preaching, never speed-read your text, or shorten it by only reading a small portion. Read the whole text with passion, pauses, emotion, energy, and emphasis—with no comments until you finish reading the whole text. Let the text speak. Approach the reading of the text as the most important part of the sermon.

3. TEXT. After reading the text, preach the text. Stay in the text. Go deep in the text. Make sure everything you say is coming from the text. Remember that life-changing power is in His word, not in your words.

4. CONTEXT. Do not bore your audience with contextual trivia. While explaining the context is necessary, resist the temptation to say everything you now know about ancient Middle Eastern food, geography, and religion.  Delete every context comment that does not directly contribute to the your main point. Leave it on the editing floor, or save it for another message.

5. STOP. Prepare how you will stop your sermon, and plan to stop five minutes before your time limit. A rushed ending is not a good ending, so make sure you plan plenty of time to end properly.

6. HEART. It is more important for people to catch God’s heart about the text/topic than to remember your points. If they catch God’s heart, they will be transformed. If they remember your points, well, they actually won’t remember them, so focus on the heart.

7. LOVE. Effective preaching requires more than properly exegeting a text, it also demands a proper exegesis of the culture and community. In other words, good preaching requires loving the Bible and loving the people listening. Don’t preach until you are certain that you actually know, understand, love, and care for the people who will hear your sermon. Preaching is supposed to be a “speaking the truth in love” thing, therefore love is somewhat important.

8. ACTION. When we want to move people to action, especially evangelistic action, it is better to emphasize what Christ did for us rather than what we do for Him. My favorite seminary homiletics professor said it like this, “Preachers either guilt or gospel their people to action.” Since most church people already have more than enough guilt, preachers might want to pick the gospel option.

9. AUDIENCE. God is your ultimate audience. Preach to honor Him. Do not preach to please the senior pastor, the first-time visitor, the big tither, or the know-it-all critic. The best preaching is done to please the Lord, even if no one else is pleased.

 

Blog / Missions

Pro-Life & Pro-Refugee

January 31, 2017
March for Life 2017

Members of the pro-life movement attend the 2017 March for Life in Washington D.C.

HONOLULU, HAWAII—Today, I was planning on starting a multi-week blog series on leadership, but an interesting week in American and global politics changed my mind.

As most of you know, last week was President Trump’s first week in office as President of the United States. Some people praised Trump’s flurry of activity as he signed numerous executive orders, setting into motion many of his major campaign promises. Others criticized (and even demonized) the new president as he began do to many of the things they feared he would do.

My emotions were mixed on Trump’s first week.

Support for the Pro-Life Movement

On Monday, January 23, I was pleasantly surprised that one of his very first executive orders was the reinstatement of a pro-life policy, originally put in place by President Reagan, that bars US funding from global health NGOs that offer abortion services. Whether these actions came from sincere pro-life convictions or were a nod to his evangelical voters is unclear. But either way, I am hopeful that more policies like this will be signed into law under a Trump administration.

On Friday, January 27, we received more hopeful news from the White House. President Trump tweeted his support for the March for Life, a nod to thousands of pro-life advocates marching in Washington D.C. to advocate for the lives of the unborn.

The Immigration Ban

However, on the same day that Trump tweeted his support for the March for Life, he also signed an executive order on immigration that indefinitely banned Syrian refugees from coming to the United States and put a 120-day suspension on all refugee resettlement. In addition, the executive order put a 90-day suspension for any citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States.

Serving The Least of These

While I understand that most of immigration and travel bans are temporary, and while I appreciate the need for governments to properly vet incoming immigrants and refugees, I am deeply troubled by the unwillingness of many American voters (and politicians) to welcome refugees into their states and cities. Welcoming strangers and foreigners is always awkward and always risky. But this kind of hospitality is exactly what gives people on earth a glimpse of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.

In the coming years, if certain American or European governments decide that welcoming refugees is too big of a risk, I hope that Christians break from a nationalistic sentiment and advocate for the lives of refugees with the same passion they advocate for the lives of the unborn.

As Christians, our stance on the rights of the unborn and the cause of the refugee should not be shaped primarily by political or national priorities but rather on biblical and theological priorities.

Remember, when God calls us (the church) to serve the “least of these”—those who are forgotten, vulnerable, or who are victims of great injustice and oppression—it applies just as much to the Syrian refugee as it does to an unborn American baby.

Both are made in the image of God, and both need our help right now.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”
(Matthew 25:34-35, ESV)

For more reading on the refugee situation, check out these blogs by Pastor Adam Mabry and by Ana Laffoon.

 

Blog / Leadership

What I Will Miss about President Obama

January 23, 2017

President Obama

ORLANDO—This weekend, America witnessed its forty-fourth peaceful transfer of presidential power. Over the last few weeks, the media has looked ahead at America’s future with Donald Trump as president, and they’ve looked back at Barack Obama’s legacy.

Since I am not a prophet, I will refrain from making any predictions about President Trump’s upcoming term in office. Instead, I will look back on President Obama’s time as America’s forty-fourth president.

While I disagreed with many of his policies, and while the Obama administration has championed certain “progressive” political and cultural developments that I find morally regressive and theologically problematic, I have also learned a great deal about leadership from President Obama.

Here are three leadership qualities modeled by President Obama that I wish all leaders would practice:

1. His ability to remain civil in the midst of bitter political battles. It is no secret that President Obama faced bitter opposition throughout his presidency. While every president will be criticized for their policies and decisions, many of President Obama’s critics went well-beyond the bounds of professional critique and engaged in ugly partisanship and even racist rhetoric. Despite the deafening criticism (some justified, some unjustified) he received as president, he almost always managed to remain civil and gracious toward those with whom he disagreed. He chose not to lash out at his many critics, but instead, he modeled brilliantly (at the highest stage of power!) how leaders should respond to criticism and opposition—with a soft heart and with thick skin.

2. His decision to prioritize family in the midst of the busiest job in the world. Despite the fact that he has the most demanding schedule on the planet, and despite the fact that he himself grew up without a father, President Obama prioritizes time with his children. Not only is he a devoted father, but he is also a faithful husband to his wife of twenty-five years. In an American political scene filled with scandal and extramarital affairs, it is refreshing to see a president who walks in integrity and resists the temptations that have ensnared so many men and women in elected office.

3. His efforts to ensure a smooth leadership transition to a political rival. Besides Hillary Clinton, no one in the world must be more disappointed by the recent election than Barack Obama. Not only did Donald Trump viciously criticize President Obama throughout his campaign, but he promised to reverse many of Obama’s landmark political achievements. And yet, over the last two months, Obama has made great efforts to ensure a smooth leadership transition. In a time when people in Barack Obama’s party are calling Trump’s presidency “illegitimate,” President Obama is doing to the unpopular thing and setting up his political enemy for success. This is not an easy thing to do. I’ve seen pastors undermine their successors (even ones they picked!) out of insecurity and incompetence. Passing the baton is always difficult; but passing the baton to a political rival is incredibly difficult. Established leaders would do well to watch and learn from President Obama’s example.

For these reasons I am thankful for President Obama’s leadership example, despite our political differences. I have been praying for him for the last eight years, and I will probably continue to pray for him as he transitions into new places of influence.

But now I have also begun praying for America’s newest president—that he will lead with integrity and wisdom, and that he (like the rest of us) will learn from President Obama’s example of civility, integrity, and gracious leadership.

Discipleship

Prayer and Fasting… and Perseverance

January 17, 2017

Praying HandsORLANDO, FLORIDAThis week, I’m in Orlando with Every Nation pastors from all over North America (USA & Canada) for the North American Strategic Team (NAST) meeting. Over the week, we will be praying together and strategizing how we can strengthen our existing churches and campus ministries and plant more in 2017.

If you fasted and prayed with us last week, here’s a post-fast thought about prayer, faith, and perseverance.

Whenever I get to the end of a week of prayer and fasting, I am always full of faith for what God is going to do in the coming year. Sometimes, I see immediate breakthrough and answers to prayer during the actual week of prayer and fasting. But more often than not, I see God answering those January prayers in March or June or November. And sometimes, I see God answering my 2017 prayers much later—in 2018 or 2028 or 2058!

Perseverance is one key component of faith that we often neglect when we talk about prayer. As much as we need faith in God’s power when we pray, we also need faith in His timing.

Too often, we think that because God didn’t answer our prayers according to our timeframe, then God didn’t “answer” our prayer. At this point, many give up praying, assuming that they must have misunderstood God’s will. Instead of giving up, we need to realize that this is exactly the point where true persevering faith begins.

If faith in God’s power produces boldness in prayer, then faith in God’s timing produces perseverance in prayer.

In Hebrews 11, the most famous passage in the Bible on faith, the author talks about ancient heroes of the faith like Enoch, Noah, and Abraham, and he makes an interesting comment about their faith journeys: These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (Hebrews 11:13 NKJV)

These all DIED in faith, not having received the promises.

Look at Abraham. God promised him that he would become a great nation, but when he died, he had only one descendent. He died before he fully received the promise. God’s promises to Abraham did eventually come to pass, but they came to pass in future generations. Yet Abraham did not waiver in unbelief, or assume that God had forgotten him. As it says in Hebrews 11, Abraham saw the fulfillment “afar off” and was “assured” of it.

So here’s the post-fast question: In 2017, are we going to persevere in faith whether or not God answers all of our prayers according to our expectations and timeline?

Let’s not get discouraged or give up—Let’s pray boldly and persistently, trusting both God’s power and His timing for our lives in 2017 and beyond.

Discipleship

How Not to Fast

January 9, 2017

Chilli Cheese Dog

NASHVILLE — This week, churches all over the Every Nation world are beginning 2017 with a week of prayer, fasting, and consecration. I have been participating in fasts like this since I was a college student.

I’ll never forget my first fast.

For some crazy reason, Rice Broocks and I, and several of our brilliant friends, decided that it would be a good idea to break our fast at midnight at Sonic Drive-In with a footlong chili cheese dog. It seems like most of the fast, we found ourselves in a trance-like state, dreaming about chilli cheese dogs and longing for midnight.

I definitely learned my lesson on how not to fast (and how not to break a fast).

Here are a few more tips on how not to fast that I have learned over the past few decades:

1. A fast is NOT a Christianized diet. When we diet, the ultimate goal is body transformation. When we fast, the ultimate goal is soul transformation. When we diet, we are relying on our personal discipline to change ourselves. When we fast, we are relying on the Spirit of God to change us. When we diet, success is measured quantitatively (in pounds or kilos). When we fast, success is measured qualitatively (in relationship).

2. A fast is NOT a hunger strike. A hunger strike is all about defying an authority figure and getting him to comply with our demands. A fast is all about humbling ourselves before the ultimate authority and submitting to His will. In a hunger strike, the person fasting is the heroic actor who brings about change. In a fast, God is the heroic actor who brings about change.

3. A fast is NOT a spiritual performance. Fasting is not a demonstration of spiritual strength. Rather, it’s a declaration of spiritual weakness. Fasting is not about proving to God (or to ourselves) that we are committed disciples; it’s about denying ourselves, picking up our crosses, and following Him. Fasting is not about demonstrating devotion; it’s about cultivating desire for God and His Kingdom.

As I have said many times before, I have a love/hate relationship with fasting. I hate having an empty stomach for a week, but I love how God changes me as I am emptied of self and filled with His Spirit.

So as we fast this week, remember that fasting is NOT about losing weight, or getting what we want, or proving how spiritual we are. It’s about God working in us and creating an even deeper desire for Himself and His Kingdom.

Blog / Book / Miscellaneous

Top 10 Books I Read in 2016

January 4, 2017

Last night one of my sons asked me for book recommendations for the new year. That discussion inspired this blog.

I used to write a “Top 10 Books of the Year” blog at the end of each year. While I did not stop reading, for some reason, I stopped blogging that list. Here are some of my previous lists: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2008. Books on my Top 10 lists are not necessarily the best books, the most popular books, or the most important books. They are simply the ten books that impacted me the most in the past twelve months.

Now (after no one noticing that my list disappeared), I am reviving it. Here’s the 2016 list, in random order.

Thomas Long1.  The Witness of Preaching by Thomas G. Long. If you are called to preach, do your congregation a favor and study this book. If you are a church member, buy a copy for your pastor. If you don’t want him to know it’s from you, just quietly slip it in his briefcase or office. I have read a lot of preaching books in my lifetime, and this is one of the best.

 

Eugene Peterson2. Eat this Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading by Eugene Peterson. If you love reading or studying the Bible, you will love this book. If you have a difficult time reading, studying, understanding, or interpreting the Bible, this book might just change your life. Eugene Peterson is the best in the business at making spiritual and scholarly concepts accessible to semi-spiritual, non-scholarly readers.

 

Gothic Enterprise3. The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral by Robert A. Scott. Last year, I preached a sermon and posted a blog inspired by this book. If you liked the sermon or blog, you might enjoy this book. Here’s the blog. While not a “Christian book,” it positively impacted my view of worship as much as any book I have ever read.

 

Lee Kuan Yew4. One Man’s View of the World by Lee Kuan Yew. While I do not always agree with his view of the world, I have always been inspired by Lee Kuan Yew’s vision, clarity, and commitment to excellence. This book presents Singapore’s long-time Prime Minister’s no-holds-barred opinions about America, Japan, China, Asia, Europe, and the Arab Spring. It not only addresses the past and present, but it also gives a glimpse into the possible future.

 

John Lennox5. Seven Days that Divide the World by John C. Lennox. Written by everyone’s favorite Northern Irish philosopher, apologist, and professor of mathematics, this book is a must-read for campus missionaries and university students. I appreciate it when really really really smart people write in a way that makes complicated ideas simple to grasp.

 

Henri Nouwen6. Spiritual Formation by Henri Nouwen. If you are not familiar with the concept of “Spiritual Formation,” or if you have never read a book by Henri Nouwen, this book is a great place to start. The Dutch priest, pastor, philosopher, psychologist, author, and professor (Yale, Harvard, Notre Dame) wrote over 40 books on Christian spirituality that have been published in over twenty-two languages.

 

Marshall Goldsmith7. Succession: Are You Ready by Marshall Goldsmith. I thought I was ready, or at least getting close to being ready. But after a couple chapters of this book, it became painfully obvious that I am not ready and the organizations I lead are not even almost ready. I have much work to do to prepare the next leaders to lead Every Nation and Victory and to prepare Every Nation and Victory for its next leaders. If you lead a church, ministry, or business, please read and reread this book. After you finish Succession, I suggest you also read, Next: Pastoral Succession that Works by Warren Bird.

 

Joe Onosai8. The Power Destiny by Joe Onosai. The much-anticipated autobiography by my friend, Pastor Joe Onosai is filled with brutally honest stories of sin, redemption, violence, love, pain, and healing. Most of all, it is a book about how God uses life-giving relationships to shape his leaders. I can’t wait to read the sequel!

 


Rice Broocks9. Man Myth Messiah: Answering History’s Greatest Question by Rice Broocks.
This follow-up to the book God’s Not Dead presents and examines the evidence for the historical Jesus with an emphasis on the historicity of the resurrection. An important and informative book in an age of ignorance and skepticism.

 

Roger Pearce10. Better Together by Roger Pearce. Powerful stories of grace, forgiveness, and racial reconciliation in the shadow of South Africa’s ugly history of ethnic division. This book offers hope and a way forward for campuses, cities, and nations anywhere in the world that are experiencing racial tension. I hope to see European, Middle Eastern, Asian, and North American versions of this book. Well done, Roger!

 

Honorable mention (aka snubs) that I’m glad I read, but did not quite make my Top 10: The Source of Life by Jurgen Moltmann, On Christian Doctrine by Saint Augustine, Overhearing the Gospel by Fred B. Craddock, Preaching the Story by Jeffrey Frymire, More Power in the Pulpit by Cleophus LaRue, Almost Christian by Kenda Creasy Dean, and Marius’ Mules Book VII: The Great Revolt by S.J.A. Turney.

Blog / Discipleship

A Christmas Message: Don’t Quit

December 19, 2016

9509907779_18c35c33af_zEver want to quit – relationship, job, church – but deep down, you knew you shouldn’t?

Even though it would be easier to walk.
Even though you were wronged.
Even though it hurts to stay.

Maybe the marriage is not all you dreamed it would be.
Maybe the job is not what it was promised to be.
Maybe the church really is filled with hypocrites.

But for some reason, God will not let you quit.

So what do you do? Stay, or walk? Go for it on 4th and 20, or punt? Fight on, or tapout? All in, or fold?

What do you do when everything in you says to quit, but some faint, barely discernible still-quiet voice says to hang in there? (Don’t you wish God would speak louder or write His will on a wall or communicate in a way that is easier to hear understand than a still quiet whisper or an inner witness or a sub-conscience conviction?)

If you ever feel like you want to quit, but you know God wants you to not quit, I suggest you read the Christmas story.

The one in Matthew 1:18–25.

Summary. A man discovers his fiancé is pregnant. The baby is not his. She claims it is God’s. Yeah right. I’m out of here. He wasn’t bitter or vindictive. Just hurt. Confused. Done. And moving on with his life. But while he was sleeping, God sent an angel to tell him that the baby really was from God, and he better not quit.

An angel, really? How about sending me one of those every now and then?

I’m sure this guy still had questions. And doubts. And pain. And confusion. But he stayed engaged. He went for it. All in.

“When he woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded.” (v. 24)

Sometimes we just want to stay in bed and sleep it off, when we know we need to wake up and obey God.

Same question as before: ever wanna quit – relationship, job, church – but the Holy Spirit says not to?

We all have.

It will probably be a good idea to obey God. Every time I do, eventually, I’m glad I did.

Merry Christmas.

Blog / Discipleship

A Short History of Campus Ministry

December 12, 2016

NASHVILLE – Several months ago, I was invited to speak at our Every Nation Campus Staff Summit. I was supposed to inspire our 130 campus missionaries in attendance to embrace a vision to reach the world, not just their campuses. I am not a last-minute “wing-it” preacher. I plan ahead. But a few hours before my talk, I mentioned to my son William what I had planned to say. He responded by suggesting that I add some info about the Oxford Holy Clubs, the Student Volunteer Movement, and other significant student movements throughout history. William is a PhD candidate who lectures on Islamic History at Vanderbilt University and has taught church history in our schools of ministry in Nashville and Manila. For a brief moment, I attempted to add his history insights to my message before finally saying, “What are you doing tonight? Maybe you should just be the speaker, and I’ll introduce you.” After running that idea by our Every Nation Campus team, they all agreed that William should speak, and I should listen and take notes. Because so many campus missionaries asked for William’s notes, I prevailed upon him to post them here. 

_________
About a year ago, I (William) was asked to develop a church history course that would be taught in our schools of ministry around the world. Aware that a large portion of our School of Ministry students would eventually be campus missionaries, I thought that it was important to prepare a session that gave a short history of campus ministry.

After a few months of research, I was struck by one overwhelming fact: historically, campus ministry and world missions have been inextricably linked.

Here are just three examples.

1. The Oxford Holy Clubs: In 1729, Oxford students John and Charles Wesley founded a small group with other Oxford students that focused on Bible study, prayer, fasting, and the pursuit of holiness (hence the nickname “Holy Clubs”). In addition to their “acts of piety,” the small group of Oxford students also regularly engaged in “acts of mercy,” spending significant time ministering to people in the local prison. Though the group never grew beyond twenty-five members, the disciples who came out of that small campus ministry would have a massive impact in England and beyond. Perhaps the most famous member of the Holy Clubs was George Whitefield. After being converted and discipled as an undergraduate at Oxford, Whitefield traveled with the Wesleys as a missionary to the British colonies in North America. Whitefield spent many fruitful years preaching in the colonies and was a key leader in a revival that would later be known as the “First Great Awakening,” This revival transformed the colonies on the eve of the American Revolution and set the historical trajectory of American Evangelicalism for many centuries to come.

The 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland.

2. The Student Volunteer Movement: In 1886, evangelist D.L Moody led a summer conference for Christian college students in Mount Hermon, Massachusetts. Though world missions was only a small part of the conference agenda, the call to world missions captured the hearts of the students attending the conference, so much so that 100 (of the 251 in attendance) committed their lives to serve in foreign missions. One of those who responded was a Cornell student named John R. Mott. After graduating, he was part of the founding of the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions (SVM), a group whose purpose was to mobilize college students to give their lives to world missions. Though the SVM was closely affiliated with the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), they linked arms with a wide variety of campus ministries and churches all across the United States and Europe, as they traveled from campus to campus recruiting for foreign missions. Their battle cry, which later became the title of Mott’s first book and the slogan of the famous Edinburgh World Missionary Conference in 1910, was “the evangelization of the world in this generation.” Between 1888 and 1946, over 20,000 college students committed their lives to foreign missions through the work of SVM. This was and is still one of the greatest movements for mobilizing missionaries in the history of Christianity.

3. CRU (aka Campus Crusade): In 1951, Bill and Vonette Bright founded Campus Crusade on the UCLA campus. Their aim from the beginning was to reach the world by reaching college students. With a strong focus on campus evangelism and small-group discipleship, the campus ministry started at UCLA and quickly spread to other campuses around the United States, and eventually, around the world. One of Bright’s most effective tools for campus evangelism was the “Four Spiritual Laws” booklet, which has been translated into over 200 languages with over 2.5 billion copies in print. Another tool developed by Bright and his team is the Jesus Film (1979), which has been dubbed in over 974 languages and viewed by over 5.5 billion people! Just 65 years after their modest beginnings in Los Angeles, CRU has a presence in 190 countries around the world.

This short history of campus ministry should remind us that what we are trying to accomplish at Every Nation Campus (ENC) is not new. We are committed to rigorous small-group discipleship on campuses—so were the Holy Clubs in the eighteenth century. We are committed to engaging students in world mission—so was the SVM in the nineteenth century. We are committed campus evangelism—so was CRU in the twentieth century (and still in the twenty-first century).

The real question is this: will we keep our focus?

After sixty-five years, CRU is still going strong. And though the Oxford Holy Clubs do not exist in the same form, the larger fruit of that ministry was the Methodist and Weslyan church movement, which is still active today almost three centuries after its founding.

The one group that is no longer active is the Student Volunteer Movement. There are complex historical reasons for why an amazing movement like the SVM unraveled. But one moment in the story is particularly telling. In the 1920s, the SVM abandoned the slogan “the evangelization of the world in this generation.” Some thought the mission was unrealistic. Others thought that instead of evangelism, they should focus on social issues. Though the movement had momentum for a few more years, by the 1930s, the SVM was little more than a memory.

What happened?

They forgot that campus ministry and world mission are inextricable. Once they lost sight of the mission, they lost their reason to exist.

These examples should serve to inspire and caution a young movement like Every Nation. We want to reach every nation and every campus, but in order to accomplish our goal and pass the mission on to the next generation, we need to learn one thing from those who have come before us…

College students are not only our mission field, they are our mission force.