FIRST-PERSON: Campuses as mission fields

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP) -- Students in college today face tremendous pressures. These include sexual temptation, loneliness, accumulating college debt, academic stress, disconnect with their family, technology and information overload, as well as increasing hostility toward the Christian faith.

Regarding this last issue, consider the example of professor Bart Ehrman, a religious studies professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ehrman is a "celebrity skeptic" who, in the classroom, in his writings and on popular talk shows spreads his message of doubt about the Bible and the historic Christian faith.

Ehrman claims to have been a devoted evangelical Christian who attended Moody Bible Institute. He said by discovering so-called errors in the Bible, he eventually lost his faith, and now he seems to see it as his duty to "help" others lose their faith as well.

Amid the backdrop of such skepticism run amok, Christians of college age -- and really every age -- must become increasingly familiar with challenges to the Bible and our faith. We must know why we believe what we believe, embracing all of the best aspects of apologetics.

Good work is being done by theologians and professors such as Timothy Paul Jones of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in his book "Misquoting Truth" to debunk Ehrman's errors. And there are newer-to-the-scene apologetics experts like Greg Koukl, Frank Turek and Sean McDowell as well as the classic writings of C.S. Lewis.

In addition to this, the challenges to college students underscore the importance of another aspect of ministry, namely the work of Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM).

BCM is increasingly important here in Oklahoma and the rest of the country. Thanks to the generosity of Oklahoma Baptists giving through the Cooperative Program, we are blessed to have a ministry presence on nearly 40 campuses across the state, standing on a great legacy of Baptist student work from decades past. Nationally, Baptist state conventions nearly 800 Baptist Collegiate Ministries through their CP giving, reaching more than 78,000 students who, in a year's time, see nearly 10,000 professions of faith.

In some ways, our BCM workers are, in essence, campus missionaries, serving as the bridge between the local church and the college campus. As someone who was not very faithful in church attendance during my college years, and as someone who attended the largest secular university in the state where Christian virtues and truth are challenged, I have a special appreciation for those who labor in collegiate ministry.

If college campuses are the greatest unreached mission field in America today, as some point out with tens of millions of young people waiting to hear the Gospel, why wouldn't we go into this mission field?

College students, most often, are looking for a place to belong. They miss the familiarity of their adolescence and will generally go where they feel welcome. Why don't we as the church open wide the arms of the Lord and welcome them into the community of Christ?

College students are also impressionable. They are looking for something or someone to believe in, and many have never heard the Good News. By having an active presence on college campuses like BCM does, the door is opened to having Gospel conversations.

For every Ehrman, let's have droves of Christians who hold the truth and light of the Gospel in their hands. Let's not wait for the college students to come to us. Let's take this life-saving message to them, to every person on every campus.

Brian Hobbs is editor of The Baptist Messenger (www.baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, where this article first appeared.
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