Reaching college campuses will probably always be one of my biggest passions. After 15 years of making disciples, I’ve narrowed down what I consider to be THE THREE BEST TOOLS for sparking reproducing student-led discipleship movements on your campus and beyond.

They’re so simple they might shock you. Don’t be disappointed — just try them.

I’ll explain them in a story. See if you catch them.

Enric (name changed) grew up in a Native American tribe where Christianity was considered a bad word. He came to Haskell Indian Nations University from a lifestyle of drugs, gang tensions, and other crime. The residence hall where Enric lived, Osceola-Keokuk (OK) Hall, kind of had a bad reputation. Some students believed evil spirits lived there. You could smell incense burning in the dorms at night. Students were trying to “cleanse” their rooms of the spirits.

There were plenty of flyers on the lobby bulletin board inviting people to attend weekly campus ministry meetings. But you didn’t see many examples of Christians running into the darkness with their proverbial “candles”.

Enric didn’t know it at the time, but two other students were praying for his dorm. They began hanging out there a few times a week. They met people and had some good spiritual conversations. They began discussing Jesus stories with a few students who seemed spiritually curious.

You catch them? There they are –THREE SIMPLE, POWERFUL TOOLS:

1. Pray for specific people who don’t know Jesus.

2. Hang out with them.

3. Discuss Jesus stories.

One night, Enric stood at the edge of the lobby at OK hall. He was intrigued by the small group of students who were discussing Jesus together. The students asked if he wanted to join them. Tentatively, he sat down with them and entered the dialogue.

They were discussing a story about Jesus. The story was printed out on pieces of paper since most people didn’t have Bibles yet. Having it printed out allowed everyone to participate. There was a box of donuts there, too. Food never hurts.

“What does this story tell us about what Jesus is like? How does this speak to your heart?”

The conversation was lively.

Afterward, Enric said, “Can I tell you guys a story?”

His story kept them on the edge of their seats.

“Among my people and my family, we don’t do the ‘Christianity thing.’ But last night, I had a dream. In my dream, I was with my tribe. We were dancing around a fire, worshiping the Great Spirit. Suddenly, someone who looked like Satan appeared among us. He was dancing with my people, but as he danced, he was mocking us. I was the only one who could see him. I knew he was evil. I woke up. I was scared, but I felt like God sent me the dream. Then, tonight, I walked into the dorm and saw you guys talking about Jesus. I felt like I needed to talk with you.”

Wow. Good story.

Jessie says, “Can I interpret what I think your dream means?”

“Sure.”

“I think God is sending you a message. He is calling you to rescue your people from the way Satan has bound them. God is calling you to be His messenger to bring freedom to your people. Have you ever heard the story of Jesus?”

Everybody likes stories.

“Not really,” Enric replied. “I know he like died on a cross or something.”

Enric had heard about Christianity. He’d never really heard about Jesus.

“There’s more to the story,” Jessie said.  “Jesus came to set people free from Satan’s power. He did miracles. He taught people about His kingdom. Then He died as a sacrifice for the sins of all people in all the nations. Then He rose from the dead. He sent out his followers to spread the message about His kingdom everywhere. He is now calling all nations, all families, all tribes, to know Him, follow Him, and begin setting people free from the evil that Satan brings into the world.”

“Wow. If this is what Jesus is doing, I want to join Him,” Enric responded.

Enric prayed that night to repent, believe, and begin following Jesus. Soon after, these students took him out to be baptized in a local lake. Three carloads of students came to watch.

Enric began telling others his story of how he encountered Jesus.

Everybody likes stories.

Soon, the story about what happened to him spread around the entire dorm. The entire football team, for which he played, also heard his story. Soon, a few others around him also made commitments to follow Jesus. A simple church began to take shape in his dorm.

Once again:

1. Pray for people who don’t know Jesus.

2. Hang out with them.

3. Discuss Jesus stories.

Sometimes people go out to tell others about Jesus without first praying or hanging out with them. That sometimes produces a few quick “decisions for Christ.” But over the long haul, it seldom produces disciple-making movements.

Jesus was really good at hanging out with people while teaching them about the kingdom of God. Did you ever think about what a great “hanger-outer” Jesus was?

Becoming a great “hanger-outer” allows you to know a person, contextualize the gospel message, follow up with the new believer, and help him or her start reaching out to their friends in a way that’s natural to them.

This pattern is what I live. It’s what I teach students to do wherever I go. You should do it too.

Simple Church 

I’ve learned a lot from my Native American friends. God taught me to think about ministry differently.

He taught me that great leaders don’t just create followers; they create more leaders. Jesus was the best at doing that. I’ve tried to become better at creating more leaders like He did.

“Great leaders don’t just create followers; they create more leaders.”

I learned to grow “simple churches” here. People who don’t go to church need forms of disciple-making that allow the development of churches that more closely match their culture; churches that can facilitate discipleship in the places they do life and relationships. Simple churches are a great starting place for learning how to do that. In a simple church, you can gather new disciples into groups that follow the basic commands of Jesus together – right where they do life already.

It was here at Haskell Indian Nations University that the shape of Student CPx developed. Student CPx is a reproducible training experience that equips people to plant simple churches.

It’s blessed a lot of Native American students.  It’s blessed a lot of other students on campuses around the world. You can learn to do your own Student CPx here.

Being here has taught me that the seedbed for disciple-making movements among the least reached people groups of the world just might start among college students. Reaching the college campus is a great place to reach the nations, whether they are unreached peoples in our country, or people groups in the 10/40 Window. 

Josiah

Josiah gets baptized

Josiah is one student I discipled here who reached many other students before he left college. He continues to share Jesus with others beyond the campus.

Josiah lived in 27 houses before he was fifteen years old. He had a powerful conversion experience with Jesus (Read the rest of his story in a previous post here).

I met Josiah while hanging out and eating one day. We struck up a conversation. He soon became a Jesus follower. After I prayed with Josiah to begin following Jesus, I told him,

“I see a lot of potential in you for leadership. I’d like to spend some time with you, growing our relationship, teaching you some of the stuff I know about following Jesus, and helping you to become a leader who can influence others for Jesus. Would you like that?” 

He said yes. The discipling relationship began.

The first things I taught him? You guessed it.

1. Pray for people who don’t know Jesus.

2. Hang out with them.

3. Discuss Jesus stories. 

Multiplication

Josiah prays for 10 of his friends who need to hear about Jesus

That first week, I asked Josiah to make a list of 10 people he knew who needed to hear how Jesus had changed his life. He made the list and started praying over it every day. Two months later, four of those on his list had started following Jesus with him, including his formerly satanic roommate. I helped him baptize some of his friends in a bathtub and a simple church was born.

Josiah baptizes our friend Bryan

The Holy Spirit is more willing to work in and through the lives of young believers and their friends than we often realize.

Are these THREE SIMPLE, POWERFUL TOOLS all students need? Of course not. But they’re a GREAT STARTING PLACE for reproducing student-led disciple-making movements on campus. 

Deeper Discipleship 

Disciple is a great tool for going deeper with students, helping them develop God’s heart for the nations, and equipping them to reproduce disciple-making relationships.

But for starters – remember KISS: Keep It Simple, Son. Great movements are built around simple, reproducible principles.

Our main strategy for campus missions can be simple. The word of God is living and powerful. Half the battle is simply equipping our students to introduce people to Jesus in normal, non-religious ways.

I’ve followed this pattern for years, and taught many others to follow it also. Try it this semester with your students. I’d love to hear how it goes!

1. Pray for people.

2. Hang out with them.

3. Discuss Jesus stories together.

 

 

Want other great ideas for creating movements on university campuses? Check out the Campus Ministry Toolbox. Great resources from great people who are serious about the Great Commission. This article was printed in their latest journal.

 

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