Saturday, May 13, 2006

Revolutionary "Students of Peace"

Revolutionary ‘students of peace’

Multiplying churches on campus

It might be a stretch to refer to fraternities, sororities, student clubs, and a host of other interest and affinity groups to be found on the campuses of American colleges and universities as "unreached people groups." But don’t try and convince Jaeson Ma of that. For Jaeson is seeing church-planting movements spread among these virtually pagan entities on a growing number of campuses.

The hidden nature of these student clusters began to dawn on him six years ago when he was suddenly confronted with the reality that the university he was attending was not only a greatly neglected mission field, but that it harbored dozens of unreached people groups within its student body.

Acting on his discovery, Jaeson has found that seemingly disinterested students are hungry for the gospel and can be effectively evangelized and even gathered into churches! The result is that a church-planting movement is now flourishing at his university and is spreading to others as well.

Only two believed in Jesus

The insight began to strike him while sitting in an introductory lecture on philosophy at San Jose State University in California. Suddenly, the professor asked, "Who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?" Jaeson and one of his friends were the only two who raised their hands in a class of 100 students.

Jaeson could not believe that most of his fellow students had no idea what Jesus offered them. He therefore started prayer walking around the university, asking God to do something so that the 28,000 students would come to know him. God opened doors for Jaeson; the university officials were sympathetic to his aims and granted him permission to hold evangelistic rallies. Hundreds were saved.

Churches with nothing to offer

Jaeson soon realized, though, that very few managed to find a place in a church after becoming a believer. "To be completely honest," says Jaeson, "most of the churches around the university had nothing to offer students. Nobody had any idea what to do with them. Some students met for Bible study, but when they left the university, the problem remained: They could not find a place in a traditional church.

"I found the same problem at other universities," he says. "Most students see church as boring, irrelevant and hypocritical, despite the fact that they themselves are empty, hurt, and suffering. Instead of Jesus, they seek true love in drugs, parties, sex, and good grades. Many became depressive; some were close to suicide."

As he prayed, Jaeson discovered that it is much better to bring church to the students, not the other way around. After much research, including studying China's underground house church movement, he became convinced that relationship-oriented "simple church" was best suited for reaching students.

Studies by the Barna Research Group, Jaeson found out, showed that 18- to 25-year-olds are the group least likely to attend a church. The majority of students who attended church during school years no longer did so at the end of their studies.

Jaeson concluded that "we desperately need completely new churches for the new generation, because the traditional form of church simply does not work in America. Post-modern youths know no standards, believe basically anything, and want to experience God for themselves. They will not sit in pews listening to someone preach forever. They want to put their faith into practice."

Inspired by 18-year-old Chinese girls

He read about 18-year-old Chinese girls who had planted over 100 house churches in one year, although they had only been Christians a few years themselves. The churches which he investigated in China were networks of small fellowships of 15-30 members which met in houses and small shops.

"If an 18-year-old Chinese girl can plant 100 churches each year in China, why shouldn't a student plant a few at university?" Jaeson asked himself. He realized that, similar to the biblical concept of a "house of peace" or a "man or woman of peace," a missionary can win "a student of peace" for Christ. Such a convert will in turn win his circle of friends. Soon, a small church is formed.

One single church, he began to realize, would never be able to reach the very diverse student community. He therefore started viewing every student group as an unreached community, with the aim of starting a church among them.

These new churches with 15-20 members meet anywhere—in dormitories, apartments, student union rooms, classrooms, or the coffee shop across the street. As they grow, they do not look for somewhere larger to meet, but divide and therefore multiply.

‘Start a revolution!’

As the movement began to spread, Jaeson established Campus Church Networks (CCN) in 1998 and began sending missionaries to other universities to do the same. His motto became, "Start a revolution, start a campus church!" On CCN's website, he writes, "Every revolution begins with a revolutionary. Are you prepared to be one? Is there already a Campus Church at your University? If not, you should start one…."

Bottom line for me is that vision for church multiplication and saturation church planting is proliferating to smaller and smaller units of society. In the process, the prophecy of Habakkuk 2:14 that "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord" is being progressively achieved.

Written by, Jim Montgomery (OC International, Founder of DAWN Ministries)

Material for this column of GCU was adapted from an article in the December 24, 2005, issue of Joel News International. E-mail contact: joel-news-international@xc.org.

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