If you find yourself wondering whether today’s students have the vision, character and passion to lead change in this generation, don’t miss this amazing story of God’s grace lived out through 7,000+ students from over 100 campuses across Ethiopia. My friend Tariku Fufa says “this is all about giving purpose and mission to younger leaders.” Did I fail to mention that we only have 10 campus staff members in that country?
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Who can forget the grainy image of one courageous student staring down a column of tanks? Twenty years ago today the Chinese government chose lethal force to deal with a swelling student-led movement in Tiananmen Square. That fateful decision appears to have triggered one of the greatest spiritual awakenings in church history. The exponential growth of China’s church in the past two decades, particularly among the educated elite, is nothing short of miraculous.
The idea that students can change the world is not a new one. King Nebuchadnezzar understood this when he selected Daniel and his three Israelite friends to receive the best education Babylon had to offer 2,600 years ago. The king sought attractive, skilled, wise and competent youths to be educated for three years. At the end of that time they were to stand before the king. (Daniel 1:1-7) In the same way, today’s governments, corporations and advertisers invest millions of dollars each year attempting to influence students and the choices they will make for the rest of their lives.
Like it or not, today’s students will shape tomorrow’s culture.
We are currently witnessing a resurgence of spiritually motivated student activism around the world. “God will accomplish His purposes,” our former pastor used to say, “with us if He may, without us if He must.” The longer Ann and I are involved in God’s global harvest, the easier it is to believe we are on the brink of seeing His Great Commission fulfilled.
One of my many lame excuses for few recent blog posts has been extensive travel over the past two months. From Cape Town to Cairo, from LA to Canada, and from Hungary to Thailand, dozens of conversations with field staff and student leaders confirm that God is accomplishing His work at a seemingly accelerated rate.
• Kristoff, a German student who attended the CM2007 missions conference in Korea last July, was convicted by those students sitting in the “no photos” section because they came from countries where they faced persecution. “We’re not risking anything,” he said. He has mobilized a prayer movement, calling fellow students to believe God together for gospel-resistant German campuses.
• I recently attended a gathering in Hungary of about 500 Christians who minister throughout 19 countries in Eastern Europe and Russia. A majority of these teams saw between 5-20 students indicate decisions to follow Jesus Christ just last semester. Several of these locations have been notoriously hard soil.
• In “closed” East Asia, one multinational team comprised of 4 staff members and 5 volunteers has seen God open up student-led ministries on 30 campuses in 4 cities. Please read that again and let it soak in. I asked Andy, the team leader, what his secret was. “Asking students to be in a prayer group or join a Bible study is not a challenge,” he replied. “We show them God’s big heart for the nations from day 1, then invite them to change their world. We’ve discovered that this way the students don’t think ‘Hey wait, I need a staff member to help me,’ or ‘I need permission to….’ They just go for it and start leading.”
Lesson for us: History is moving toward a very clear end which culminates in the God of the Bible being glorified in every nation. Students have always been the lever that moves the world. Let’s get everyone we can think of out of the bleachers and onto the field.