Throughout history college campuses have been a seedbed of prayer, evangelism, revival and missions activity. The Lord has used young men and women on universities time and time again to reshape the landscape of the body of Christ in entire geographic regions. It is a common scene through history that when college students band themselves together in praying communities, the Lord begins to move by His Spirit in revival. These revivals often come at the times of greatest darkness in a region or nation, and the Lord uses the efforts of small groups of willing students to serve as the impetus for a powerful return to truth and radical discipleship to Jesus.
Two examples will serve our point. First, in the 18th century a group of young men began gathering on the campus of Oxford University in England. This group consisted of a small group of young men who called themselves the Holy Club. This club gathered together regularly for the purpose of prayer, confession, exhortation, and Bible study in order to challenge one another in their holiness and pursuit of God.
The Lord began to breathe upon two men in this group in particular, George Whitefield and John Wesley. Through the ministry of these two men, the Lord began to revive hearts throughout both England and America, as well as cause the word of the Lord to prevail in entire geographic regions as many would be convicted by the power of the gospel and repent unto salvation. It was also through John Wesley that the Methodist Church was started. In the early days of America’s history, the Methodist Church served as one of the most fervent vehicles of missions activity and church planting, the fruits of which would dramatically affect the early history of America.
The second example is from 1806, when a man named Samuel J. Mills and five other students at Williams College began to pray for the Lord to visit their university. This prayer meeting is affectionately known as the ‘Haystack Prayer Meeting’ because the weather forced them to pray underneath a haystack the first time they gathered to pray. Many historians and students of church movements trace the Second Great Awakening of America to this prayer meeting.
Through the 1800s the Lord began to move on college campuses. At a time where Deism prevailed in the educational institutions of the nation, all across America the Lord began to save souls. It is said that in the course of a year’s time, half of Yale’s and a third of Princeton’s student population were saved. In the universities, these believers began to come together in societies, which began to take on more and more of a missionary focus as the years went on.
By 1886, some of these students from such societies began to possess such zeal for the task of world evangelization, they formed what is called the ‘Student Volunteer Movement’. Over the next fifty years, the Student Volunteer Movement sent 20,000 college students into the foreign mission field under the watchword of ‘the evangelization of the world in this generation’. It is also commonly estimated that the movement mobilized nearly 100,000 college students in these fifty years in prayer for the Lord’s purpose in the nations of the earth.
These are but two examples of what the Lord has chosen to do time and time again. It can clearly be seen that when college students begin to join themselves together in vibrant communities, usually small in number, around the issues of prayer, holiness, truth and discipleship to Jesus, the Lord begins to move with power.
It is abundantly evident that our nation is in the midst of a great crisis. Nowhere is this more evident than the institutions of higher learning within our country. Statistics show that of those born after 1984, less than 4% have any form of church engagement. Less than 4 out every 100 youth and young adult today has any real or meaningful exposure to the foundational truths of the Christian faith.
Other studies show that the prevailing worldview of teenagers in our nation is a perverted sense of a moral deism which emphasizes the happiness of the pleasure of the individual. The youth of our nation believe that if God does exist, He is completely inactive and uninterested in individual lives. The point of life in this worldview is simply to be a ‘good’ person and extract as much happiness and enjoyment from life that is possible without negatively affecting others.
Those who espouse this perverted worldview, developed in a generation that has little to no exposure to the foundational truths of Christianity, are beginning to walk into the classrooms of universities all across America. Here they are accosted with the prevailing secular humanism that is propagated throughout the institutes of higher education in our nation. This is ultimately leaving an entire generation unengaged with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is in the formative years of college that the next generation of leaders is shaped. The worldviews that are settled in their minds during these years will shape the next several decades of culture, business, government, family, media and society both in our nation and the nations of the earth.
However, we believe that the Lord desires to touch college students all throughout this nation. Just as He has in past generations, we believe that He is again stirring hearts of small bands of young men and women to begin gathering together to cry out in prayer for their universities and their communities. In response to this, we believe that the Lord will be faithful to work in the way in which He has before throughout history, by visiting college students and young adults throughout our nation with a spirit of revival bringing an entire generation face to face with the truth of Jesus Christ.
These college students that are born again, trained and discipled in the midst of vibrant praying communities on universities across America, will stand in a unique place to impact the globe for the gospel of Jesus. An entire generation of leaders—cultural, social, political, family, economic, etc.—will have been gripped with the truths of Christianity.
Just like throughout history, we believe that these communities on college campuses will again become a greenhouse for young leaders who will give their lives to see the exaltation of Jesus and the proclamation of His word in every sphere of society and life. It is to this end that we at Luke18 Project seek to partner with the Lord in our small way, to call forth, equip and strengthen college students to plant prayer furnaces on their campus.
 Thom S. Rainer, The Bridger Generation (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2006), 169.
 This information is taken from Christian Smith’s book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (New York: Oxford UP, 2005). An article summarizing Smith’s position can be found here.
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