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Spiritual renewal on campus

Kermit Bridges is president of Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas, after serving five years as the vice president of university advancement. He spoke recently with On Course editor Melinda Booze for the Pentecostal Evangel about Southwestern’s growth and the spiritual renewal on campus.

Evangel: Southwestern has almost tripled in enrollment during the last 10 years. What are some of the reasons for this?

Bridges: It’s attributable to underlying spiritual factors that correspond with Delmer Guynes’ presidency. He had a vision for what Southwestern could become and a focus on reaching the world. He saw Southwestern as being more than just a training center for people who enter full-time occupational ministry; he focused on the need for missionaries in every vocational walk of life.

Evangel: How have students responded to the emphasis on spiritual renewal?

Bridges: We can do our best to create a spiritual environment, but ultimately the students themselves have to embrace it. I’ve recognized a refreshing attitude in this generation of young people. I look at it as a reflection of a generation raised with access to anything they want in terms of what this world offers. They’ve experienced it, and they are consciously choosing to say, "That is worthless compared to a higher calling and a higher purpose in life." This is a generation willing to give up luxuries and literally go around the world. There is a greater passion to be involved in ministry. It’s exciting to see people who are called to full-time vocational ministry working beside people who are called to education or business. They learn how to work as a team.

Evangel: How are faculty involved with students in ministry?

Bridges: The faculty plugs into many of the outreaches, serving as mentors and counselors. De Soto Assembly of God is an example. Robert Harden approached the district and said, "Why don’t you let me have this little church that’s about to close its doors? I will enlist my students and replant the church." At this point the church is a solid church.

Gary Royer teamed up with students to plant All People’s Assembly of God, pastored by alum Jacob Rodriquez. Their five-year goal was to have young people brought up in their ministry attending Southwestern. They beat that goal by two years; they have students here this fall.

Evangel: What is Southwestern best known for?

Bridges: Our region sees Southwestern as an institution where they can send young people, knowing they will be in an environment that enriches their faith and encourages academic excellence. It is a place for experiencing how the body of Christ works together. I see us maintaining our original purpose of training ministers and expanding it to include other academic offerings. Our young people, no matter what God calls them to do, understand that they are ministers.

Evangel: How does a student benefit by studying on a faith-based campus?

Bridges: A student on a secular campus can serve God by tying into a dynamic student group. However, he or she must make a conscious decision to do so amid many distractions. On a Christian campus students are in an uplifting environment that encourages righteous living.

Every Assemblies of God young person should spend at least one or two years at an A/G school. Study after study demonstrates the powerful impact a school has on young people’s lives during those first two years. Their course for life is being established. They need an environment that enriches and strengthens them.

Evangel: As you step into the presidency, what are your prayers?

Bridges: More than anything, we want to maintain our spiritual vitality. We will strive to ensure that God’s presence is on this campus — that the students have opportunities to hear from the Lord, to receive unique challenges from God that put them on course for life. We are a Bible university. We have to do more than put that on paper; we have to live it. I’m praying that we will maintain that environment.

 

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