(January 14, 2001)
Dennis Gaylor is director of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries.
Chi Alpha is impacting 225 campuses nationwide, involving about 12,000
students who meet weekly. He spoke recently with Scott Harrup, general
editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Evangel: The environment on secular college campuses has become
increasingly anti-Christian, yet Chi Alpha keeps growing.
Yes, but Christianity thrives in a hostile environment. Chi Alpha
and other Christian campus organizations are doing well because students
spiritual needs are not new or unique. When those needs are confronted
or met by a community of believers on campus, or when students are
able to observe that community in action, it draws them.
Students come to Christ at our meetings even without invitations.
The deep moral uncertainty in our society is so despairing and disillusioning
that students are looking to fill the vacuum in their lives. The relativism
and tolerance for sin being promoted today are intensifying the need
in students spiritual lives.
Evangel: How would you characterize the students being reached
by Chi Alpha?
Gaylor: Loneliness is the No. 1 problem. Students want to
become part of something. Our Chi Alpha groups are committed to ministering
and serving these students. They may establish initial contact by
helping students move into the dorm or meeting them in the student
center at an information table. These familiar campus environments
are ideal places to initiate friendships. Warm, friendly contacts
attract students to meetings held in dorm lounges and other activities.
I think of one freshman who came to a campus in the Midwest. Chi
Alpha students moved him into his dorm. He made some friendships and
was led to Christ. He was invited to a Chi Alpha retreat, saw the
connection with the Assemblies of God and decided to attend a Wednesday
night service at a church. He was baptized in the Holy Spirit. He
stayed in Chi Alpha, married another student involved in Chi Alpha
and is now a campus minister. His name is Greg Kinzle, and he and
his wife serve at Iowa State University. There are many stories like
Evangel: What spiritual distinctive sets Chi Alpha apart?
Gaylor: The Assemblies of God distinctive of the baptism
in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues
is the marker. When you have a gathering of Spirit-filled students,
youre going to have empowered worship. That is attractive. There
is a lot of liberty. Many students are hungry for that experience.
Evangel: Tell our readers about ministry to international students.
Gaylor: More than 500,000 international students study at
U.S. colleges, and that number increases every year. The United States
is the No. 1 host nation for education. In Chi Alpha weve made
international ministry integral to all we do. Almost 20 percent of
the students we reach are internationals from about 125 nations, some
of which are closed to the gospel and traditional missions outreach.
Evangel: Who are the people committing themselves to campus ministry?
Gaylor: The majority of Americas 15 million college
students are not being reached by the local church. We dont
expect the church to have the focus of ministry necessary to successfully
reach the campus. This is why we need Chi Alpha. It is the specialized
nature of campus ministry which provides a context for discipling,
meeting students needs and challenging students in ways few
churches are prepared to do. We bring Christian witness and perspective
into the world where students live, study and congregate.
Young men and women who have been touched by Chi Alpha are becoming
ministry leaders themselves. In fact, most of our vocational campus
ministers are raised up within Chi Alpha. Their areas of experience
are as diverse as the students they are reaching. But God has called
them, and Hes the One who empowers their different styles of
ministry and leadership.
At the same time, a significant number of leaders are coming out
of our Assemblies of God colleges and seminary.
Evangel: How are technological advances like the Internet helping
Gaylor: E-mail has enhanced communication on the local level
between campus leaders and among students. Our website http://chialpha.ag.org/
is providing greater awareness of Chi Alpha nationwide.