My first experience of college evangelism was at the U of MN. There stood Brother Jed and Sister Cindy preaching on the steps of Northrop Hall declaring, “Woe to homosexual. Woe to the…” You could find them there every week. If you are impressed by the gathering of crowds then you’d be impressed by those two. They could gather a crowd of 50 to 100 or more, but I think students thought of them more like a circus act. They were simply after-class amusement. Students would shout out questions that were actually set-ups, and then one of those two would preach a ‘fire and brimstone’ kind of sermon.
Their brand of Christianity did not sound like good news to me. It may have been the religious spirit. I mean, those guys had powerful voices and zeal. They knew scripture. Unfortunately they embodied the metaphor of what people think of when they call someone a Bible beater.
I believe the Good News is Jesus’ mission statement from Isaiah Isaiah 61:1-3. Jesus brought healing, freedom, light, comfort, beauty, joy, worship (love), and a relationship with God.
There also were the Navigators and Campus Crusade for Christ organizations. One gal, who was a Navigator, lived in a dorm room two doors down from me. Apparently, she collected Dole stickers from bananas. If I found one I would bring it to her. It may have been an evangelistic tool but I was not particularly impressed. My roommate who had a heartache turned to that group and they ministered to her.
There was a huge sign above the Minneapolis student center that said something about sin. It offended me and I was a Christian. I grew up knowing the Holy Spirt but not so much the Bible. My brand of Christianity was Christian-lite. I had hoped there was more to it but I didn’t find it anywhere. I sang out to God the Steve Winwood lyrics: There’s a yearning, and it’s real to me. There must be someone whose feeling for me. Bring me a Higher Love.
My church of origin had church services where the Spirit of God would move within the group and there would be expressions of joy. I come from a lineage of Finnish farmers on both sides of the family tree. My grandma had song services every Friday night at her home and it was the godly way of going to the bar with Jesus intoxication and heavenly rejoicing. It was a rip roaring good time.
So here I was at what I thought was the atheistic capital of the World. There were many places to find truth mixed with love. Graffiti could be found along the bridge that connects the East and West campuses. Amongst the free speech quotes was this gem: God is dead. ~ Nietzsche. Nietzsche is dead. ~ God
I added my own little quote to the women’s bathroom in Anderson Hall: Men go crazy in congregations; they only get better one by one. ~ Sting.
I don’t actually believe that quote but there is an aspect of it that is true.
I transferred to MSU and lived in Fargo. I vividly remember my poetry class discussions where the students knew the Bible and would pull types, shadows and symbolism from it to bring meaning to the poems.
The only rock band that came to town mockingly called this region the Bible belt. It was because everyone went to Bible study on Wednesday night except for me and the rest of the artists in the art building.
I dropped out of college for a season but the discontent with the World didn’t stop. When a friend accidentally killed himself trying to get the ultimate high, I had a face-off with God. I surely did tell Him off but the thing is I was actually dialoging with Him for the first time in my life.
This comes to mind this time of year. I read about two people froze to death at a bus stop this week. It could’ve been me many years ago. The thing that prevented my physical and spiritual death was that God continued the dialogue using a day vision. That stopped me from running into the arms of suicide on a cold February night.
This time of year is when Shawn died of asphyxiation. He accidentally hung himself while masturbating. Being as he had the Pentigram poster on his wall, and the way he died, the Catholic Church decided that he went to hell. They allowed services in their church but only in the hallway.
This time of year my dad died and my niece was born. This time of year I became born-again. I died to my old life and started the search of knowing Christ.
Though I wasn’t ready, my parents sent me back to college. I still needed to process all that happened. I am so glad that Lonnie was in two of my classes. He was the only Christian in the art building that was a witness, and thank God it was a positive one. He was simply a kind guy and he was married. The pupil of his right eye was not quite in the center of the iris. He created regular art but also some with Spiritual statements. I found that to be the best way to bring the Good News to this end of the spectrum. I call his form of evangelism as the friendly, covert evangelist.
Artists are a rare breed. You can’t get too boxy with them. They like their freedom because they have to discover their style. Many times people will say that life is about helping others. This does not help the artist to find their path because this journey is inward and reflects the heart with ideas and symbolism and technique that requires attention to emotional expression. In the end, the art form can help others but the process is first internal.
I also worked at three college campuses and met three different kinds of evangelists. The first was what I call the relationship-with-God type. He let people know they could have a relationship with God and talked a lot about Andrew Murry. He was deep and authentic. He got to know people and drew them to communing with God.
The second evangelist that I met was more of a relational evangelist. He was super social and could connect with anyone. He gave his testimony of being a former pimp who was getting a degree in Engineering so he could open a Remodeling business. He shared with my Asian co-worker about what Jesus is like. My co-worker looked at me like, “Is this true.” And I nodded. This was the first time anyone told her anything outside of ancestor worship. He could relate to anybody but he first developed a relationship with them.
The third evangelist goes around the college talking with students and asking if they want a job. I call this one the business-discipler. He hires people for his business of cleaning apartments with heavy duty cleaning vacuums. Part of the deal is that the students agree to be disciples of Christ and go to his Bible study. If you are a student low on cash then his business can help you in more way then one.
There are many ways to evangelize to college students. Some need to know that God wants to talk to them. Others want a friend to come beside them. Some even need help financially. Still, others want meaning and purpose so that their art isn’t just ego. Find your way of evangelizing and do it. There are people who need your style of connecting them to God.