SBTS students bringing Gospel to U of L campus through BCM

Communications Staff — July 30, 2009

As they step out into the world for the first time, college students face many decisions and questions concerning their life, faith and values.

During this transitional point in students’ lives, the Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM) at the University of Louisville seeks “to develop fully devoted Christ followers,” said Bill Noe, U of L campus minister and a 2003 graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Regardless of their background, all campus students share a common need: salvation in Christ.

Noe is merely one of many students from Southern Seminary deeply involved in proclaiming the Gospel on the U of L campus through BCM.  BCM, funded by the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention, fulfills its mission through a broad variety of ministries and events, such as lunchtime Bible studies, weekend outings and activities, a weekly worship service and a language partner program for international students.

Despite the abundance of Christian fellowship, BCM leaders point out that the organization is not a substitute for the local church.

“BCM exists to serve churches,” says Riley Byers, internationals minister who graduated from Southern in May. Byers encourages volunteers from the seminary to minister at the U of L BCM as representatives of their local churches.

Byers personally lives out his goals through his work at Third Avenue Baptist Church, where he has started a Sunday School class for international university students called “International Christianity Matters.”  Founded as a place for Christian internationals to grow in their faith, the class has become more evangelistic in nature as several non-believers attend, he said. C.W. Faulkner, also a Southern student, teaches the class in English that is easily understood.

Local church involvement is essential not only for international students but also for American students. Noe said that by being part of a local church, college students will be able to continue to grow in their faith  after they graduate. Noe sees BCM as a bridge between Christians and non-Christians in helping lead them to Christ.By keeping students connected to Christ, BCM strives to disciple students for the Lord.

BCM provides unique opportunities to share the Gospel with students of different nationalities without having to go overseas.

“The Lord in His grace is bringing the nations here,” said Jennifer Hall, Southern student and BCM semester missionary.

University of Louisville students come from all over the world, including China, India, Morocco, Tunisia and Spain. More than 80% of these international students will return to their homelands after they graduate. By hearing the Gospel while they are in America, these students can be effective witnesses in their own countries where many of them hold influential positions.

Yet it is not an easy process.

Many international students come from pagan or even atheistic cultures. The concept of God and His existence is quite foreign to them, making it hard for them to grasp the Gospel. For these students, BCM works to sow seeds that may one day bear fruit in another land.

Many international students are attracted to BCM as a way to learn about American culture and language. BCM is then able to present Christianity as a part of American culture. Although not a Christian, one doctoral student was so fascinated with Christianity and its connection with American culture that she videotaped Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and chairman of Southern’s board of trustees, sharing the Gospel. When she returns to her home country, she will show the video to students in her home country.

BCM reaches out to international students through its language partner program, weekday Bible studies and weekend activities. In the language partner program, Christian U of L students and Southern students are paired up with international students. Each pair meets at least once a week to practice conversational English.

BCM volunteers devote themselves completely to these students, showing them the love of God by inviting them to their homes for meals and spending time with them. One student from Spain said, “These are the only people that care about us.”

The majority of international students that BCM works with are Chinese. Coming from a strong atheistic background, Chinese students are open to hearing the Gospel, but the newness of the idea of a God prevents them from believing. Once they do, however, their lives are changed.

Kang, originally from China, came to Louisville for post-doctoral studies. He regularly attended a Saturday night Bible study organized by BCM where he heard the Gospel for the first time. Last Easter, Kang accepted Christ and was baptized at the Chinese mission at Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville. He says that as a Christian he has greater security and can depend on the Almighty God instead of only himself. Kang also says that his faith has prompted him to change many sinful habits.

Whatever BCM’s efforts to share the Gospel, leaders say it is still all by the grace of God that students come to accept Him. Moved by the Spirit, even Muslim students come to BCM hungering for the Word of God. It is then up to BCM volunteers to teach Scripture to these students.

BCM welcomes volunteers who will involve themselves in the lives of a few college students, helping them to come to Christ and grow in their faith.

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