In 1996, religious life at the University of Arkansas was pretty much like it is in many other places in the Bible Belt – lots of Christian groups each doing their own thing without regard for the other groups on campus. Most of us did not know the staff of other ministries on campus. To be honest, they were often viewed more as competitors than colleagues. Most of us were more focused on building our group than on the Kingdom of God as a whole.
But a group of students from a few of the ministries on campus began to pray together. They quietly recruited others to come and pray with them. And the group began to grow. There was no staff involvement; just students who felt a calling from God to do something.
That prayer movement by students culminated in a couple of things.
One was an afternoon event that gathered 2,000-3,000 folks for a time of worship and prayer. That evening, a crowd of about twice that size gathered for more worship and prayer. Both gatherings featured Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ and one of the most influential Christian leaders of the last half of the 20th century. .
A Call to Pray
The other thing that began as a result of that student movement was a weekly prayer gathering of campus ministry staff. When Bill Bright arrived on campus for the event, he called together many of the leaders of campus ministries at the University of Arkansas.
He gave us two pieces of advice: First, stay out of the way of the students leading this prayer movement. If we tried to step in and lead it, we would just mess it up. And, second, start meeting together to pray in support of what our students were doing.
So we did that. And we have continued to do that. Since 1996, a group of campus ministry staff gathers each week during the school year to pray. Depending on schedules, sometimes there will be a half dozen folks and sometimes there will be thirty.
We could probably find a hundred different things that we disagree about. We do not do ministry the same way. We often focus on different target groups on campus. Some have large groups and some have small groups. Some are on the staff of local churches, others are paid by their denominations, but most are raising their own support.
But we share common commitments to Jesus Christ, to the Word of God, to reaching and equipping students, and to one another. We discuss campus issues and strategies for reaching students and training leaders. But mostly we pray. We pray for one another, our families, our campus, our ministries, and our world.
Support – Some of my closest friends and some of the people I most trust spiritually anywhere are other campus ministers at the University of Arkansas. We have together prayed for each other and our families, ministries, and campus for almost two decades. Where else are you going to find a group of people who better understand the ins-and-outs and ups-and-downs of college ministry?
That may be why there is such longevity among campus ministers here. Warren has been here over thirty-five years. I am in year thirty-two. Ronnie has been here over twenty and Kevin almost twenty. If God ever calls me to another place of ministry, this group will be one of the things that I will miss the most.
Unity – Gone is the sense of competition. In its place are hearts that desire to see God’s Kingdom expand through His work in all of our ministries. We realize that none of our ministries can reach this campus by itself but that will only happen as each ministry thrives and grows.
Fruit – I believe that these years of consistent prayer have built a unique spiritual synergy on our campus and in our community that has allowed us to accomplish more than any of us could have done on our own. It has made our campus and community a place where God moves, calls people to Himself, and raises up leaders from around the globe who will seek first His Kingdom and commit themselves to its expansion throughout the world.
Mike Armstrong (@_mikearmstrong_) is in his 32nd year of ministry to college students at the University of Arkansas with Christ on Campus and is a past president of the Association of College Ministries. He has been married to Gina for 34 years and they have two grown and married daughters. He has also been a track and field official for over 20 years and is a fan of classic rock, jazz, and the blues. You can read his blog at michaelarmstrong.net or find him on Facebook at THEMikeArmstrong.