From Lecture Halls to Spiritual Battlegrounds

Think about the first time you set foot on a college campus. Whether you were an enthusiastic freshman or just visiting a family member, you likely noticed the vibrant ecosystem of the campus, teeming with life and representing a microcosm of society. It’s a dynamic environment where people from varied walks of life come to live, work, dream, and shape their futures.

However, it’s disheartening that for many, colleges serve merely as stepping stones to enhance job opportunities and gain knowledge. What if we perceived colleges as more than just educational institutions? What if we saw them as vibrant communities where ideas are exchanged, communities form, and disciples of Jesus grow exponentially?

The college years are pivotal in life. The decisions made during this phase of life resonate far beyond the campus. Personal beliefs, worldviews, and ambitions all rise up from the sea of learning that is the college experience. This is true for both the bookworm, the valedictorian, and the party animal. All of these are forging their identity in relation to their college peers. These types of environments pave the way for significant conversations about life, purpose, and our role in the world. The influence of these students doesn’t stop at graduation. Instead, as graduates disperse into diverse fields and corners of the globe, the knowledge, experiences, and convictions nurtured in college accompany them, transforming each graduate into a potential catalyst for change.

"Personal beliefs, worldviews, and ambitions all rise up from the sea of learning that is the college experience."

In this way, the campus is like a fish ladder. Now, I won’t assume you understand what a fish ladder is, so let me explain. The survival of many fish species depends on migrations up and down rivers. Fish such as salmon have a downstream migration in the early stages of life, while upstream migration happens as an adult. River obstructions such as dams have the potential to slow or stop fish migration. A fish ladder provides a detour route for migrating fish past a particular obstruction on the river. During this detour, the ladder contains a series of ascending pools that are reached by swimming against a stream of water. Fish leap through the cascade of rushing water, rest in a pool, and then repeat the process until they are out of the ladder.

If your goal is to study salmon and impact the entire population positively, where is the most strategic location for your research? It is in the small confined walls of the pools of a fish ladder! This is where all the fish will inevitably pass through. If a disease is present among the fish, it can be treated in the fish ladder. Similarly, if there are new behavioral tendencies, these can be observed and studied in the fish ladder to understand their impact on the adult life of the salmon. There are many ways to track, understand, and change a salmon population just by focusing on the fish ladder. Likewise, if you are looking to affect an entire population of people, the most strategic place to do that is the narrow and confined experience that takes place on a college campus.

"We believe that college, typically a 2-4 year window, represents a unique opportunity for God to lay a solid foundation in a person's life."

Now, imagine if colleges were viewed as strategic mission fields, with every student recognized for their untapped potential. This collective vision could have ripple effects across generations, transforming the college experience from simply personal growth into a conduit for reaching all nations for Christ. It comes as no surprise that institutions like the military and large businesses target college students and try to persuade them to come work for them.

This is precisely where Christian Challenge comes in. We see it not just as a place for intellectual and social growth, but a vibrant, fertile ground for spiritual growth and discipleship. We believe that college, typically a 2-4 year window, represents a unique opportunity for God to lay a solid foundation in a person’s life.

All of this starts with a burden for the lost. Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” It was the mission of Jesus to reach the lost and we want to live our lives just like him. Then with this burden burning in our hearts, we seek to keep our eyes open to the opportunities God gives us to share the gospel. These opportunities are unique and abundant on a college campus where most students will willingly share stories and talk about important things in their life. Then we pray for boldness to take those opportunities to not be ashamed of the gospel and be an ambassador for Christ. We recognize most people have a list of myths they believe about sharing their faith, and so we help train them to be confident and competent in sharing the gospel and how Jesus personally changed their life.

"As ambassadors of Christ, Christian Challenge represents Him in our campus communities, actively spreading the good news across the campus."

Once someone accepts the gospel, or if they have trusted Jesus as their Lord and Savior prior to coming to college, we want to build in them foundational elements of walking with Jesus. Not every student who is a follower of Jesus comes in with a vision to make disciples. In reality, almost every student that comes through our doors is typically in one of three groups: ‘Busy/Apathetic’, ‘Effective’, and ‘Strategic’. ‘Busy/Apathetic’ students are those with full schedules but lack direction or impact or they simply just do not care. The ‘Effective’ ones have narrowed down their priorities, but lack any real plans. The ‘Strategic’ students view the campus from God’s perspective, establishing relationships and helping others follow Jesus.

What if students, their parents, and every church had the same ‘strategic’ perspective?

We have a vision to see every student within arm’s reach of a community that loves Jesus. As ambassadors of Christ, Christian Challenge represents Him in our campus communities, actively spreading the good news across the campus. We do this primarily by sharing our faith, discipling others in intentional personal relationships, and living life on mission. Additionally, we have weekly gatherings, small groups, events, retreats, conferences, and mission trips that provide students with experiences to catalyze growth in their faith.

If the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20 is believed, the college campus must be seen as a critical battlefield toward victory. College campuses, teeming with diversity and life, are ripe for the spread of the gospel.

College is more than an educational institution or fun experience. If you treat it like that, what hope is there for students to get the most out of college? In reality it is a mission field ripe for the harvest. Christian Challenge exists to make the most of this opportunity, guiding students to know Jesus, live like Him, and change the world through Him. It’s a challenging task, with lots of ups and downs, but with God’s guidance, the potential for spiritual transformation seems limitless. It’s time we all saw the college campus as a mission field, recognizing the significant, world-altering impact these students can have. 

Christian Challenge is the Baptist representation of collegiate ministries throughout Colorado.  We exist to help college students come to know Jesus, learn to live like Him, and change the world the way He did. We absolutely love college students and want to be there to help them experience Christ daily as they pursue their degrees. We create communities on campus for students to explore the Christian faith, grow in their walk with Jesus, and learn how they can help reach the nations with the gospel. Each Christian Challenge ministry is unique and tailored to meet the needs of the campus in which it is located, but we all share the same love of God and love of people.