It has been said: “If you win the campus today, you win the world tomorrow.” There is an almost unprecedented convergence of both spiritual need and opportunity for discipleship on college campuses. In fact, the North American Mission Board recently named college campuses as the 33rd Send City. The reality is that college students are one of the most reachable, trainable, and sendable people groups in the world.
They are reachable because the 18-25 year range is one of the most important developmental windows in a person’s life. They are trainable because they come to college expecting to be formed by new ideas and experiences. They are sendable because they begin college with the intention of going somewhere else when they graduate; sending is already built into the DNA of college.
So, what exactly is a collegiate church? A collegiate church is characterized by three main things: being relentlessly focused on reaching and discipling lost students, located on or near campus therefore being made up of at least 50% college students, and oriented towards multiplication by planting more collegiate church plants.
What would happen if we could reach lost students, win them to Christ, disciple them for two to four years, and then send them out across our city, nation, and world to make disciples and plant churches?
The short answer is: there is lostness in our own backyard. The University of Alabama at Birmingham has over 21,000 students enrolled. It is the most ethnically, socio-economically, and religiously diverse university in Alabama. There are almost 1,000 international students representing 40-plus different countries. While there are Christians there, more students have a background in church but have since distanced from the faith. Even more, thousands, have had no personal exposure to the gospel at all. The urgency and opportunity for gospel impact cannot be overstated. Our goal is to start by sharing the gospel, disciple new believers, and launch a new church from new believers.
Some might wonder, “Aren’t there other ministries at UAB already doing gospel work?” Yes, that is the case and we praise God for their Kingdom partnership! But even if every campus ministry and church in the downtown area was discipling 250 students each at UAB that would still leave around 17,000 students unengaged. Far from competition, we plan only to work more closely than previously with campus ministries to bring the Kingdom to UAB.
I have sensed God’s call to church planting since I was a freshman in high school, soon after my conversion to faith in Christ. Alli and I always thought God would send us to a major, urban city to plant the gospel. But God had different plans. At the end of 2017 we both sensed God wanted to do something new with us. So, we began praying very intentionally in January of 2018 that God would make his direction clear. Over the course of the following months God confirmed that he wanted us to plant a church. But not in a major city. He wanted to combine our call to church planting, our desire to reach the lost, and our experience with and passion for college students – so that he could plant a church at UAB. To God alone be the glory.
If you're interested in more information or joining the core team of the UAB plant, contact Kevin Naylor.