By Scott and Crystal Martin and Jeff Hartensveld
It might not surprise you to read about students on winter break attending a bowl game, a concert by their favorite band, or a media convention. This week, thousands of college and university students are in Houston for a convention entirely focused on reaching the world with the gospel.
“I still remember the wonderful moment at the first World Missions Summit in 2005, when the call was given for students to ‘give a year and pray about a lifetime’ of service to the kingdom of God,” says L. John Bueno, former executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions. “I don’t think any of us expected what was going to happen.”
What happened was a flood of students coming forward to name a place God was calling them to go and serve. A similar response marked the second and third summits. Among Houston’s some 6,000 students, an even larger wave of missions participation is building.
“At every World Missions Summit, we continue to see God tugging at students’ hearts,” says Greg Mundis, AGWM executive director. “God doesn’t choose perfect people to do His work. God chooses broken vessels to do His work.”
Veteran AGWM missionaries David and Beth Grant have built one of the most progressive international ministries to help victims of human trafficking—Project Rescue. But if David is asked to specifically identify a day when God called him into missions, his answer might surprise some.
“I can’t really remember a call,” he says. “I just volunteered.”
Every World Missions Summit drives home that theme. When students step forward to “give a year and pray about a lifetime,” they begin a faith journey in which their obedience inevitably intersects with God’s continued leading. This is a tried and true principle for every follower of Christ.
This week, the World Missions Summit is maintaining five avenues to create a calling ground for new missionaries. In the main gatherings, thousands of students are sharing a heart and passion for the Great Commission. Meals with a missionary offer participants firsthand accounts of what God is doing on foreign fields. The Windows to the World exhibit creates a powerful virtual missions experience. Organized prayer focuses on the nations each day. Missionaries in the Exhibit Hall personally engage visitors.
From planning to execution, TWMS4 has been immersed in prayer. During three days, the World Missions Summit directs prayer toward every nation and every Chi Alpha on the planet. The prayer room front and center in the experience area houses a prayer tent highlighting intercession for the lost and for the nations. A key morning sermon is devoted to the vital importance of prayer. As well, students are invited to join established AGWM prayer communities praying specifically for countries and missionaries around the world.
From the prayer hour each morning in the main service to the entire morning of prayer for the nations to the additional morning of prayer aimed at these United States, the World Missions Summit is filled with prayer. This year, the TWMS4 journal goes home with every student and includes a 2017 calendar outlining continued prayer for all the countries of the world and 100 unreached people groups that AGWM is engaging.
TWMS4 is repeatedly teaching the value of giving to missions—not out of obligation, but out of a deep belief in the Great Commission. Many students already give to support their local church. The World Missions Summit encourages broader giving with the goal of building the Kingdom of God—supporting the home community through a local church as well as identifying God-inspired opportunities nationally and globally through U.S. or World Missions.
Opportunities for service that begin at TWMS4 connect students with a spectrum of ministry windows. AGWM Pipeline is engaging the next generation for missions. With Pipeline, students are directly connected with missionaries on the field to talk about God’s call and the country where a student may feel God is leading them to serve. The application process following that introduction becomes far more meaningful. AGWM Pipeline is designed to clarify and equip any young person for ministry, not only Chi Alpha or TWMS participants. (More information is available at wideopenmissions.org.)
In the last five years approximately 64 percent of newly appointed AGWM career missionaries served previously as missionary associates. This means almost two-thirds of new AGWM career missionaries are entering full-time service with at least a year of field experience.
In the 2014–2015 academic school year (most recent data), nearly 1 million foreign students attended both public and private universities. This was a record in U.S. history. These students represent over 200 different countries. Fifty-eight percent of those students came from China, India, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. It has often been said that the Lord is bringing the harvest of the peoples of the world to our own shores.
These 1 million students are a snapshot of the billions of people who have yet to hear the gospel. Our Chi Alpha groups connect with and disciple students from around the world, and many of the students attending TWMS4 come from overseas as well. This is an opportunity to ingrain into the spiritual DNA of the gathered students that they can reach their people in their homelands, even in countries that may be completely closed to outside gospel influence.
Thousands of students have been impacted by the World Missions Summit. They are continuing to step forward in service for a year, with many continuing in a lifetime of missions ministry.
The 30,000 students participating in Chi Alpha groups across the nation, we believe, will continue to swell the number of AGWM missionary associates and missionaries as God blesses this and future World Missions Summits. The message of each summit echoes the call of Christ himself to every one of His followers: “Go into all the world and preach the good news” (Mark 16:15, NIV). Think what the future of missions will look like as the Holy Spirit builds a student movement and joins it with an even wider movement among 67 million Christ-followers in the Assemblies of God worldwide.
SCOTT MARTIN is national director and CRYSTAL MARTIN is missions director of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries of the Assemblies of God. JEFF HARTENSVELD directs AGWM Mobilization.