Historians call the final quarter of the 19th century the Gilded Age, a term originally coined by Mark Twain. It was an era characterized by unprecedented industrialization, spurred on especially by the expansion of the railroad industry. It was the age of tycoons, monopolies, mass immigration, rapid urbanization and significant wealth disparity.
More important for eternity, the Gilded Age witnessed the rise of the Student Volunteer Movement (SVM). The SVM was founded in 1886 at a summer student conference in Northfield, Mass. It soon spread to campuses all over the nation as well as Canada and Great Britain. With the encouragement of leaders such as D.L. Moody and John Mott, untold thousands of college students all over the English-speaking world answered God’s call to give themselves to the cause of global missions.
The SVM contributed to dramatic growth among campus ministries such as Baptist Student Union (now Baptist Collegiate Ministries) and denominational mission boards such as the SBC’s Foreign (now International) Mission Board. It also resulted in numerous independent “faith missions” and led directly to the formation of new interdenominational campus ministries, most notably InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. The heart of the movement was captured in its famous slogan: “the evangelization of the world in this generation.”
Today, it has been about 100 years since the height of the Student Volunteer Movement in the 1920s. As I reflect on how God used the SVM, I find myself praying for a new college missionary movement in our own day.
I’m praying that God grants thousands of Great Commission Baptist churches a fresh vision for investing sacrificially and strategically in reaching college campuses and discipling college students.
I’m praying that God pours out His blessings upon campus ministries like Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) and many others who come alongside churches to encourage and equip students to fulfill the Great Commission.
I’m praying that God uses strategic conferences like the CROSS Conference, the Send Conference, and state BCM conferences to fan the flames of missions among college students and other young adults.
I’m praying for divine favor for the International Mission Board and other global mission agencies that provide short-, mid-, and long-term mission opportunities for students and recent graduates – especially during this season when many places remain closed to mission work because of the pandemic.
I’m praying the Lord will richly bless the North American Mission Board and other ministries that offer collegians opportunities to engage in evangelism and assist with planting churches among the unreached and underserved, especially in major metropolitan areas.
I’m praying for Baptist state conventions and local associations to come up with creative ways to challenge college students to come alongside churches of every shape, size and style and assist them in their missionary efforts.
I’m praying for professors, especially in our Baptist colleges and universities, who understand that education is academic disciple-making and that every discipline and field is a pathway into missional faithfulness.
I’m praying for retired and furloughed missionaries who are willing to mentor college students and help them to catch a vision for God’s heart for global disciple-making.
I want to encourage all Great Commission Baptists to join me in these prayers. The famous Baptist missionary pioneer William Carey once said we should expect great things from God and attempt great things for Him. How about a new college missionary movement that, like the SVM of a century ago, is committed to the evangelization of the world in this generation?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nathan A. Finn is Provost and Dean of the University faculty at North Greenville University in Tigerville, S.C.)