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Gospel harvest plentiful at colleges, leader says

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (BP) — More than 700 Tallahassee college students attended the 2018 fall semester launch of City Church U, the college ministry of City Church in Tallahassee, Fla., yielding at least five decisions for Christ.

Likely, others will come to Christ as volunteer on-campus student leaders build community among the three colleges the ministry reaches, City Church college director Hunter Leavine told Baptist Press.

City Church held “Launch at Langford” on the Langford Green lawn of Florida State University (FSU) Wednesday evening (Sept. 5), rallying to reap a Gospel harvest that Leavine considers plentiful.

“College students have a desire to really go all in and be a part of something, and if we can help create a space for them to do that within the church, then it can be very catalytic,” said Leavine, who preached to students from Matthew 13:44 about the parable of the hidden treasure.

“A lot of them are going to be tempted to give their lives to chasing success or chasing romance, or chasing status,” Leavine said. “But the reality is that, when you think about the parable of the field, is that those fields will never pay off. Those fields will never bring purpose and joy.”

City Church held its inaugural Launch at Langford in 2017, initially drawing 400 students from three target campuses of FSU, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College.

Lead pastor Dean Inserra sees the ministry model as a plus for Southern Baptist life.

“The local church is God’s vehicle to reach the world and that includes the college campus,” Inserra said. “That night allowed us to have a glimpse of what could happen if this became the norm in SBC [Southern Baptist] life for how we viewed college ministry.”

City Church follows the model of The Salt Company, a college ministry that in 1994 birthed Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa, and led to the founding of a network of college ministries in 2016. The network encompasses college ministries led by 12 Southern Baptist churches in Iowa and six other states, according to saltcompany.com, with the support of the North American Mission Board.

Salt Company has helped City Church reach Tallahassee colleges for Christ, Leavine told BP.

“If this is happening in Ames, Iowa, then why can’t it be happening in Tallahassee?” Leavine said of Cornerstone. “Their staff has been very good to us in kind of teaching us to do college ministry.”

City Church founded City Church U as a registered student group with student leaders, a model for campus ministry that Leavine said is flourishing.

“There are a lot of campus ministries all across the nation who are doing a lot of events on campus, and the [college administration] leaders who may not be Christian often see it as a positive thing, because it creates a safe place for students to have community,” Leavine said. “There are lines and rules to follow, but a lot of times the universities are pretty pro seeing positive things on campus, even if they don’t agree with some of the convictions that we have.”

FSU President John Thrasher, a Christian, welcomed the evangelistic rally and greeted attendees.

“We are standing below the ‘Unconquered’ Statue, but there is only one who has ever been unconquered, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ,” Thrasher told students from the FSU lawn. The Unconquered Statue, which FSU dedicated in 2003, is intended to capture “the indomitable spirit of the Seminole people and those who have adopted that spirit as a symbol for their university.”

Leavine works with a group of 60 college students who lead City Church U as volunteers on campus, but said churches can start with fewer. The goal is to grow leaders who will impact a culture.

“We focus on investing in leaders and creating space for them to lead,” Leavine said. “It all comes to discipleship and development. I believe the difference between events on campus and potential movements on campus is leaders.

“Our college students run everything,” he said. “We [he and his associate] put the ball on the tee, but at the end of the day, the college students are the real ministers on campus.”

He sees the City Church U volunteers as essentially City Church youth staff who are onsite campus ministers. It’s a model that any church can duplicate.

“Start with investing in the people you have,” Leavine advises churches. “The most important thing is to focus on developing leaders who are passionate about the campus, whether that’s one or 100. The call to be faithful in developing disciples is actually the most important thing is college ministry.”