A discipleship initiative recently launched by Southern Baptists already is capturing the attention of college students across the country, generating hopeful comparisons to successful Christian movements such as True Love Waits and Promise Keepers.

Students at campuses as diverse as Mississippi State University in Starkville and Washington State University in Pullman are getting involved in CrossSeekers. Introduced in August by the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board's national student ministry (NSM) and later endorsed by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the initiative has three components:

1) a grassroots discipleship emphasis built around a six-point covenant;

2) a series of discipleship events;

3) the publication of discipleship materials to support students in their spiritual growth.

Student interest to date has centered around the "CrossSeekers covenant" which challenges students to commit to a lifestyle of integrity, spiritual growth, an authentic and consistent witness, service, purity, and Christlike relationships.

To date, more than 1,000 students have signed up to receive monthly updates about CrossSeekers via e-mail and hundreds have agreed to be "CrossSeeker Champions." The latter group promises to encourage, pray for, and be involved in the lives of at least six of their peers with the goal of having them commit to the covenant, too.

"And all this is happening before we've done hardly any publicity or put out any resources," NSM director Bill Henry said.

It's a little too early to call this a movement, Henry admitted, "but the numerous positive reactions we've received so far convince me it has the potential to make a huge impact on campus. I'm hopeful CrossSeekers can provide a platform for Christian college students the way True Love Waits has for youth and Promise Keepers has for Christian men."

Student leaders at Mississippi State's BSU are using the CrossSeekers covenant in a variety of settings. "Family groups" of transfer students used it as a basis for their weekly Bible study and prayer times this fall, as did some of the BSU's FLEA (Fellowship, Leadership, Encouragement, and Accountability) groups. United in Christ, a multiracial and interdenominational worship and Bible study group affiliated with the BSU, also focused on the covenant at a recent meeting, and freshman "family groups" plan to use the covenant as part of their weekly meetings this winter.

Laurie Jones, a junior at MSU, said a professor recently noticed a CrossSeekers prayer tag she brought to class.

"He was really interested and asked if it was anything like Promise Keepers even before I got a chance to tell him anything," Jones said. "He wanted to know what each of the six statements in the covenant were. … I pray that God gives me more chances to share."

Jones, who is active in her school's BSU, said she likes CrossSeekers because it challenges students to "stand up and be real."

"College students didn't need another Bible study. We didn't need another meeting," she explained. "What we need is a kick in the seat. And that's what the CrossSeekers covenant does. … I can't think of a sin that the covenant doesn't address. It's really a wake up call for college students. I'm ready to go to New Orleans."

Jones was referring to the location of the first CrossSeekers event. Dubbed "A Celebration of the Covenant," the Labor Day '98 (Sept. 4-6) meeting will feature widely known Christian recording artists and speakers such as Steven Curtis Chapman, Jars of Clay, Anne Graham Lotz, and Dave Edwards. Organizers hope to attract 10,000-15,000 students to the New Orleans Convention Center for the event.

"We need something like this to come together as Christian college students," Laura Pasiewicz, another member of MSU's BSU group, said. "I really believe it's going to be an incredible thing."

Landon Dowden, a student at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, agreed. President of his school's BSU, Dowden also leads the "Bayou CrossSeekers," a group of twelve male students who meet weekly for Bible study, worship, and prayer.

"The true heart of what CrossSeekers is all about is what we strive to accomplish in our Bible study," Dowden said. "We study things such as prayer, service, and fasting and then apply them to our lives. We then turn our focus to others and look for ways that we can reach out to them."

The "outward focus" of CrossSeekers especially appeals to Dowden.

"The true grit of this movement is not about fanfare or trumpet blowing, but about rolling your sleeves up and getting involved in the daily lives (good and bad) of your brothers and sisters in Christ," Dowden explained. "Labor Day '98 can be an awesome celebration, but it will only be great if we realize the opportunities we have for one-on-one relationships every day."

At Washington State University, the leadership team of the school's Baptist Student Ministries group adopted the CrossSeekers covenant and changed the name of their Friday night worship service to CrossSeekers.

"We really felt like it was a name that was inclusive and might attract students who wouldn't come to a 'Baptist' meeting," Chad McMillan, a senior at WSU and BSU president for the Northwest Baptist Convention, said. "Plus, our group is really excited about the CrossSeekers covenant. I think it really sums up what we're all about."

Josh McFarland, president of the BSU at the University of Akron in Ohio, has the CrossSeekers covenant posted on a wall in his home as a reminder of the promise he made to God. The covenant's call to Christlike relationships recently prompted him to end a relationship with his girlfriend "because I felt like it was bringing me down spiritually.

"The covenant calls students to step up to the plate and be a vocal witness," he said. "It really makes you realize that you need to examine your life every day and make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life."

"It helps me be accountable," agreed Dax Summerhill, a junior at MSU. "I have (the CrossSeekers covenant) up in my bathroom so I'll see it every day. Praying each part of the covenant, like 'Lord, help me be a person of integrity,' is a good way to start the day."

Ken Watkins, BSU director at MSU, said he believes the CrossSeekers covenant can "help students see where they are 'clogged up in their spiritual life.' All of the points of the covenant stand before you and challenge you. They can help you keep your life in balance."

"This is one of the most awesome things I have heard of since Promise Keepers," Heather Dendy, a sophomore at MSU, said. "Committing to CrossSeekers is a good way for college students to be seen outside the usual stereotype. It really promotes growth in your spiritual walk."

Evan Crass, a student at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, said CrossSeekers "is more than words on paper; it is a promise etched on my heart. … To say the least, CrossSeekers is already changing my life by raising the standard that has been brought so low and by separating the men from the boys, so to speak. I've already decided which side I want to stand on."

Students or those who work with college students can receive the weekly CrossSeekers e-mail update by sending a note to [email protected]. They should include their name, address, phone number, and school in the e-mail.

More information about CrossSeekers is available on the initiative's Internet site (www.crossseekers.org).

    About the Author

  • Chip Alford