PHILADELPHIA (BRN) — “The university is without question the most significant institution – I would argue even more influential than the media, and the media is pretty strong,” said new BRN Director of NextGen Ministries Stanley Williams.
Williams took over as the NextGen Director in July of this year, after long-time director Robert Turner stepped into retirement.
“So, the role – NextGen director for collegiate ministries – is framed to prioritize me championing our missionaries who engage campus ministry/college ministry, obviously our college pastors, folks who are in Collegiate Church planting – anyone, frankly, who has a desire to be involved in reaching college students,” stated Williams.
Within the Baptist Resource Network, there are several campus missionaries who do campus-based ministry. These missionaries are assigned to individual campuses throughout PA/SJ, such as, but not limited to: Penn State University, California University of Pennsylvania, Clarion University, and Montgomery County Community College.
There are also collegiate church planting networks affiliated with the BRN – Salt Company and Grace Point – as well as a “variety of churches who are very passionate about reaching college students.”
“Whether it’s campus based, or a variety of other creative expressions of a local faith community engaging a university or college…if you’re engaging young people in the academic bubbles, [then] that’s who we want to resource,” said Williams.
For Williams, providing resources for collegiate ministers and putting boots on the ground at the university level is not only part of his job, but part of his personal mission.
“When I went off to college – which is probably why college ministry is as significant in my own journey as it is –I’ll be clear, there were several places along the way, but I did not become a Christian until I was a college student,” shared Williams.
During his first year of college, Williams crossed paths with a now dear friend, Leslie Braxton.
“Leslie Braxton was the star football running back of the team, but he was also a very devoted Christian. His life spoke to me, everything I saw in who he was, was something I wanted in my own journey.”
Williams continued: “Everybody likes him, even people that don’t like him respect him, because of who he is and how he chooses to live. It was because of that I just decided I was going to hang out with Leslie.”
It was one day after studying with Braxton that Williams, unbeknownst to him at the time, realized that his new friend was a Christian.
“I found out that Leslie – before he would study all of his other books – there was this black book that he would usually study, and I noticed. So, I wanted to see what the book was and it turned out it was a Bible.”
With this, then, disappointing revelation, Williams made a plan to challenge Braxton.
“In my mind, I was like, you know, Leslie’s a pretty awesome guy. He just has one problem: He’s a Christian… I need to help him out. I’m gonna give him some real hard questions, give him lots of doubt, and then he’ll be a decent person like me because he won’t be a Christian.”
Needless to say, Williams’ plan did not go as expected and, eventually, he started studying the Bible and attending church with Braxton. After a Sunday of conviction and much wrestling, Williams surrendered his life to Christ.
“I remember it was the first weekend in February of 1983, [and] in our tradition we call it ‘walking the aisles.’ I knew I had known for a while, I’d just been wrestling with it [but] that particular Sunday I said, ‘You know what, I’m gonna give my life to Christ.’”
Since then, the Lord has grown Williams’ passion for reaching college students and young adults.
“The value of engaging universities is heightened when we underscore it in light of the fact that this is where young people are coming into their own as adults. This window, in this domain, [is] where they are actually choosing who they will be, establishing a sense of identity, [and] wrestling through principal questions.”
Williams continued: “You have young people who genuinely desire to live for Christ, and yet they are coming into a university system, which has layer upon layer upon layer. So, for that young person to walk through that space and not give up their faith is a miracle. We believe that miracle is facilitated because the church decides she’s going to go with her young people.”
Many of the BRN’s collegiate ministers are back on the mission field and walking alongside students, as classes resumed on Aug. 23 for most universities.
“This fall, if the Lord tarries, will be the first time in almost two years that college students are going to attempt to live in mass and dormitories. I just I can’t put words to what a college person is trying to feel….so we need to be in prayer.”
Williams shared some specific ways the BRN community can be praying for students, faculty, and collegiate missionaries.
“So, we pray certainly for the students and their safety, but also for the professors who will be there. If you would also pray that missionaries and campus ministers allow the Spirit of God to invade their thinking about innovative approaches…I am hopeful that, because it is that kind of critical moment, it will produce some very novel opportunities to share the gospel.”
Listen to the podcast interview.
The “50 Stories of Transformation” series, told in honor of the Baptist Resource Network’s 50th anniversary, highlights the many ways God has moved throughout Pennsylvania, South Jersey and beyond. Your generous support of the Cooperative Program makes this ministry possible and fuels evangelism and outreach in our local churches and all over the world! Thank you!