InterVarsity celebrates 75 years

By November 14, 2016

USA (MNN) — Today marks InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s 75th year of serving students on college campuses. Unofficially though, the ministry has been serving students for much longer.

A Bit of History

(Photo courtesy InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) InterVarsity President Tom Lin speaks at Urbana 2015.

Tom Lin speaks at Urbana 2015. (Photo courtesy InterVarsity Christian Fellowship)

Tom Lin, InterVarsity’s president shares a bit of the ministry’s history as part of its celebration. Spoiler alert, the ministry didn’t get its start in America.

“The official beginning [was] when we were incorporated in November of 1941, but the roots of the movement were really with students at the University of Cambridge in England,” Lin shares.

“So, in 1877 there was a group of Christian students who wanted to meet together to pray, to study the Bible, to share the Gospel with fellow students.”

These students formed a group called the “British InterVarsity.” For those who’ve wondered where InterVarsity gets the “varsity” in its name, it’s the British term for college level students.

“And from the very beginning, that group had the concern to take the Gospel all over the world. So evangelism and discipleship and mission were present even at the very beginning of this campus ministry.”

Onward From England

Eventually, the British InterVarsity sent a medical school graduate and a vice chairman of the British group to Canada. Thus, was the beginning of the Canadian movement.

“A year later in 1938, Stacey Woods, who was the Canadian InterVarsity director, met with students at the University of Michigan and started the first InterVarsity chapter there,” Lin says.

Then, in 1947 the InterVarsity press was founded to help supply books and other literature to enrich the college ministries. The InterVarsity press was just one other way to help students grow in Christ through reading.

Today, the United States movement has flourished and has over 1,000 chapters on over 600 campuses. Furthermore, the ministry has also grown to have 1,600 staff serving on campuses across the company.

“It’s a wonderful history that I think we’re proud of, and it does speak to partnership across different movements, you know, with different countries involved,” Lin shares.

So this week, as many celebrate this ministry’s milestone, will you pray? Pray for InterVarsity’s discernment in the changing context it faces on the ever-changing college campuses. Also pray for wisdom in how it can engage the university with its hallmarks of evangelism, discipleship, and mission.

Finally, pray for the ministry’s next 75 years as they will no doubt look different than its past 75 years.

To find out how InterVarsity is celebrating its anniversary, check out the rest of InterVarsity’s story this Wednesday!

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