USA (MNN) — Students entering college no longer have to sacrifice an elite education for a Christian environment.
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has 108 chapters at 25 of the U.S.'s most elite schools, according to a list compiled for 2009 by the U.S. News and World Report. "It's
important to maintain a witness to Jesus at each one of these places, because the people who graduate from these schools really do lead all of our government institutions, every culture-shaping institution, almost all of our businesses, and often are the leaders in our churches," said Greg Jao of InterVarsity.
Harvard, the top ranked school in the 2009 list, has 11 diverse InterVarsity chapters,
ranging from ethnic specific chapters to academic discipline specific. Jao said their presence at these schools shows that evangelicals are no longer afraid of the life of the mind. "It means that Christians don't need to be afraid of the university. For many years, churches have been told that if you send your children to secular universities or colleges, they're going to lose their faith, they're going to
drift away from their families. What we discern at InterVarsity is that there's no such thing as a secular university. All universities operate under the lordship of Christ whether they realize it or not, and all truth is God's truth," Jao said.
Jao said in order to have a well-rounded, truly redemptive Christian community at a school, "you've
got to reach faculty. We find, even though it's often intimidating for staff and students to speak to faculty, faculty are uniquely open to a thoughtful engagement with the world, and frankly, I think, with God's Word. So we're watching faculty come to know Jesus. We're building faculty fellowships."
A study by UCLA from 2007 says that entering college, 73% of the two million college freshman are looking for answers to spiritual questions. There's a limited window of
openness though, said Jao. "That same UCLA study suggests that only 30% of college seniors are still asking that question. So in that four-year period, there's both a tremendous mission opportunity as well as a tremendous lost opportunity for the church if we
don't engage this mission field."
InterVarsity is half way through a five-year campaign to plant 100 more chapters across the U.S. In the first two years, they successfully planted 23 new chapters, and
through those chapters, 68 people came to Christ. There are hundreds of campuses that still
don't have any Christian witness.
Besides the top schools of the nation, there are InterVarsity chapters at a total of 580 campuses, both at state schools and two-year community colleges. A new Web site has made it easier for new college students to find campuses where InterVarsity and other ministries are available. Visit www.liveabove.com.