Nationwide Campus Awakening
For the past year, E. Scott Martin has ended his talks at Chi Alpha student gatherings nationwide with what he calls a two-minute warning.
“Get your wits about you,” says the senior director of the U.S. Missions university campus ministry before he appeals to those who haven’t yet surrendered their lives to Christ. “Stand right now if you want to make a profession of faith.”
Martin, 59, doesn’t call for heads bowed and eyes closed; everybody’s watching. Even so, without fail, at campus Chi Alpha meetings and the group’s multistate Student Awakening Leadership Training (SALT) conventions alike, phenomenal numbers of students are standing. And the sense of urgency is palpable.
“Never in 40 years have I seen this many people coming to Christ and the ease with which it’s coming,” says Martin, who rules out “COVID blowback” from three years of restrictions on in-person gatherings. In a word, it’s awakening.
More students have attended SALT conferences this school year than ever before, with scores getting baptized in the Holy Spirit and baptized in water.
“Supernatural manifestations of God are coming in such a gentle, responsive way to the people,” Martin says. Those manifestations include confession that allows students to be set free from all manner of bondages from addictions. Students are making commitments to vocational ministry as never before.
“I look forward, with great anticipation, to the Kingdom results of this God-ordained awakening,” Martin says.
A divine heads-up came to Martin in 2016 as a prophetic word that college campuses were about to experience the greatest student awakening in history, but this time accompanied by discipleship and covering. In a December 2022 Zoom call with leaders of other U.S. campus ministries, Martin says all reported seeing more students come to Christ.
“We should not be surprised by the recent spiritual hunger and outpouring at Asbury University,” Martin says. “I am confident this is just the beginning of a student awakening of global impact that will come through multiple arenas of student ministry.”
But prayer served as the midwife that is birthing that prophetic word into reality.
“It’s not our creativity, though there is that,” says U.S. missionary Severin Awori Lwali, Chi Alpha international director. “It is not just our polished preaching and the words of man, nor experience and training, though that’s necessary. It’s what Jesus is doing.”
Lwali, 47, an ordained AG minister, says God is joyfully answering the prayers of his people.
The unprecedented response is occurring likewise in areas that historically have resisted the gospel — places that U.S. missionary Todd V. Lucas describes as the proverbial “spiritual wet blanket we’re often having to fight through and overcome.”
Lucas, 42, an ordained AG minister, pioneered citywide Chicago Chi Alpha, which now has a presence on four campuses in the nation’s third largest city. He singles out the academically elite Northwestern University and the progressive, artsy Columbia College Chicago as schools where there’s been a noticeable uptick in a hunger for God’s presence. “Students there are truly seeking to see things that are real and authentic,” he says.
Momentum he’s witnessed ramp up over the past year manifested at the annual Chi Alpha SALT Great Lakes gathering in January in Lombard, Illinois. Lucas says it represents the best response he has ever seen in terms of attendance and the presence of God — a comment he heard echoed by other campus directors. Among the 75 Chicago attendees, there was unprecedented hunger among Christians and non-Christians alike, according to Lucas. At SALT altar calls, students surrendered to lordship, discipleship, holiness, honoring God, and decisions to enter into full-time ministry in U.S. Missions or AG World Missions.
“In Chicago, we like to say that every meeting is an altar,” Lucas says. “Whether it’s small groups, one-on-one, or just hanging out, we believe that the presence of God can and will manifest in spaces that aren’t classic service spaces — where God changes us and does something remarkable.” At SALT, the altar extended after the conference, as students continued worshipping, praying, and prophesying over one another. The overflow from SALT has been spontaneous campus worship gatherings and prayer meetings among attendees at Northwestern and Columbia College.
His take on the atmosphere is that it’s become conducive for awakening and abandonment to Christ’s agenda.
“In a space where darkness is common, the light is that much more precious and rare and the quality is that much stronger,” Lucas says. “We’re seeing that special breed of those God is raising up in this hour.”
Lwali, who spoke at Great Lakes SALT, says every student who responds to Christ is on a journey.
“Jesus has already been at work, but with international students, the process is typically longer,” he says.
Lwali, originally from Kenya, says that he’s seeing rising numbers of students from abroad respond to Christ’s invitation to salvation.
“More are being called to be set apart for Christ and His purposes in abandonment of dreams and for what He wants — greater hunger, greater desire for Jesus to heal and set them free from things that have bound them,” Lwali says.
While international students are saying yes to Jesus, altar calls may look different for them, especially students from nations where governments, culture, or both restrict the gospel.
“Internationals may not stand up for an altar call, but may respond one on one in a trust relationship with their campus pastor and fellow students,” Lwali says. “I’m seeing international students say yes to Jesus — take me wherever You want me to go.”
He cited at a recent conference that students from different African countries responded to the Holy Spirit’s call to India.
“There’s an authority that God has given us to walk in and invite people into what Jesus is doing through His Holy Spirit among the students,” Lwali says. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of giving an invitation.”