IDENTIFYING AND RESPONDING TO THE EVOLVING CHALLENGES IN STUDENT MINISTRIES IN NIGERIA
II Timothy 3: 1-5; Joel 2:28-30
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient, to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, and conceited, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” (NIV)
“ And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.” (KJV)
Please permit me to briefly share with you my personal profile with respect to student ministries leadership. This will help you to appreciate my audacity for the adventure of writing this piece.
• I gave my life to Christ on September 9, 1989. Shortly thereafter, God gave me special grace to venture into leadership responsibilities, mainly in student and youths ministries, where I have remain in the last 3 decades. So, I have the calling of God into this special ministry. My leadership journey in the student ministries, therefore is as follows:
• President, Baptist Student Fellowship, First Baptist Church, Ijagbo, Kwara State (1990-1991)
• President, Baptist Student Fellowship, Kwara/Kogi Baptist Conference (1991-1992)
• Hall Pastor, Baptist Student Fellowship, University of Ilorin (1991-1992)
• Vice President, Baptist Student Fellowship, University of Ilorin (1993-1994)
• President, Baptist Student Fellowship, University of Ilorin (1994-1995)
• Zonal Coordinator, Nigerian Christian Corper’s Fellowship (1997-1998)
• President, Baptist Student Leader’s Fellowship (BSLF), NBTS, Ogbomoso (2000-2001)
• National Coordinator, Baptist Student Fellowship, Nigerian Baptist Convention (2007-2011)
• President/International Director, Godly Brains Ministry, a Campus Focused Ministry with presence in 20 campuses (2012- Till date)
• I have attended student/youth conferences in Germany (Baptist Youth World Alliance Congress 2008) and in the US (URBANA Student Mission Congress 2009).
• I have mobilized and taken students for mission exchange program in Ghana in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
• I have visited almost all the university campuses in Nigeria between 2007 till date
Evil days are here! We are in a time the bible called the last days. It seems the two passages above present a conflict of attention, intention, and output. While God’s attention has been programmed on the youths with the intention of using them as the last days army with the aim of having a quality output of revival over our land, the devil also seemed to have kept his own agenda of engaging the same young ones with the intention of pervading the land with woes as they perpetuate their evil practices.
Obviously, we are in the last days. While this period should ignite the hope of the return of the bride of the church in the heart of the saints, the church must also be prepared to face the challenges that the last days pose to her. There is already an outpouring of demons and its attending woes as Paul outlined above. What we see in our days is very strange. These evil practices, as presented above, have found their ways into every available space of human existence, most especially in schools of higher learning.
Paul foresaw by the Spirit of God what would characterize the last days and he simply concluded that, “There will be terrible times…” Unfortunately, most of these misdemeanors have found their easy expressions in the lives of our young ones, specifically students. This group of people have become cheap tools in the hands of the devil; they are the target group of this onslaught of the last days. The painful aspect, of course, is the fact that most of our adolescents spent a vital part of their lives in school of higher learning. By implication therefore, our campuses have become a training ground where the devil trains, tests, and thrusts out instruments for his evil agenda.
IDENTIFYING THE CHALLENGES
In all my ministry journeys to campuses, both within and outside the country, I have noticed a lot of developments, both positive and negative, as far as student ministries is concern, which provoked my desire to have a critical look at the turn of events in student ministries. We must acknowledge the fact that schools of higher learning have become very strategic in the program of God in effecting the needed revival in these last days. As I gave a careful look, I observed several challenges we must consider and find appropriate responses to. They are as follows:
• The Challenge of Moral Perversions:
This generation has been described as amoral. There is a complete loss of the sense of good and bad. This generation could not discern what is right from wrong any longer. The rate at which sexual immoralities in its varied dimensions are perpetuated on our campuses is alarming. Observing the manner of dressing alone will tell you that something is wrong with our students. What I called “Babylonian garments” has become the normal fashion on our campuses. Some even go to the lecture rooms almost naked. Most of our campuses have become breeding ground for pornographic activities, rape activities, homosexuals and lesbianism. An average Nigerian student is a “Hollywood Star” in attitude and conduct. This is what Paul foreseen when he said in the last day people will lose their sense of self control.
• The Challenge of Academic Laxity:
The time for serious academic discipline is gone on our campuses. What we have now is a hard chase after pleasure as Paul predicted. The rate of examination malpractice is becoming a matter of concern. It is in our days that a student will have to write about two or three exams (UTME, Post UTME and Post UTME Screening) before gaining admission into a university. This is an indication that something is wrong with our system; a serious gap has been created. Today, a graduate from any Nigerian University cannot gain any acknowledgment overseas. When you listen to our student speak English this day you will know there is a big problem on our hands.
• The Challenge of Cultism:
University campuses and other schools of higher study have become the homes of cultism. These evil groups have become a nightmare to both students and school authority. The rate at which cult activities interrupt school calendar of academic program is an issue of concern in our time. Cultism has become an emerging phenomenon on our campuses we must respond to. There is hardly any campus in Nigeria you will not found at least one of these terrible groups operating. In those days they called them “secret groups” but now their adherent are proud to be known publicly. The names like “Black Axe”, “Eye Fraternity”, “Sea-Dog” among others have become household names on campus.
• The Challenge of Multiplicity of Christian Groups:
Paul noted very strongly that in the last days many will have a form of godliness but they will deny its inherent power. There is a high level of nominaliTY on our campuses. Our campuses now witness a consistent upsurge of Christian groups of different brands. While this should be our joy that the resultant effect of this will be powerful impact of godliness on campus, the reverse is the case. History has it that by 1974 there were only three Christian groups in the University of Ibadan, namely, Ibadan Varsity Christian Union (IVCU), Baptist Student Union (BSU), and Student Christian Movement (SCM). Yet, there was a serious influence of Christian faith on the whole campus in those days. Today, there are over sixty Christian groups in the same campus, yet evil grows without bound on the same ground.
• The Challenge of Emerging New University Campuses:
Within the last one and half decade, over Thirty five private universities have emerged in this country. This is besides several other state universities and other schools of higher study. This is a very serious challenge for those of us involve in campus ministry. The implication is that if we don’t make every effort to establish God’s kingdom in those campuses, then the devil will be left alone to build his domain there.
WHAT SHOULD BE THE CHURCH’S RESPONSE?
• A Fresh Look at Student/Campus Ministry:
God promised to pour out His Spirit upon young men and women in the last days. Where you find greater population of this set of people is nowhere than on campuses. God wants to do something new in our time. He wants to visit our land again and he desires to start again on campuses.
History has it that in the 70s, Nigeria Universities has the largest number of Evangelical students in the world. The revival of the seventies that swept this country started right from campuses. Great Christian leaders of this country were prepared in their days on campus. People like W.F.Kumuyi of Deeper, David Oyedepo of Living Faith, Chris Oyakholome of Christ Embassy and Bro. Gbile Akanni of Peace House, all received their preparation while on campus.
I have every reason to conclude that university campuses are where God prepare men for His work; we must not concede it to the devil. The devil has shifted his base of operation to the campus; we too must take the battle back to his (devil) gate.
Every church, especially the Nigerian Baptist Convention and other denominational based ministries must have a new look at the campus ministry. Jesus said, “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the field! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35 NIV).
• The Need for a Well Defined and Purposeful Campus Ministry:
For a result oriented campus ministry, there must be a strong purpose backing such a move which must be pursued vigorously. When purpose is rightly defined, resources are rightly distributed and focus is enhanced. For instance, the Student Ministry Division of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, where I once served as the National Coordinator, pursues these five cardinal objectives: Salvation, Discipleship, Academic excellence, Missions and denominational understanding and participation. It is these objectives that inform our programs, the kind of materials we publish and the kind of staff we engage for our ministry.
• The Need to Prepare and Present the Right Gospel:
The gospel message remains the same and it is still the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16), even though it could be spread using various methods. There is an infiltration of another gospel on our campuses. Students are always open to new teachings and falsehood could easily be spread abroad from them. This pose a challenge to us who carry the right teaching to spread it correctly, consistently, and in a contemporary manner. The role of media and ICT in spreading the gospel cannot be over emphasized. We must make every effort to make enough financial input to make the gospel available to campus students at all cost.
• The Need for Committed Christian Workers:
To bring the necessary impact on our campuses there is the need for strong workforce. We must recruit people who are mature in their faith with relevant experience in campus ministry to be the custodian and bearer of the gospel of the kingdom to campuses. The work is enormous.
For instance, during my time as the National Coordinator of the student Ministry Division of the Convention, Baptist Student Fellowship was operating in about 150 Campuses within Nigeria but with a workforce of 11 full-time worker, 13 part-time, 25 Volunteer Campus Ministers, and 5 Youth Corps members all operating in 10 Zones within the country. This of course is significantly low compare to the nature of the work on campus. Although the staff strength has improved significantly. Obviously, finance is the crucial factor in this case. A lot of money must be invested into campus ministry if we need to see tangible result. Every campus actually needs a full-time campus minister who will be a discipler who will grow them in the Christian faith. And such people must be adequately equipped with everything they need to do the work.
• The Need for Relevant Orientation of Student Ministries at the Church base
A lot of churches are not given serious attention to the student ministries at the church base any longer. We have erroneously concluded that student ministries are strictly a campus affair. But this is not true. The axiom is ever true that charity begins at home. When a student is well groomed at the church base and he/she is given a right orientation into the Christian values and virtue of new birth, it becomes very easy for such student to identify and participate to the maximum benefit in student activities on campus. It is my own opinion that student ministries activities must be entrenched and promoted at the church level otherwise when they get to the school of higher learning, they may disconnect.
It was my involvement in the activities of Baptist Student Fellowship (BSF) at the church base in the late 80’s that prepared me for my campus experience. It was not difficult for me to quickly identify with the same group when I entered the University of Ilorin in the 1990s. In fact, it was a big brother whom I have met in BSF activities at the zonal level that gave me the early footing in Unilorin BSF. I think the church pastors have a lot to do in this regard in motivating and creating the right atmosphere for student ministries to thrive within their local assembly.
This is the day of great harvest. The harvest field in this case is the schools of higher learning. We must take the good news to this very gate of the devil and restore the kingdom of our God on those ground the devil has unlawfully claimed. We must not live on assumption that “four more months then harvest will come.” The clarion call is that we should, “lift up our eyes” because the field is white for harvest. The kingdom of this world must of necessity become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ and He must reign forever and ever.
Revd. Gideon O.O. Akanbi
Godly Brains Ministry Inc.