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God on Campus, book review

June 5, 2016

Trent Sheppard’s book, God on Campus: Sacred Causes & Global Effects, may sound like a book only relevant to college ministers and students. To the contrary, it’s a book that every believer, young and old, can find a deeper appreciation of our spiritual heritage and a clearer focus on the “Great Commission.”

Trent writes,

“This is a book to help you remember your roots. It tells the stories of ordinary people like you and me—bold and timid, brilliant and insecure, disillusioned and dangerous, ambitious and naïve, holy and fallen, fearless and afraid—people who prayed, people who conspired together with their friends in faith and action, people who believed their lives could actually help shape the unfolding narrative of history.”

I love what Trent wrote on page 63,

“The urgent need of our generation, and one of the most important themes of this book, is the rejoining of heart and head in our understanding of spiritual awakenings and especially in our day-to-day following of Jesus. Even though the curious case of the modern mind drove a dividing wedge between the sacred and the secular, one of the redemptive elements of the postmodern mind is a genuine desire to bridge that great divide. Can you imagine the global effect in communications and the arts, in the fields of business and science and technology, and in education and healthcare and diplomacy if a new breed of believers emerged on campus whose entire lives (heart, soul, mind and strength) were fully surrendered to Jesus?”

Stories I Never Want to Forget

Trent really did his homework for this book, digging up stories from history that I’d never heard before. I agree with Pete Greig, who wrote in the afterword,

“The many extraordinary stories recounted in this book should shoot adrenaline into our veins, terrifying and inspiring us to pray.”

Some of my favorite stories include:

Harvard’s College Laws, 1642 –

Written under the leadership of President Henry Dunster,

“Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, John 17:3, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord giveth wisdom, let everyone seriously set himself by prayer, in secret, to seek it of Him.”

Later in 1654, Dunster—the first president of America’s first college—was accused of heresy, dismissed from his presidency, and banished from the colony over the question of infant baptism and the Puritan tradition.

Accepting the very charge he gave his students to seek and teach truth, his conscience would not allow him to keep silent, regardless of the consequences.

The “Holy Club” at Oxford, 1729 –

Students like Charles and John Wesley, William Morgan, and George Whitefield practiced prayer, fasting, service to the poor, and accountability together. This club emerged into the movement we know today as the Methodist Church; helped fan into flame the Great Awakening; and contributed to the abolition of slavery in English society.

The “Haystack Prayer Meeting,” 1806 –

At Williams College, freshman Samuel Mills led a prayer meeting with four other students and dreamed about mission work in China. This evolved into the American foreign missions movement.

Mills ended up in London where he dreamed with William Wilberforce about a solution for slavery. He then moved to Africa where he created Liberia as a place where free slaves could rebuild their lives.

“Mount Hermon One Hundred,” 1886 –

When Princeton graduate Luther Wishard thought up the idea to host a month-long Bible conference with speaker D.L. Moody, 100 students pledged to give their lives to missions.

Students at this conference later formed the Student Volunteer Movement (SVM) that inspired over 20,000 students to go into the mission field. SVM’s primary leader from Cornell, John Mott, was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The book goes on to tell story after story of remarkable people such as Jeremiah Lanphier, William Borden, and Allison Brooks. Trent Sheppard also touches on the establishment of student organizations such as YMCA, InterVarsity, The Navigators, Campus Crusade for Christ, YWAM, The Jesus Movement, and 268 Generation.

Quotes I Never Want to Forget

“Humility…almost comes naturally when we are awestruck.”

“Contrary to the modern trend of pitting faith and scholarship against one another, the extraordinary spiritual legacy these earliest campuses extend to us is the essential knowledge that God and academia are by no means mutually exclusive.”

“God does not intend to suppress our minds in order to awaken our souls.”

“Since Jesus’ time numberless bands of Christian youth have ‘turned the world upside down’ and thus led [humanity] forward in its struggle for freedom and deeper religious experience. The universities have always been breeding places for such groups.” ~Clarence P. Shedd

“In the purposeful mind of [Samuel] Mills, stupidity had less to do with one’s test scores and more to do with one’s overall life direction. The question was not, Are you making the highest mark in class? but rather, Are you living your life on purpose?”

“Prayer and missions are as inseparable as faith and works, in fact, prayer and missions are faith and works.” ~John Mott

“Am I known more by what I am for or by what I am against?”

“For the friends and followers of Jesus, it was not as if the controversial issues of their time no longer mattered to them, it was simply that Jesus mattered more.”

“Unity in prayer does not mean unanimity in opinions, but it does mean that we have to humbly recognize that none of us have the whole truth.”

“One of the most disempowering and shortsighted misunderstandings in the history of Christianity is that the calling of a pastor or preacher is somehow more sacred than the calling of a research scientist or elementary school teacher. Jesus was no less holy as a carpenter than as a rabbi, was he?”

“How can evangelism consider its task accomplished if it leaves the university unevangelized?” ~Charles Malik

“If we get down on our knees side-by-side, we’ll stand up much stronger together. Unified and humble prayer around the person of Jesus is a powerful prescription for the ills of our time.”

Five Stars

I give this book a five star review, and heartily recommend you pick up a copy to read soon. You’ll especially like the personal application questions at the end of each chapter, along with the mention of many helpful links and resources.