Earlier this year Navigators at Penn State University presented a challenge to the Christian students there: Ask a friend to read the Gospel of John with you for 21 days in a row.
In preparation for this challenge, 30,000 copies of the Gospel of John, printed by the Pocket Testament League, were distributed to almost every student.
Campus leader Morgan Forney sensed God was doing something big when Navigator students joined forces with 12 other campus ministries and partnered with local churches in prayer as plans unfolded.
Organizers also recruited 30,000 people to pray for each student who would receive a Gospel booklet, created discussion groups for those who would have questions as they read, and sent a daily email devotional to each person who signed up to take the challenge.
Morgan is quick to mention that the 21-Day Challenge is also done on other campuses and through other ministries, and that PSU Navs were surrounded by strong support from start to finish.
“There’s been a movement of unity in a handful of churches that partnered together in praying for us,” Morgan says. “The student body was really open and responsive. God was the source of the idea, and He changed hearts.”
Some Christian students were shy about sharing their faith. Many who were inconsistent in their own devotional times found new excitement in reading God’s Word and reaching out to classmates, coworkers, and family members.
“Many of these students are Christians who are walking with God, but had never seen God use them in the life of someone else,” says Morgan. “It’s one thing to try to share your faith with someone, but this challenge helped them approach the Word of God, too.”
Many of today’s students are hesitant to share their faith because they don’t want others to feel judged, Morgan says.
“I tell students that if the Gospel of Jesus is your hope, foundation, and the very thing you stand on for your eternity and for your life itself, it doesn’t make sense to live alongside people and never mention anything about it,” Morgan says. “But when you’re reaching out to your friends, you don’t have to be weird! If you talk to your friends about it like it’s a normal everyday life thing, they find that really intriguing.”
Peggy, a senior at Penn State, found herself reaching out to a student from East Asia she saw reading the Gospel of John at the student union building. The student was having a hard time understanding biblical concepts culturally, and wasn’t familiar with many words she was reading.
“I explained what Pharisees were, and what anointed meant,” Peggy says. “She asked how long I had trusted in Jesus. I shared with her, and she told me that when she finished reading, she wanted to be able to trust Jesus, too. We exchanged emails and I put her in contact with a Christian woman from her country to help her as well.”
One student’s 87-year-old grandmother, who had never read the Bible in her life, agreed to take the challenge. An ROTC student gave a Gospel of John to every superior officer in the program, and invited more than 300 ROTC students to consider meeting to read the Bible together. People from at least 20 nations took the challenge. With fires of interest lit, many students joined ongoing Bible studies. A handful of students made a commitment to Christ, and others took their first steps toward Him.
“I’ve easily heard 100 stories worth sharing,” Morgan says. “I’m sure there are hundreds more we’ll never know this side of heaven.”