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Christian Union
May 30, 2017

Christian Union Celebrates Fifteen Years of Ministry

On Saturday night, April 8, Christian Union celebrated its 15th anniversary with a huge cake served to all the attendees of its Nexus Conference at the Marriott Hotel in Stamford, Connecticut.

Approximately 250 students from some of the leading universities in the United States joined marketplace professionals and Christian Union's faculty and staff for a sweet time of jubilation and thankfulness to the grace of God.

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For some of the students, many with lofty career aspirations, one of the highlights of the conference happened that morning when a Q and A session with Dr. D. Michael Lindsay gave them insights into their own potential for future leadership from his groundbreaking Platinum study of 550 top-level American CEOs, senior government leaders, and nonprofit executives. Lindsay, the president of Gordon College, wrote about the study in his 2014 book, View from the Top: An Inside Look at How People in Power See and Shape the World. The Princeton PhD ('07), who also earned degrees at Princeton Theological Seminary, Baylor, and Oxford, spoke to the students about common traits of high-level leaders and the importance of finding a mentor.

The students appreciated the insight. As well they should—statistics indicate many will go on to assume positions of power in various sectors of society in the years to come. These are the kinds of catalytic leaders Matt Bennett had in mind when he founded Christian Union in 2002 in Princeton, New Jersey.

The ministry was birthed when Bennett considered the influence that top secular universities possess when it comes to producing many of the nation's most prominent leaders. He also had a heavy conviction that culture could be changed when these schools were influenced by the Gospel. As a student member of Cru in the 1980s and later as a staff member, Bennett ('88, MBA '89) saw firsthand the impact a campus ministry could have if it were tailored to the spiritual, intellectual, and relational needs of highly intelligent, goal-oriented students.

The mission of Christian Union is "Developing Christian Leaders to Transform Culture."

In 2002, Christian Union started to launch leadership development ministries at leading universities. On each campus where it operates, Christian Union's highly credentialed ministry and teaching fellows mentor students and lead challenging, academically-oriented Bible courses designed to help students develop a robust understanding of Scipture and Christian worldview. The ministries also host conferences, leadership lecture series, and evangelistic outreach events as they seek to change the spiritual climate at very secular institutions.

"These campuses have done us a great service; they've brought together some of the most leadership-minded, ambitious young people in the country. Our part is simply to tell them about Jesus Christ and disciple them in the Lord," Bennett recently told CBN News.

During the past academic year, 1,409 students were enrolled in Christian Union Bible Courses at Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Harvard Law, Penn, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale. Additionally, Christian Union Cities reaches alumni and young professionals in key metropolitan areas such as New York, Washington, D.C., and Houston, while Christian Union Day and Night is an online portal (www.dayandnight.org) that promotes spiritual strengthening in Christians across America.

Following the Nexus Conference, Bennett reflected on the last 15 years.

"I'm so deeply grateful to the Lord for all He's done—all the lives that have been changed; all those students who have been strengthened and encouraged," Bennett said. "I'm really thrilled by what God has done through the work of so many."

"Many alumni have gone on to work in such influential places—McKinsey and Company, Goldman Sachs, the White House, and Facebook. They have gone everywhere, as we knew they would. Now, we want to focus also on our alumni (Christian Union Cities) and help them to stay strong in Christ. That's really an emphasis at the 15-year mark."

Bennett is quick to point to prayer as integral for any sustainment or success. Christian Union seeks to foster a seeking God lifestyle that is marked by humility, fervent and frequent prayer, Bible reading, personal and corporate confession of sin, and obedience to God.

"We can't underestimate prayer," Bennett said. "We're not going to see these very secular universities change without tremendous effort. Prayer is our best resource. It's a weapon of spiritual warfare—a way the Lord has set for us to see progress in the spiritual realm. So, we pray like crazy. I always love what was said about the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions: 'They worked and organized like there was no such thing as prayer; and they prayed like there was no such thing as work and organization.'" Some of the pioneers of the Student Volunteer Movement were John R. Mott of Cornell and Robert Wilder and John Forman of Princeton University. A lot has changed regarding Christian influence and mission at these universities and others since the late 19th century, but Bennett and Christian Union are confident and hopeful things can turn around. The goal is to have 20 percent of students at select universities involved with a local church or Christian ministry in the years to come. Christian Union anticipates contributing to that goal by engaging about 10 percent of the students.

"The schools fall on a spectrum of how explicitly Christian they were at their founding, but they all drifted in a secular direction. We want to change that," Bennett said. "We do not want them to become seminaries, per se, but we want to grow the level of Christian influence at these schools, so that every student can know the Gospel of Jesus Christ, grow in love and devotion to Him, and get a vision to be used by Him, fulfill their destinies,, and make a positive impact on the world. We want to see these campuses as centers of world Christianity. I mean, when you look at God and what He's done in the Bible and throughout history, clearly, there is nothing too hard for Him to bring about."
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