Christian environment encourages students to work out their faith

Note: This is the third in a three-part series of stories about the spiritual impact of Christian education.

PLAINVIEW – Donnie Brown carries quite a load on his shoulders as the campus minister at Wayland Baptist University. His job as director of the Baptist Student Ministries brings the responsibility for gauging the spiritual climate on campus, both among students and employees, and providing activities and programs that help disciple students and others in their faith.

It is his heart, though, that leads him to do the job with a passion and a burden for seeing students become spiritual leaders and witnesses.

Most of Brown’s work is with the traditional-aged student on the Plainview campus, the 18- to 22-year-old who is away from home and earning an education at Wayland. At this juncture in their lives, Brown said, many are coming to grips with their own identity, both as individuals and in terms of their spirituality.

“At this time in their lives, students have more freedom than they’ve had before and as they’re looking at their futures, it makes them examine their faith and allow themselves to make changes that will shape them into who they want to be,” Brown said.

For students who come to Wayland for that Christian atmosphere they hold dear and to learn among people of like faith, the experience can be eye-opening as they separate themselves from their parents both in terms of their identities and what they believe about God and spiritual issues.

“Socrates said that ‘an unexamined life is a life not worth living,’ and BSM tries to help students examine who they are and why they believe,” Brown said. “We also focus on discipleship, where we take a student and help them discover where they are in their walk with Christ and where they want to be.”

Brown said his role is not simply to preach but to prepare students.

“I invest in students and try to get them to share their faith with others,” he said. “Most of the students on campus who come to know the Lord are led to Christ by their fellow students.”

Through weekly chapel services and other events where the gospel is openly presented, Brown said students who may be seeking very often begin asking questions and in many cases, other students are able to lead them in the right direction. One female student in particular, he recalled, began asking questions after chapel and was able to find answers and encouragement in a fellow student. He shared the book Purpose-Driven Life with the student, and in her own home over Christmas break, she accepted Christ.

This school year, Brown has led the entire campus in an emphasis on prayer, starting after he felt convicted about a lack of prayer in his own life. Brown began by holding a weekly prayer time for faculty and staff, then encouraged the employees to meet for prayer by offices and departments. In early October, BSM sponsored a 24/7 prayer event where students and others prayed for 24 hours a day for a full week, emphasizing lifting up concerns and worshiping in prayer time. Brown said he can see the impact.

“I see God working through prayer,” he said. “We’ve seen students healed, and family members overcome illnesses. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these things happen.

“I think the spiritual awareness is more apparent here, it’s on our minds more. Christian higher education is very vital in helping shape who students are and ultimately who our nation is.”