Reaching out to the lost on a college campus can be extremely difficult. Students can be hostile to the gospel message, making it difficult to find those who are open to having an experience with God. That is why Brandon Kertson, U.S. missionary and campus pastor for Chi Alpha at San Diego State University, decided to set up spiritual reading tents on campus.
Kertson explains, “With spiritual reading tents, rather than approaching people cold, or praying and asking God to lead you to the right people, we let God do something in their hearts where they already want to hear about something in the spiritual realm . . . where they already have some need or interest in spirituality.”
The idea is simple. Chi Alpha sets up a booth on campus with a sign that says “Free Spiritual Readings.” As Kertson found, this attracts many more people than a traditional information booth.
“Just having a table with banners about our group, we’d get one person an hour,” he says. “But with this, we’ll have eight to ten people an hour and get to pray with them and have them experience God. It’s nice. You don’t have to approach them or try to attract them; they’re attracted by a sign that says 'Free Spiritual Readings.'”
More importantly, this approach is attracting the kind of people that Kertson wants to reach—the unsaved.
“Out of the thirty people we’ve prayed for, we only had two people come who had (already) professed as Christians,” he says. “The term turns off Christians; I don’t know what they think we are. If we wanted to reach Christians on our campus, we’d call it a prayer tent. But with free spiritual readings, it connects with non-Christians who are already spiritually hungry.”
Once someone approaches the tent, a volunteer explains to them how it works.
“We make it clear to everyone that we’re not psychic; we don’t predict the future,” Kertson explains. “We’ll say something like, ‘We are Christians who believe God speaks today and we can hear His voice. He wants to speak to everyone on our campus, including you. We’ll take a minute or two to pray and ask God what He wants to say to you, then if we get a picture, a word, or an image from God, we’ll share it with you.’”
It doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated. Kertson told us a story about the very first person to approach the booth. After explaining to her how it works, they had a breakthrough.
“We took a moment to pray for her,” he recalls. “What God put on our hearts was that . . . she had felt abandoned before, but to know that God would never abandon her. She started crying and said what we had shared was exactly what she needed to hear.”
After that, the volunteer told her that God loves her and asked if she wanted to decide to begin to follow God.
“She said that she did, and we prayed with her.”
What makes this approach so effective?
Kertson explains: “It helps them have an experience with God before we share the gospel. It has a lot of biblical precedent. People would often experience the gospel through Jesus or miracles or relationship and then be told about the gospel.”
The Chi Alpha ministry at San Diego State hosted three spiritual reading tents last semester, and plans to increase that to twice a month starting this fall. The idea, which was pioneered by the Chi Alpha chapter at Stanislaus State, has now been tried successfully by several other Chi Alpha chapters at different universities.
If you’re interested in learning more about this type of outreach, you can find training materials posted online at cvxa.com.
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