Trent Sheppard - "God on Campus"
11:00AM Jul 7, 2020
Jonathan J. Armstrong
It's our privilege today to be speaking with Trent shepherd. Trent Shepherd is the author of God on Campus: Sacred Causes and Global Effects available from IVP. Trent, thank you so much for joining us today.
It's a joy to be with you.
Trans we understand from the author's note at the close of the book that you knew Jay Edwin or the Irishman who became the great historian of revivalism that you knew him personally. How is it that you came to know J. Edwin Orr?
Well, Jonathan, the the short version is the Dr. Orr mentored my parents. And, and so he was, I guess you could describe him like a spiritual godfather to me. Some of my earliest memories when I was a little kid because my father's work He was a pastor for many years and then was involved in denominational leadership and they would host these revival conferences at a place out in North Carolina and then a place out in I think it was in New Mexico as well. And Dr. Or would come out and teach a load of pastors and others about spiritual awakening and revival movements. And and I have really happy memories from that time you got to remember Dr. Or was a man with I think he had four earned a doctorate degrees. And so he was, I mean, this was a remarkable thinker and brilliant historian. But what always felt to me was he always had time for a little kid at the time. I was like seven, eight years old. And he was at time for us. I have very happy memories of him walking up to me with his rich Higher spec set, always saying, Hi, chum, how's your thumb? And so yeah, really special times he would spend a lot of time with our house as well, where I grew up in Georgia. And then we also spent some time with him at these revival seminars in the summer at Oxford University. Again, when I was a little boy, and having no idea, the measure of the man that I was speaking with, but I look back on that now with so much gratitude. I wish he was still around so I could ask him some questions. Now, honestly,
friends, we understand from the book that you have known Pete Gregg for some time, the book was published in 2009. And at that time, YouTube, we're collaborating on a campus America prayer movement. In what directions has this prayer movement gone say in the last 10 years?
Well, well first let me say about P. P is a dear friend, and I would say that he is probably one of the most significant and Important voices and leaders in the prayer movement worldwide right now. And if you're not familiar with the 24, seven prayer movement that emerged out of the UK in 1999, it is well worth checking out and how it has spread since then. And in 2009 2010, specifically actually been a few years before that, Pete and I were collaborating on a very audacious dream, I guess you could call it to see a prayer and missions movement established and coming out of every campus in the United States. Obviously, there were loads of other people involved. And and but one of the reasons I got so deeply involved was because Pete asked me to take a part of it. And I think that Canvas America was part of a wider movement and prayer that was going before and is continuing to go on now. And I think that uh, some of the exciting directions that I see it going in At present is that if on the one hand you could imagine there's like this prayer movement and different parts of the body of Christ and the other hand, you've got this missions movement in the different parts of the body of Christ. I think one of the most exciting things is that right now, in a unique way, those movements are coming together. Now, historically, those things, they often go together, I think, theologically, you want them to go together. But sometimes you can have people in different camps. And what is so exhilarating. And Pete has played a big part of this as well is seeing those movements begin to learn from one another and encourage one another. And, and I think as a result, it means that things are spreading both in prayer and admission. Yeah, so that has been very exciting to watch in the last few years,
trends, what would have surprised you most to learn then what you now know about the direction of the prayer movement?
I think that probably most Surprising and and I'd say probably most encouraging is that there is a new willingness within the body to learn from one another and four different streams of the body to, to learn from those who have expertise in different areas. So let me give an example as I relate to like that. That unity in that oneness in the body. So 24 seven prayer specifically again out of the United Kingdom that has since gone global. They have these annual gatherings. A few years ago, I think it was in 2015. And then I think they did it again this year. They hosted that their annual global gathering in Vienna, Austria. Now the reason they did that was because the Bishop of Vienna, the cardinal, the Catholic bishop, Cardinals, sunburn is his name. So he had invited Pete and the 20 For seven guys to come in to have a big celebration there with thousands of others in St. Stephen's Cathedral. And I think watching this 24 seven movement that is, you know, these are really dynamic folks, a lot of them are just tattooed up and you know, they're there. They're on the edge and so many wonderful ways and watching them pile into a this old beautiful Catholic Cathedral and to be welcomed by the cardinal and to say that we want to learn together how we can be a part of prayer and mission and our time. No, I didn't see that coming. And and that is it. You encouraged us all, because the body's learning from each other.
we're privileged today to be speaking with Trent Shepard, author of God on campus, secret causes and global effects, trends, some of the greatest moves Men in all of church history can trace their beginnings to university campuses. And I suppose we could include in that list, Martin Luther, his reformation and the earth in Wittenberg, and also the early Methodism of john Wesley and George Whitfield at Oxford University. What is it exactly about campuses that make them such fertile soil for prayer movements?
Yeah, I think it's such an important thing to think about. And and I'm not sure actually who coined this phrase. But there's been some really interesting research that has been done on what has been called revival communities. And and the the idea behind it is this is that oftentimes when you're watching where a revival or a timeout can even be a spiritual awakening takes place, is you see that there is a lot of crossover in people's lives. So what I mean by that is that they're they're living in the same area there. You know, they're they may be eating in the same area, there's there's crossover in their lives on a regular basis. So in our modern age, for example, what's happened is, is that you know, you, you, you live in one place, you may commute 45 minutes or an hour to where you work, and then you go out to somewhere else maybe to have lunch, then you may be going somewhere else for church and those worlds, there's different worlds that you're a part of. They rarely are intertwined with one another. So what's interesting about a campus is that all of those worlds are uniquely together. And so one historian described college campuses for that reason as one of the last natural revival communities that we have. Very simply because you have students are living together. They're sharing dormitories together, they're studying together, they're eating together. And what it means is it creates an environment For real honesty, a lack of pretense is you know, confession and honesty is so essential in these moments of spiritual transformation. And, and that honesty, that openness about all aspects of your life, I think can take place in a campus setting. Added to that, of course you have young people, and who are wrestling deeply with the questions of life and who are also willing to take risk. There is that wonderful seal inside and a young person that enables them to believe great things for God expect great things for God. Maybe that's why Jesus talk to us about being more like kids to come into His kingdom. So I think those two things combined, there's revival community environments, youthfulness of campuses, create a really, really fertile soil for revival movements to grow.
trends, I'm intrigued by your idea of this crossover space, as an area where revival is bred, if you will, in that light, what is your prognosis for the usefulness of online? prayer? Is the online environment and medium that would be natural for prayer. What's your view?
Well, that is a great question. I think, I think I'll say like this is that it's a wonderful tool. And for example, it means that you and I right now, I mean, I'm in Boston, you're in Chicago, right? Correct. And so I mean, that we get to have this kind of interact, interaction. That's incredible. That's a gift and it's something that needs to be treasured. And so I think you can obviously have deeply meaningful times and online prayer, just like what we're experiencing the interview right now, simultaneously, though, there is my own opinion, there is no substitute for sitting in a living room, or whatever it is a classroom with people face to face. And again, I think it creates an authenticity, a depth a lot. Have pretense that can come across sometimes in an online setting that you can't hide so easily when you're face to face in the living room or a classroom. And so I think it's both a gift, but it's also something that can never substitute what takes place in real life face to face.
Thank you so much for that perspective. I think we resonate with you. Yeah. Thanks for touching on those themes. Trends. The haystack revival of 1806 started with five students on the campus of Williams College, when they gather to pray a thunderstorm that day drove them to see the shelter of a haystack for the remainder of their prayer service. What were some of the global effects of this unassuming prayer meeting?
Well, you know, the 1806 haystack for meeting is one of my favorite moments. And, and let me just before I even go into the global effects, I just want to provide a little context that I think is so important and that we sometimes overlook And I'm pretty sure I mentioned it in in God on campus, although it was a few years ago when I wrote it, so maybe thinking of something
the main young man who is involved in
sort of creating the environment for that to take place, so there's five of them. They're praying, they're together. And Samuel Mills was the key factor in those five and this isn't a he was a freshman. But he had been thinking about things as to related to missions and a bit more global thinking more and longer than the other ones had even though he was. He was a freshman. And one of the things that he said at that prayer meeting, they're praying about some different places around the world, specifically about China on that date was the summer of 1806, and the prayer about China and it may be It was the thunderstorm that electricity in the air that created this sense of real expectation with them. But at some point, Samuel Mills looked up and he said, we can do this, if we will. So not We will do this if we can, which is how we typically roll but he says, We can do this, if we will. Now I heard that story probably sets all the way back from when I knew Dr. Or when I was a little kid. And I had always imagined Samuel Mills to be just this
legendary figure, you know, maybe like,
such a compelling personality, deep voice, I don't know. And that's how I imagined him saying that but his his roommate is describing him in the letter, it was an 1810 and how he describes him and Moses is he says he was an awkward fellow with a croaking sort of voice. And that was so powerful for me and I think so powerful for students to think about. So this was not a guy who with such gusto goes we can Do this if we will. I mean, he is an awkward down to earth ordinary guy. So he probably it's more like we can do this, if we will. He's normal. And I think it's so important when we think about the global impact that then comes out of the haystack permitting. Because again, you can sometimes make these moments more magical than they were. These were down to earth students praying, but they're praying to this extraordinary God who takes their very ordinary gift of their lives, and then transforms it, and it goes somewhere. And so some of the global effects. You know, a couple of weeks ago, I had the wonderful privilege to teach in Kona, Hawaii, out at a youth of the missions university campus and it was such a wonderful time. I've got old roots with youth of the mission and I love being with them. And one of the things I got to do while I was there was see this plaque down to the water, with a first Protestant missionaries had come to the big island of Why, and I 18 I think it's 1818 or 8020. And they came right out of that movement that began from the haystack prayer meeting. They came out of that same wave of missions that begins to develop specifically in response to those five students going, Well, we can do this we can give our lives overseas. Another real personal thing that I know about from that time is we had a dear friend of mine from Turkey here. Just a couple of months ago, he was speaking at a famous church here in Boston called Park Street. And, and the reason Turkey is close to our heart is that's where my wife actually grew up. And, and one of the things we discovered while my friend was here with it, the first Protestant missionaries to ever go to Turkey actually landed in the ancient biblical city in Smyrna, which is now known as easier which is the city my wife grew up in. They came in the year 1819 from Park Street Church in Boston. sent out from that same first wave of Protestant missionaries that are a direct result of the haystack prayer meeting just a few years before in 1806. So, the both you know, religious and non religious historians alike will trace the emergence of the American Foreign Missions movement right back to those five praying students in the summer 1806 at Williams College, and it still goes on today. And that's amazing when you think about it.
That is amazing. Thank you so much Trent for sharing those personal reflections as well. Trent, the businessman's revival of 1857, maybe the most remarkable story ever concerning the explosive growth of a church prayer meeting. In the autumn of 1857. Jeremiah lanfear, conducted a series of noon prayer meetings, which were meant to bring together businessmen from lower Manhattan. This was to the church then of the North Dutch Reformed Church. The first day of his prayer meetings, only five shuffled in the Next week we had apparently about 20. In the next week after that we had about 40. But then in October of 1857, we have the first global financial crisis. And soon thousands were praying, not only in the north Dutch Reformed Church, but a wrap through churches through the city. And there were about 10,000 praying per day. What is it that we can take from this story of an extraordinary explosive prayer meeting?
while there's so much there, isn't there? I think one thing is that, you know, point one people pray in a time of crisis. To put it plainly, I mean, things were already shaky in New York when lamphere began leading people to pray. And I think my prayer would be that our churches our our Christian communities are always a place a safe place for people feel like they can Go in times of crisis. And because people pray in those moments, and we want our doors to be wide open for those moments of crisis and prayer. I think another lesson learned is that the steadiness of those prayer meetings every day at noon during the lunch hour, that was the idea. You didn't have to take off time from work, you could just come during your lunch hour. I think the steadiness of it provided something that was desperately needed in that time. I think of that, man the dire need for something like that, in our day, just a steady time when people are face to face in prayer. I think also have to keep in mind that it was a biblically speaking, you would call this a Kairos moment. There was a fullness of time, and that had to do socially, politically, religiously. All of that there were all sorts of forces at work that are contributing to a desperation in people's hearts. for change, the last thing I'll mention on this, is that a doctor or we talked about earlier in the interview, Dr. Ward did his his work at Oxford University when he did his D. Phil there. He did it on this prayer movement specifically, what transpired before and afterwards. And one of the things that doctor pointed out and it was overwhelming, actually, I think, for me to see is that even in the midst of the Civil War, which comes just you know, shortly after this time, and literally the country is just being torn to pieces as it grapples with so much change and confronting a such an entrenched evil in in slavery. One of the things that Dr. Or talked about was how that on both sides of the conflict, people were praying and both sides of the conflict, there was confession and transformation that was beginning to take Place. And I just want you to think about that for a second. Think about how in God's timing and God's frame or what, how God also was working towards change. Now, obviously, war can only do so much it can never change something inside of someone's heart. And I think this many years on the Civil War, we're still right now dealing with entrenched issues of racism and our time. And I think again, we have to go back into go, something has to be done to place a prayer that was beginning to happen during this lab for a movement that I think God Willing will continue to spread and heal this deep, deep wound, and our lad. So that was a long answer to a to a short question. But there's so much at work in that movement.
We're so grateful for your reflection. trends in the wake of the summer conferences conducted in partnership with Dr. Moody at the Northfield Mount Hermon school. There were 100 students who committed their lives to world evangelization. And within a generation, we understand that about 100,000 students had followed suit. What a new student volunteer movement look like today?
Yeah, you know, it's actually and I only discovered this myself recently, it's actually more like about 175,000 students who in time within a generation sign this, this pledge that was coming out from this movement known as a student volunteer movement. And a couple of quick thoughts on it. Again, just some historical perspective. So many folks don't know that that movement actually began before 1886 1886 was the Mount Hermon 100, which is it's sort of like a tipping point in the movement but a number years before that at Mount Holyoke College. So a young woman by the name of grace Wilder, she was a student there between 19 sorry, 1880 and 1883. I think it was, and 34 this was an all women's seminary at the time. 34 young women sign a pledge, basically, that we are willing and desirous to give our lives to wherever God would call us, even if it'd be in a foreign land. That pledge is what then grace Wilder's brother, Robert Wilder takes to the Mount Hermon conference in 1886, then 100 students, young men sign that same pledge, a little different wording, and then the movement begins. And again, like you said, within a generation 175,000 students signed this pledge. 20,000 of those students actually then give their lives and overseas mission service. There has never been anything like it. Since In terms of that convergence of prayer and mission and student awakening, in terms of what it could look like today, oh, Lord, let it be. Let me say first Lord, let it be. I think that there's all sorts of lessons to be learned from that movement, the student volunteer movement, I think they had a unique connection and I'll describe it like this. And we use this phrase ology back in the campus America, prayer time, they had this unique connection of mission, mercy and marketplace, mission, mercy and marketplace. And, and I think because of that, they had a deep and a practical theology of vocation that was intertwined in their understanding of mission. And so they went out with this fiery watchword they called it the you know, it was the evangelization of the world and this generation so these were fire evangelists. Simultaneously though, they are establishing schools, colleges and hospitals along the way. These are some of the most well educated people and from the finest institutions in the world at that time who have signed this pledge. So I think there was this deep and practical theology of vocation that was mixed in. And so they saw it all this one, your your mission, your mercy and your marketplace. And my prayer is that right now, students will begin to get that fire within them. So they know that the calling of the preacher is no more holy than say a calling of a schoolteacher. And, and somehow that gets intertwined at us. And that same passion for mission that drives the missionary to their knees and a remote tribe drives someone else to their knees in a laboratory. And there is a there's a convergence of those things that happen and they have a deep and practical theology of vocation that affects every sphere of society in all of life. That is what we desperately need. In our time, and if that were to happen, yes, we would see a new movement, admission mercy and marketplace a day, hopefully from our campuses. Yeah.
Trent, this book is not just for you what we say an intellectual exercise, but this is also a lived reality. You've been working with campus movements for a number of years now. What advice would you have to someone beginning or participating in in a new campus movement of prayer?
That's a great question. I'd say one, we learned to pray by praying.
I think my buddy Pete Greg, told me that we learn to pray by praying.
You don't start a prayer movement by
you know, getting everybody on board. You, you, you start praying in that way by beginning to pray you on your own and with your friends. Don't complicate it. We learn to pray by praying. I'd say number two, learn from those who have gone before us. It's one of the reasons I wrote God on campus. Pete, Greg asked me to write it. And one of the reasons he asked this, he went, we want to, we want to be able to learn from those who have gone before us on campus. Learn from the awakenings in the past, learn the things they did so incredibly well and learn the things that maybe they should have done differently. And then when you are in the middle of your prayer in the middle of the risk taking that usually comes after prayer, put those things into practice. And, and third, I'd say, you know, take a prayer risk, do something like what 24 seven, prayer encourages you to do and you can, you know, you can go online and I think it's just 24 hours.
they can teach you how to just like create a little prayer room for three days on your campus, take a dorm room or empty classroom or something, you can get permission and transform it into a place of prayer for a few days. And you will be so surprised by what happens when you make a list. Begin to spread the word and invite others into that room to pray and creative ways. How that those slots quickly get filled. And before you know it something beautiful can be born right there in the heart of the campus.
Trends. Thank you so much for your time today. If I can close with a question that we've been asking all of the participants in this interview program and that is this. What would it mean for the church to be united today? How would we recognize this unity and what is it that we can do as Christians to pursue the Unity for which Jesus prayed and john 17?
Yes, The the great unanswered prayer of Jesus thing. And john 17 is his body, his church, his people would be one. In terms of what it would look like, I think, quite practically I think it would mean that not everyone in our churches on Sunday morning would look like us.
Quite practically. I think that would be one of the signs.
I think that it's hard to
articulate what exactly that unity, how it would unfold specifically. But I think that we will certainly know it when we see it. And one of the reasons we'll know it is because we will sense the presence of God. Right in the middle of it, God promises that there is a there's a certain blessing that comes in that unity and it was part of what is Even the book of Acts, and those days of waiting. And as they're praying together, there's some form of unity that's grown in their hearts, into which then the Holy Spirit comes in such a unique and powerful way.
The rest is history. So I think I think we will know it when we see it.
I think practically in terms of what we might do, to work and move in that direction. I think one we need to lift hiking Jesus,
we need to lift hiking is even more than unity.
We lift hiking Jesus, and then somehow he gathers people to himself,
I think to get to recognize that none of us have the whole truth. Again, that is such an exciting mark, I would say an encouraging mark of our age, is that there is a new willingness within the body to learn from one another.
And that's a good thing.
Cuz none of us have the whole truth. And then I think the final thing is this we got to be quick to confess, when the Holy Spirit convicts us of not loving or honoring our brother and sister, we're going to be quick to confess when the Holy Spirit convicts us of not honoring or loving our brother or sister. I think those are some of the elements that can create the sort of unity that we're all longing for and the body load, let it be a load, let it be.
Spin are delighted today to be speaking with Trent Shepard, author of God on campus sacred causes and global effects. Friends, thank you so much for joining us today.
Thanks so much. It's been a Jordan