This quarter’s church spotlight highlights the college ministry of Edmond’s First Baptist Church (EFBC) in Edmond, Oklahoma. Edmond is just north of Oklahoma City, with a population of approximately 110,000. There are two universities in Edmond—Central Oklahoma and Oklahoma Christian. The city partners with the University and uses the campus several times a year for community events. Edmond is an affluent community that is building homes and schools at a rapid pace. The median income is about 75,000, but the majority of people in Edmond commute to Oklahoma City for work.
EFBC is the second oldest church in town and one of the oldest churches in the state. EFBC’s history is dated back before statehood (Oklahoma became a state in 1907). The church has always been active in college ministry funding and partnering with the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM). Many of the early University presidents were members of EFBC’s congregation and supported the early establishment of a campus ministry. Until just a few years ago, EFBC owned the property where the campus BCM now sits (the church recently gifted the property to the state convention).
We asked EFBC’s Associate Minister for Missions & Collegiate, Billy Fuller, to share about the church, its college ministry, and the challenges and opportunities he sees in working with college students in Edmond. Here’s what Billy had to say.
BCMLife: Tell us about your college ministry and mission.
Billy Fuller: I was a student at The University of Central Oklahoma (UCO), were I met my wife, Angie, and we both served as BCM presidents. Church-based college ministry was nothing I had ever heard of when I graduated from UCO in 2004. I was approached by EFBC to start something new within the church that would reach two campuses and support the efforts already established by the BCM. We began EFBC College in August of 2005, with one student and two amazing leaders other than my wife and I. Since then, we’ve had ups and downs, cultural changes, staff changes, and new campus rules/laws. We’re currently ministering to both campuses and are reaching 60 students. Our goal in college ministry is not to have a huge worship gathering but to make disciples who make disciples. We teach missions and God’s calling for every student to GO and do something. We often repeat what J.D. Greear says, “A college graduate has to get a job somewhere, so why not in a strategic place.” EFBC has partnered with church planting in North America in 6 different cities that need the gospel and workers to be sent. One of those partners is NYC, and our college ministry has adopted that city as a second home. We, as a church, see the opportunities we offer to students while in college for short-term missions as investments into their future ministry. Cities like Denver, Phoenix, NYC, Portland, and Chicago are opportunities for God to call out future teachers, accountants, nurses, and engineers into His mission field. I realized early in ministry that the gospel moves much faster in commerce than from a church. If we can train college students to love God and to carry His love into every workplace, home, and neighborhood they end up in, we’ll change the world.
BCMLife: What do you sense are the challenges facing today’s college students?
BF: There are some great trends in college ministry today. Leaders are challenging their students to want more from their college life than being a part of a large Christian organization. I love hearing about ministries in places outside the Bible belt, where lives are being changed and altered. Students are becoming so passionate about sharing the gospel and discipling their friends. I love hearing from Paul Worcester at Chico State. The only definition I can use to explain what is happening there is revival. I often tell my students that the greatest thing about college ministry is that I get to be a part of witnessing a group of people with the greatest potential meeting up with a God who has the great vision and direction. We’re seeing real change happening on college campuses across America. The biggest challenge I see is the same challenge Jesus saw. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2). There aren’t enough churches that see the potential of the college campus. Not every church needs a full time college minister, but every church needs a vision for reaching this generation. The biggest challenge is not whether a campus will close its doors to Christian groups, or if campus organizations will be required to allow non like-minded people into their leadership. Truthfully, God is so much bigger than that. The biggest challenge in American churches today is whether we will make an effort to invest where God has historically blessed. I try, every chance I get, to tell the stories of Gods hands on college movements. The Haystack Prayer Meeting, Adoniram Judson, C.T. Studd, Bill Bright, and Steve Shadrach—the list goes on. God has historically used college students to make the largest impact.
BCMLife: Are there any prayer needs for your ministry that others within the network could pray about?
BF: My prayer is always for students to get the vision, and see what God can do with a willing body. I also pray for the relationship between the campus and the Christian organization to be strong and long-lasting.
BCMLife: As a college ministry leader, what is the most rewarding part of your role?
BF: I am so encouraged every time students tell me they witnessed to their friends, led a Bible study, or took a stand for Christ in a humanities class. Lately my greatest rewards have been from students desiring to do more with their lives than just earn a paycheck, such as graduates spending a year on the mission field, serving a church plant, or moving to a strategic environment.
BCMLife: What have been some great opportunities for outreach with your college ministry, either on your campus and/or in your community?
BF: The greatest opportunities at EFBC have happened when multiple groups join together for a common cause. This year, we had a student with a growing desire to reach international students on her campus. She decided that would best be done by partnering with other churches, the BCM, and even the international student office on campus. The idea to do something grew into an ongoing, joint effort, using strategic times during the semester to reach this group on campus.