Ryan Scantling serves as the Baptist Collegiate Ministries Director at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
Over 2,500 years ago the mighty Persian army was enroute to descend on the Greek Peninsula, threatening to overtake the independent Greek City-States made up of millions of people. For the Persian army numbering over 300,000 to continue their advance they had to make it through the Thermopylae Pass – a narrow 49-foot-wide swath of land between a thickly wooded mountain range and the Gulf of Malia. On one side of the pass laid the vast holdings of Persia, on the other side was the home of the Greeks. As the Greek armies hurriedly prepared to defend themselves from the coming invaders, they sent a small battalion of 300 Spartan soldiers ahead to begin the war and stall the Persian advance at the narrow pass of Thermopylae for as long as possible. It would be what happened at this narrow tuft of land that would affect the lives of millions.
At certain points in history there have emerged these narrow places – small areas that affect the tides of wars, the currents of cultures, and the paths of destinies. In the last 100 years a new permanence has been solidified in these narrow places of history. One place that has consistently affected every world leader, a growing majority of every generation, and the prevailing trends of thought. Today, these narrow places are the university campus. Where else can you identify that God has brought so many 18–22-year olds together in order that they might hear and respond to the Gospel? In Arkansas alone, there are over 150,000 students on college and university campuses. If all those campuses were put together, they would be the second largest city in our state!
The university campus is the greatest and most strategic mission field in the entire world. As the university goes, so quickly goes the culture. Not only is the university campus the ideal place to reach young adults for Jesus, but also the place to raise up a new generation of missionaries and church leaders to impact the world. Around 100 years ago God began laying on the hearts of Arkansas Baptists to penetrate this narrow place of influence with the Gospel in a dedicated way. Local Baptist churches in college towns organized Baptist Student Unions, now called Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM). For decades, these ministries have partnered with local churches to engage students in strategic places led by BCM Campus Ministers uniquely equipped to reach them.
Just like they were 2,500 years ago, these narrow places are worth fighting for today. This famous group of 300 Spartans led by Leonidas set up their defensive position at the narrow Thermopylae Pass, knowing that if they could win the war there, they could affect history in their favor. Would you pray for Baptist Collegiate Ministries and collegiate engaged churches across our state as they continue ministry in these narrow places? Additionally, would you consider ways that you can champion, encourage, and support the work of collegiate ministry across our state?