In the fall of 1973, I transferred from Tulsa Junior College (now Tulsa Community College) to The University of Oklahoma. Freshmen were required to live in the dorms but since I was a sophomore transfer, I rented an apartment with a friend from my church in Tulsa.
The three-story apartment house, which originally was a fraternity house, was old back then and has subsequently been torn down. It was a miserable little apartment – so bad that we only stayed there one semester – but the best part was the location.
It was right next to the Baptist Student Union.
I wasn’t raised in a Baptist church but at Tulsa Bible Church. But back then, there weren’t any Bible churches in Norman and Baptist churches were the closest to what I believed.
So I started attending vesper services at the BSU on Thursday night.
This was a pivotal time in my spiritual life. Away from home for the first time, I had to decide if I was going to be serious about my faith or if it was just a side issue.
While in high school, TBC had a summer intern youth pastor named Bud Pederson. (Bud now does mission work in India). Bud spent a lot of time with me and challenged me to become serious about my commitment to Jesus Christ.
At the BSU, I found hundreds of other students who were facing the same challenges I faced. I formed some lifelong friendship with some remarkable Christians.
Part of the reason for the spiritual impact of the OU BSU was the faithfulness of the former director, Max Barnett (who served from 1967-2004). I was speaking with Pastor Nick Garland of First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow. He told me when he first came to First Baptist 30 years ago, almost everyone mentioned two things – Falls Creek Camp and Max Barnett.
Max believed in discipleship. He emphasized prayer, reading the Bible, memorizing scripture and living life according to Biblical principles.
I didn’t have a whole lot of one-on-one counseling from Max before our discussions were memorable. He straightened me out on several problem areas.
Max brought in incredible Christian speakers. He introduced the students to the Navigators, a remarkable Christian organization that specialized in helping people grow in their spiritual walk. Every spring break, Max took busloads of OU students to a conference at Glen Eyrie, the Navigator headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Max, 81, is retired but he really isn’t. I visited with him recently. The old BSU building next to the OU campus was in disrepair and sold to the university a few years ago. It has been torn down.
The good news is that OU sold the Baptist Collegiate Ministries a site on its campus to build a new facility. And, more than $6 million of the $10 million needed to build the building and endow it has been raised. Actually, the money needed for construction is in place and the new building could be open by the fall semester of 2018.
There is still a need for about $4 million for self-perpetuating fund for building maintenance and to supplement staff benefits.
You can find out more on how to help at www.bgco.org.
America is losing a generation. My generation has not passed along our Christian faith as we should have. Statistics are clear. And frightening. A majority of children who grow up in Christian (not just Baptist or Bible church) homes go to college and abandon their faith.
There are many reasons. Maybe their faith was not deep rooted because they felt like since their parents are Christians, they got faith through them. It doesn’t work that way. Faith in Jesus is an individual choice.
Maybe they were not taught the Bible. Maybe once they arrived on a secular campus, influential professors convinced them that the Bible was full of fairy tales and that it was anti-intellectual.
Maybe they are more concerned with being entertained than being serious about their future. I worked my way through college and paid for it myself and so many students now are given everything.
Whatever the reason, there is a great need for Christian influence on college students. And there is no better place to have a Christian student center than right on campus.
Baptist Campus Ministries has facilities on almost 40 campuses in Oklahoma. A new facility is planned for Oklahoma State University. There are other Christian groups that have vibrant campus ministries, too.
If I could write a check for $4 million for the BSU, I would. But knowing Max as I do, I believe that God will use him in a wonderful way to meet this goal for such an important project.