The other week I had the joy of serving on the Glasgow University campus for a week, with he Christian Union (CU) there for their annual events week. Events Weeks are intense weeks where the CU seeks to really reach out, to put on mission, to reach out to their piers and colleagues. They put on a whole programme of talks, and events – all designed to places that Christian can invite their friends to, where they will hear the gospel.
I was there every lunchtime for a week, speaking at what is known as ‘lunchbars’. The CU had booked the bar in the student union building – it was a very accessible, neutral venue. And, even better the CU provided a meal for everyone. Free food is always a good way to make it easy to invite people! I did nine talks across the week, and Steve Osmond (a Solas Associate Speaker) did the 10th one.
Over the course of the week, we looked at everything from “Why can we trust the Bible?”, “Are Faith and Science Irreconcilable?”, “Where is God when we suffer?” to “Do human Rights Make Any Sense Without God?” and “The Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus”. These were fifteen to twenty minute talks, followed by Q&A, in which students could submit questions from the floor or online from their phones.
I was enormously encouraged by the number of students who came along. Sometimes, lunchbars only attract a handful of students, but on the first day we had about 70-80 and then on the Tuesday so many came that the CU ran out of food and had to dash out to the supermarket and get more sandwiches; and then finds more chairs! There were great questions in the Q&A too. The questions weren’t hostile either, but they were really thoughtful and phrased in ways which showed that they were coming from non-Christian folks who were really thinking.
The CU held two lunchbars everyday, so I’d do my talk on the topic of the day twice, two lots of live Q&A with the whole room; and then hang around at the end to see who wanted to chat further. Three of these conversations especially stick in my mind. One student came to chat who is studying theology. I asked him why and he told me that while he was convinced that atheism makes no sense, and that there must be some kind of a God, he didn’t really know more than that. He had all kinds of questions about what kind of God there might be, and had come to study theology to try and understand that better. We had a really interesting conversation about how we can know what is true? Are all religions true? Only some of them? Or only one? I laid out the reason why even though I have studied Islam academically (that’s what my PhD is in), I follow Jesus – and find his claims compelling. I was also able to send him a copy of my book, “Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?”
Another student came to talk to me who described herself as being “close to faith” but who still had lots of questions; especially around questions of faith and science. After the talk on human rights, a Christian law student came to speak to me about how she could winsomely explain to colleagues in the law faculty how Christianity makes most sense of human rights. Then the highlight for me was on the last day when one of the CU members came to me shared how their friend had been quite hostile to faith for quite a long time, and who had resisted coming to events – and conversations about faith were very hard to start. But her friend came to the lunchbar about the resurrection of Jesus! At the end her friend said, “that was incredibly compelling, I hadn’t realised that the evidence for the story at the heart of Christianity is so powerful!” And she now wants to have further conversations with her friend about faith. The student form the CU said to me that she was so encouraged that there was now a door open into her friend’s life to talk about things that really matter. And there are many other stories like that from across the week. On the Tuesday when Steve from South Africa was speaking too, I remember looking over and seeing Steve surrounded by students asking him questions!
There weren’t just lunchbars either. Every evening Andy Robertson spoke too – and reported similarly encouraging responses, good numbers and a genuine openness. So, a hugely exciting week there on the campus. We love getting involved in CU missions, love serving the CU’s and seeing God at work in all kinds of ways!
Lucy Hemmingsley, Co-President of the CU said: “
Events week went very well and the main issue of the week was wondering how we would find enough food, chairs, and tables to host everyone that came along which is a wonderful problem to have! It was such a blessing to see the way that God has been stirring questions and curiosity up in the hearts of students on campus, and preparing students on campus for events week while we were preparing ourselves. There were always plenty of good questions as people clearly came ready to engage and find out more. Now Events Week itself is over but follow up is continuing with lots of 1-on-1 follow up and an Exploring Christianity course for international students where we meet with international students that came along to events week to eat together and read the Bible. It has been such an encouragement to myself and David (my Co-President) to be part of the international follow up and see the way that God is so clearly showing himself to students from different cultures and backgrounds through His word and their eagerness to learn more of him.
Thank you Solas for your ongoing support of students as we share the gospel on campus.”