Campus ministries have spurred tremendous growth in the evangelical movement during the last 50 years by shaping minds and stirring hearts for missions. Mid-20th century ministries, such as Campus Crusade for Christ and the Navigators, have much in common with movements at the University of Cambridge during the 18th and 19th centuries that directly led to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
Evangelical faith garnered a cold reception at British universities during the late 18th century. Church of England stalwarts at Oxford were hostile to the Methodist movement led by the Wesleys. In 1778, Oxford expelled six students for organizing a Sunday-night Bible study.
Cambridge was not much different. Charles Simeon was a typically nonreligious student when he enrolled at King's College, Cambridge, in 1779. Yet Simeon took required participation in Communion seriously. "Satan was as fit to attend as I," he admitted. But after Holy Week meditations on Christ's sacrifice, he woke up Easter morning exclaiming: "'Jesus Christ is risen today; Hallelujah! Hallelujah!' From that hour," he said, "peace flowed in rich abundance into my soul, and at the Lord's Table in our chapel I had the sweetest access to God through my blessed Savior."
During three years of college, Simeon did not meet a single serious Christian. After graduation, he began serving as vicar of Holy Trinity Church near the college in Cambridge. When Simeon began his tenure at Holy Trinity, only a few Church of England clergy considered themselves evangelical. Partly due to his vibrant, Cross-centered preaching, evangelicals increased their share to one-third by Simeon's death in 1836.
Under Simeon's preaching in 1827, four students organized a Sunday school for Cambridge's ...