Plans for a Summer Institute of International Studies

Signals of a vast new student interest in foreign missions were sent out by the 1973 Urbana Missionary Convention. Could they be pointing to another movement like the Student Volunteer Movement, which sent more than 20,000 students into foreign missions in what may well have been the most influential happening in the history of missions?

Attendance has grown steadily at the Student Missionary Convention, held every three years by the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. In 1964 attendance was 7,000; in 1973 it had doubled to 14,000. But the numbers of students who at or after these conventions have registered a life-work commitment for overseas service had not kept pace with the rising attendance—until last December.

At Urbana ’73, 5,000 students, an awesome number roughly equal to the total of those making a similar decision at all nine previous conventions, signed cards indicating their willingness to serve Christ in overseas mission work. The IVCF staff was stunned. What did it mean? Was this year’s program greatly different? No. Did Inter-Varsity suddenly start pressuring for decisions? No. Was a new, less specific commitment card used? No.

Then two further questions presented themselves: (1) Should something special be done to help the students focus their commitment? and (2) Do the students want this kind of help?

In consultation with Dave Howard, missions director of IVCF, but not with any official authorization, some interested persons drew up a daring plan. Between Febbruary 14 and February 27, 120 phone calls were made for a feasibility study that was mailed to Howard on February 27. This study outlined an intensive summer study program designed for the kind of students who had signed cards at Urbana. The study showed specifically that enough outstanding professors were available to staff an impressive ten-week Summer Institute of International Studies offering college and seminary credit and running from June 10 to August 16 this coming summer!

Within eleven days, Inter-Varsity, making an unprecedented exception to a firm and wise policy, released a list of more than 5,000 card-signers to the ad hoc committee backing the proposed Summer Institute of International Studies. This committee represented a broad spectrum of evangelical leaders in missions and higher education. A larger and more representative advisory council now exists; see box 1. The next move was to firm up the impressive faculty; see box 2.

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By March 4, a brochure had been designed, printed, and mailed to the 5,000 students. Many avenues have been used to reach other students as well, though we fear not enough has been done. We hope many will take advantage of this rare opportunity to build a solid basis of understanding of the Christian world mission—the kind of understanding necessary if one is to make a mature decision about fulfilling the Great Commission either at home or abroad.

The plans allow for 300, 500, or 800 students, and at least two campuses are committed to the program. Yet these efforts may be too little and too late. A disappointing response will not in itself dash all hopes about what the card-signers will do. On the other hand, early responses were distinctly encouraging, and there are many optimistic signs.

For many young people who did not attend Urbana, this kind of program could make all the difference in their careers. Whether the right young people will find out about the program depends in large part upon the readers of this article. Five well-known colleges and four of the best-known seminaries are offering credit (students can pick their school). The tuition is so low that many young people will be able to save money over what they would otherwise pay for college or seminary credit, even counting the travel costs to a Midwestern campus. Detailed information is available from the SIIS Information Center, 135 N. Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, California 91101, or by calling (after 11 P.M. in any time zone) 213-795-7541.

No one is promising the emergence of a new SVM; God alone is able to bring this to pass. But what an awesome effect on world evangelization the appearance of a new SVM would have. Nothing could be more significant in this hour of history than a vast, new, responsible student initiative comparable to what came out of the Haystack prayer meeting in 1806, and happened again eighty years later in 1886, when the Student Volunteer Movement was born at Mount Hermon. We need a great new initiative in order to reach the three major blocs of humanity as yet unwon to Jesus Christ who number ten times the U. S. population, and are virtually out of contact with, any effective mission outreach from any church anywhere (see the Evangelical Missions Quarterly, January, 1974, “Seeing the Task Graphically”).

I have used the word awe several times in this article to prepare the way for mention of a new student prayer cell, Associates for World Evangelization. This group humbly, devoutly, audaciously hopes to contribute to the development of a new SVM. Its members are manning the telephones at the information center mentioned above. They hope to travel from campus to campus to talk up the Summer Institute of International Studies. But more than that—much more than that—they hope to forge links between students with worldwide missionary vision.

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If something anywhere comparable in scope to the SVM is in God’s timetable, it will inevitably pull into a single picture not only the foreign missions interest in Inter-Varsity circles but that in Campus Crusade and Navigators campus ministries as well. Leaders of all three organizations have given helpful support to the SIIS program being planned for this coming summer.

Clearly, the SIIS program is part of a much larger picture. (Another notable aspect of the picture is the upcoming International Congress on World Evangelization, which will convene in July of this year.) AWE will at best be only a contributory factor. The important thing is to recognize that we are not trying to make plans for God but with a combination of alertness and humility are trying to discover how best to fit in with his plan.

1. Advisory Council

Evan Adams

Wade Coggins

Harvie M. Conn

George M. Cowan

E. L. (Jack) Frizen

Vergil Gerber

Cal Guy

Richard Halverson

Ian M. Hay

J. Phillip Hogan

David M. Howard

J. Herbert Kane

W. Nigel Kerr

Charles D. Kirkpatrick

Donald N. Larson

J. Robertson McQuilkin

Charles J. Mellis

Wilbert H. Norton

George W. Peters

J. T. Seamands

Jack F. Shepherd

Robert N. Thompson

Warren W. Webster

Howard Whaley

Ralph D. Winter

2. Faculty

G. Linwood Barner, Jaffray School of Missions

Norman Bell, Michigan State University

James O. Buswell III, School of World Mission, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Harvie M. Conn, Westminster Seminary

Elisabeth Elliot, author

Arthur F. Glasser, dean, School of World Mission, Fuller Seminary

Cal Guy, Southwestern Baptist Seminary

Paul Hiebert, University of Washington

J. Herbert Kane, School of World Mission, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

W. Nigel Kerr, dean, Gordon-Conwell Seminary

Donald N. Larson, Bethel College, St. Paul

J. Robertson McQuilkin, president, Columbia Bible College

Charles J. Mellis, director, Summer Institute of International Studies

Pablo Perez, Dallas Seminary

J. T. Seamands, Asbury Seminary

Jack F. Shepherd, vice-president, Nyack College

Charles Taber, Milligan College

C. Peter Wagner, School of World Mission, Fuller Seminary

Ted Ward, Michigan State University

Warren W. Webster, executive director, Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society

Ralph D. Winter, School of World Mission, Fuller Seminary

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