It’s a course all incoming freshman at Liberty University have to look forward to. The class, taught by Dr. David Wheeler, is meant to teach students about leading others to Christ.
For six years, Wheeler has asked his friend, author and speaker Jerry Pipes, to come share his testimony with students. This year, however, God had something different in mind.
Pipes has worked since January as a regional coordinator for Billy Graham’s latest evangelism effort, My Hope America. With the help of several short films developed for the project, participants – called “Matthews” – are encouraged to share their faith with friends, family and neighbors.
So, equipped with a DVD of the My Hope film “Defining Moments,” Pipes skipped sharing his testimony this semester in detail, dimmed the lights, and let the Gospel message students were about to watch do the rest.
“The two days that I was there, I was in front of 1,400 students,” he recalled. “God just did something really, really special.”
By the end of it all, 1,049 students had committed to becoming trained Matthews who share their faith using My Hope America, 88 students made first-time decisions for Christ, and 42 more rededicated their life to Christ.
The following week, Wheeler showed the video again to a different group of students. Another 400 became Matthews and 20 more received Christ.
“They were moved,” Wheeler said.
So moved, in fact, that within an hour of class, a student gave Wheeler a call. After showing Defining Moments to his roommate, the roommate came to Christ.
“If that’s all that happened, then this is worth it,” Wheeler said.
He’s continuing to equip students, even sending them home with My Hope America materials during fall break earlier this month.
“I’ve encouraged them to use [Defining Moments] with family members, friends on their hall. Some of them are the only Christians in their family,” Wheeler explained.
“Even with their parents. I know My Hope will be over by then, but I’ve told them when they go home for Thanksgiving to try and use the [My Hope videos] then as well.”
Other Liberty faculty are also getting involved. Monica Brennan, an associate professor of women’s ministries, plans to have Wheeler introduce her 400 students to My Hope and play “Defining Moments.”
“We’re trying to use the video as a way for students to not just lead people to Christ, but even to start the conversation about their faith,” Wheeler explained.
As a coordinator, Pipes has also been on a My Hope blitz, training pastors in Texas and Louisiana so they can do the same with their congregation.
Pipes decided to get involved with My Hope after reading a blog by Greg Laurie last November on a recent survey asking “Why does the church exist?”
“If pastors think people are showing up to church to commune with God, then you’re mistaken,” Pipes said.
“About 89 percent of evangelical Christians reported that the purpose of the church is to ‘meet my needs and the needs of my family.’
“Only 11% thought the purpose of the church was to fulfill the Great Commission,” Pipes added. “The results of that study just rocked my world.”
But he feels My Hope is part of the answer to getting Christians back into evangelism mode.
“I look at My Hope as probably the best tool I’ve ever seen to make the change and get the church back to the place where it’s focused on being the church,” Pipes said.
“This is a game changer for the church.”
Pipes is praying not only for a “mighty move of God” when My Hope America concludes with a special broadcast from Billy Graham starting Nov. 7.
“More than that, I’m praying that the people who are Matthews won’t treat this as an event,” he said. “That this would be the beginning of a movement of God that will continue until Jesus comes back.”