the shape of leadership

Life on Life

A conversation with Scott and Crystal Martin

Influence Magazine on May 6, 2020

Scott and Crystal Martin are leading the way as missionaries to the most strategic mission field in the world, where every religion, race, creed and culture are represented. Scott serves as the national senior director of Chi Alpha, the largest Pentecostal university student ministry in the world, with a presence on over 300 stateside college and university campuses, involving 24,000 students. Crystal serves as the cross-cultural missions director for Chi Alpha.

INFLUENCE: How is Chi Alpha discipling and developing the next generation of leaders?
The season of life the university student is in is definitely unique and provides an unequivocal opportunity for discipleship.

Students have discretionary time, set their schedules, live together, eat together, play together, and for the most part are unattached. They are seeking meaning and truth. It is a season of life like none other they will experience.

Chi Alpha is a disciple-making community on university and college campuses. For Chi Alpha, discipleship is not a program or a course; it is a progressive, deliberate, relational impartation of the kingdom of God into a person’s life. We like to say it is “life on life.” Chi Alpha doesn’t only disciple believers; we disciple pre-Christians as well. For example, we may disciple an agnostic international student and move them closer to belief in Jesus and, hopefully, eventually into relationship with Jesus before they depart for home.

Our goal is to disciple students to fulfill their purpose in God’s global plan. This includes instructing students on how to systematically read the Bible daily, how to pray, the power of biblical community, importance of the local church, and our individual responsibility to participate in Jesus’ global mission.

Our discipleship is resulting in a percentage of our graduates joining AGWM in missions, as well as over 300 new Chi Alpha interns projected during this year. These interns will qualify for credentials upon completion of their internships. This is a new generation of leaders for the Assemblies of God.

What discipleship models are most effective on the university campus?
Again, and importantly, we view discipleship as a progressive, deliberate, relational impartation of the kingdom of God. The most efficacious model of discipleship on the university campus is the relationship model expressed through life on life. Its primary impartation is through our small groups, which are generally around 6 to 10 students. These small groups are not built from within Chi Alpha; they are built from the general student population on campus — pre-Christians.

Chi Alpha small group leaders are students who have been discipled in Chi Alpha and have proven to be faithful, available and teachable. These student leaders are generally nominated by their small group leader or a Chi Alpha missionary. They are interviewed, and expectations for leadership are clearly shared.

Our goal is to disciple students to fulfill their purpose in God’s global plan.”
— Scott and Crystal Martin

If the student is willing to assume this Kingdom responsibility on campus, they will then go through a Chi Alpha Leadership Training Course, which is spiritual preparation for Kingdom leadership. They are then asked to find pre-Christian students to join their small group, although Christian students are also a part of the small group.

Students in our small groups experience Christian community by eating together, playing together, oftentimes living together, and sharing the Word of God and the kingdom of God together. They become a true and close band of brothers and sisters.

Our discipleship occurs through deliberate one-on-one meetings where relationship continues to grow in a more personal manner and the kingdom of God is deliberately deposited.

Religious “nones” no longer identify with the Church. How is Chi Alpha approaching this challenge?
This demographic does not have a clear understanding of what the Church is. Many of these people think of the Church as a weekly service or a group of religiously judgmental people.

Often, when students encounter the authentic presence of God and biblical community, they are far more open to gather together to learn what the Bible says about Jesus and to meet with Christians. When the “nones” feel they can be genuinely loved and accepted, without being judged, they are far more open to Christian community and biblical truth.

Students are not averse to form or liturgy. What they are averse to is anything that seems “plastic” or insincere.

How is Chi Alpha building authentic community?
Chi Alpha is in pursuit of the authentic gospel, not just the cultural gospel of the day. What we mean by “cultural gospel” is the Church being influenced by culture rather than the Church influencing culture.

How this is expressed in Chi Alpha can be seen in a small group meeting in a dorm room where students read the Scriptures together and then ask each other, “What does this mean for us today on campus? How do we apply this in our dorm, classroom and laboratory?”

It’s taking the Bible message seriously in every area of a student’s life and living it out in the open on campus.

We place our trust in the transforming power of the gospel. We can never underestimate the power of Kingdom relationships. Through these two pathways, we gain the confidence of students that opens the door for them to accept and believe the Bible as truth and authority for a person’s life.

What is the biggest challenge facing Chi Alpha today?
Many universities are mandating that Christian campus groups have an antidiscrimination clause that allows for any student to be a student leader, regardless of their religious affiliation or belief.

What this translates to is that Chi Alpha would have to allow a non-Christian to serve on student leadership. This is unacceptable, as it disallows the biblical standards for leadership we, the Assemblies of God, adhere to.

Chi Alpha has been kicked off some campuses because the university read some of the official position papers of the Assemblies of God, which they did not like. We were told that as long as Chi Alpha is part of the Assemblies of God, we would not be permitted to be on campus. This is the real threat and challenge.

And note that what happens on the university is a harbinger of what is coming to our culture.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2020 edition of Influence magazine.

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