the shape of leadership

Sowing in the Heart of Texas

Eli Stewart is on a mission to revitalize Chi Alpha at Texas A&M while planting Mountain Valley Fellowship in College Station

Influence Magazine on November 4, 2016

Influence: Tell us about your new church plant and its relationship to Chi Alpha.
Eli Stewart: I was asked by the North Texas District of the Assemblies of God to put together a team to relaunch Chi Alpha at Texas A&M University in College Station. The team and I are working hard to raise up “Missionary Fightin’ Aggies” who will help fulfill the Great Commission.

John Van Pay, lead pastor at Gateway Fellowship Church (an AG church plant) in San Antonio, and Johnnie Hauck, Chi Alpha director at UTSA (University of Texas at San Antonio) have had a symbiotic relationship that helped lead Gateway Fellowship to a successful launch. After seeing this unique relationship between Gateway Fellowship and Chi Alpha firsthand, a vision was birthed in me and I prayed: “Lord would You let Texas A&M Chi Alpha work alongside a church plant?”

I was astounded when John Van Pay told me that College Station was on the top ten list of cities where the Assemblies was actively seeking to plant a church. I was even more astounded when the North Texas District approached me and asked if I would facilitate a church plant while directing the Chi Alpha ministry at Texas A&M. With God’s help, we are meeting as Mountain Valley Fellowship now and officially launching in 2017.

I was part of the pastoral team for Chi Alpha at Sam Houston State University (SHSU). This Chi Alpha became a great funnel for sending missionaries and workers into the harvest field. I’m praying A&M Chi Alpha will also be a great funnel for sending church planters and missionaries into the field.

Describe the results you are seeing as Chi Alpha interns are trained.
During my 10 years at SHSU Chi Alpha, 190 interns were trained — 165 are now in full-time ministry. Of those 165 interns, 140 are in Chi Alpha ministries throughout the U.S., 20 are world missionaries and five are helping with church-planting projects.  

Lord willing, we want to shift our proportions for the next 200 interns at A&M — 33 percent to Chi Alpha, 33 percent to World Missions and 33 percent to join with church plants across the U.S.

Explain the three core elements that are part of your team members’ job descriptions.
Habakkuk 2:2 says, “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.” Proverbs 11:30 says, “… the one who is wise saves lives.”

My friend, Eli Gautreaux, Chi Alpha director at Sam Houston State University, has helped us distill our three core elements to this: Everybody Finds, Everybody Fights, Everybody Feeds.

In other words, finding lost sheep takes work. Once they are found, you have to fight to bring them home into the community. Finally, when lost sheep are brought into the community of believers, you have to feed them.

Each member of our staff is actively finding, fighting and feeding lost souls in College Station. We want to raise up church planters and missionaries who can do it again!

Finding lost sheep takes work.

How are you working toward a sustainable model that integrates Chi Alpha with church planting?
One strategy I employ is to ensure our volunteers know we have a God-given vision for them. In looking at Jesus’ strategy, His primary goal was to reach individuals, then grow individuals and finally grow His kingdom through individuals. I have had this backwards. The Lord is helping me see the importance of growing people not for the maintenance of my ministry, but for the furtherance of His kingdom.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to a church leader about integrating college students with an all-ages congregation?
If I had to make the choice between a student being a great small group leader or a volunteer at my church, I would vote small group leader every time. The time students spend at a secular university is an unbelievable training ground for winning souls and developing other students. Young people have the rest of their lives to develop their talents and gifts, but leading other students who are looking to make new friends and grow in their faith can never be repeated. Students should prioritize their time for soul winning and building relationships.

Personal responsibility in leading others is the miracle-grow in a student’s quest for personal holiness. The sooner a student takes responsibility for someone else’s spiritual future, the sooner their personal battles of holiness will be conquered at the foot of the cross.


Eli Stewart is the director of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries in College Station at Texas A&M University. He is also the lead pastor of Mountain Valley Fellowship, a church plant in College Station.
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