Imagine never having stepped foot in a church, never hearing Jesus’ name spoken in your home, never opening a Bible and reading the Word of God. For some of us, that can be a difficult idea to wrap our brain around. ...
In the early 2000s, the Gonzaga campus Bible study through Faith Bible Church’s college ministry was thriving. Faith had many students attending Gonzaga University.
When that generation graduated, the numbers dwindled. Eventually, the Bible study dried up altogether and there was no campus ministry to GU students at all.
When Jerod Gilcher was college pastor from 2011 to 2018, he and other leaders did all they could to start a GU campus study. There were brief starts and stops, but nothing took hold. College ministry staff and students prayed through these years for a GU Bible study, but there were no GU students from Faith to connect with those on campus.
That is, until 2018, when God saw fit to answer those prayers through Daniel Dougherty, who had grown up at Faith Bible Church.
Daniel’s freshman year at GU, 2018-19, was Jerod Gilcher’s transition year out of Doxa, Faith’s college ministry. There wasn’t much guidance for Daniel to start campus ministry. But in early 2020, when Jared Millican became college pastor, he and Daniel started meeting. They brainstormed ideas for the upcoming school year. Since Daniel was going to be a resident assistant his junior year, he had more ability to connect with guys on his floor.
Jared told him to start small, with just a few guys, and be faithful to invest in them. Daniel remembers also meeting with Joe Grewe, who challenged him with these questions: “Are you replicating? Are you discipling? Even with the skills you have right now, God can use that. Are you doing that? Because if not, you need to obey and start doing it.”
Living on campus, Daniel had many opportunities to have spiritual conversations and invite people to church. He started a Bible study with three other young men. Others came and went throughout the year, but the four of them went through the book of Ephesians together.
In 2021, when Daniel was a senior, his sister Erin entered GU as a freshman. She began reaching out to the women on campus. The group began meeting at the Millicans’ house, and college staff members were assigned to oversee it.
And the group began to grow. Now, in its third year, there are 15-20 students affiliated with it.
Both Daniel and Erin say it isn’t their doing but the Lord’s gracious work to soften hearts. Still, as Jerod Gilcher told Daniel early on, “Students on campus who have already been connected to a local church with a biblical foundation are the lynchpin to these Bible studies.” Because their parents and the Faith community invested in Daniel and Erin growing up, they were well equipped to go onto a dark campus and speak Gospel truth with boldness and love.
Daniel says, “I’ve been encouraged to watch in real time how the Lord does what he wants, despite how unable and weak we are.”
The GU campus is spiritually dark. There is either vague spirituality or outright anti-God sentiment from other students and the professors. Erin says, “A lot of people think they’re fine, and they don’t need to hear the Gospel, so there’s a lot of disinterest. It’s hard to find people who really love the Lord.”
“I’ve been encouraged to watch in real time how the Lord does what he wants, despite how unable and weak we are.”
Because of that, it’s crucial that there’s a place for Christian GU students like Claire Booth to be grounded in God’s Word. Claire says, “Having witnessed Gonzaga students and the culture, it’s so easy to be swept up in it. And it’s even easier to be swept up into false teaching. So having a place that’s actually reading the Bible and is willing to help you understand the truth—I can’t imagine any other college student walking with God who wouldn’t want that.”
Daniel described Sunday morning Doxa and Monday night Bible study as an “oasis away from the dry desert of the world because [students] get to be fed with God’s Word, see Christ afresh again, and be reminded of truth.”
Students share their struggles with one another and understand the difficulties of campus life because they’re walking that path together. Then when they see each other on campus, they feel bolstered in their faith because they know they’re not alone.
Taylor Auerbach was one of those original three students in the Bible study with Daniel, and he’s still a committed member. “The whole reason I’m here is because of Daniel. … He asked some really challenging questions. I was a Christian, but I wasn’t as serious about it as I am now.”
Taylor also says the Bible study has been convicting for him. “Being exposed to the truth in reading the Word and being immersed in it [has] helped me realize that I’m desperately in need of a Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Claire says, “I wouldn’t be where I am without Doxa. It has helped me grow my faith in more ways than one. I’ve never had a group of Christians—brothers and sisters in Christ—who have invested in me because I hadn’t sought it out. But Doxa was everything I had hoped for and more. Supporting me, but also convicting me, which is what I really needed. I can’t speak highly enough of how I’ve been shaped by Faith.”
Daniel and Erin both commented on how they’ve seen students come to love the local church. Not only have students valued the Bible study, but they’ve started attending Faith, getting baptized, going to the membership class, and being mentored by older people in the church.
“Watching people grow in real time has been the sweetest part,” Daniel says.
Many Faith families already invest in college students individually or in groups through the Family Dinner Nights that Doxa staff have organized. But there can always be more. College students, especially at Gonzaga, are starving for something solid. They need life-on-life discipleship, having fun and deep conversations together.
There is a sense of urgency when one considers the impact of the college experience. The things students hear from their professors and from social media, the sin and debauchery going on around them – it’s so destructive.
Is it too late for them to be reached? No, we have them right now, and we need to make the most of the time they’re here. Students may be new believers or far away from their families, and when they hear something questionable on campus, they may need to process it with someone from Faith to see truth.
“There are people on this campus whom God has predestined to save – it’s just a matter of someone going and preaching the Gospel to them. We just have to be faithful to speak.”
So, strike up a conversation with college students at church. Ask them over for lunch on a Sunday. Invite a group of them over for dinner. College students love free, home-cooked food! They also love being part of a home and family when they aren’t close to their own homes.
Daniel says he had the best possible scenario in college: He was in his hometown, his church was three minutes away, he was at a university that was familiar, his parents were 15 minutes away. “I had it so easy. So can we snatch up the people who don’t have it easy, who are wasting away? There are people on this campus whom God has predestined to save – it’s just a matter of someone going and preaching the Gospel to them. We just have to be faithful to speak.”
Discipleship is a big theme at Faith Bible Church because it’s a big theme in the Bible. No one is exempt from the responsibility to disciple and be discipled as God gives the opportunity. The middle-school and high-school s...