In 1967, a group of Catholic college students from Steubenville, Ohio, were baptized in the Holy Spirit while on a weekend retreat. This was the beginning of the Charismatic Revival which spread across many denominational lines. At the same time, a group of hippies were starting to follow the teachings of Jesus on the West Coast. Hundreds were baptized at a time in the Pacific Ocean. These two movements met on the college campus giving birth and new direction to campus outreach.
Chi Alpha Campus Ministries had existed since 1951 as a church youth group on campus. Although there were some exceptions, it was primarily an inward-looking ministry. In the late 1960’s, Rick Howard, the national director of Chi Alpha, began to speak prophetically about the direction of the ministry. He said that college ministry needed to look outward and consider the campus as a mission field. He used the phrase “build an evangelistic beachhead,” for this. Jerry Sandidge, the next director, furthered this concept, and became our first campus minister to be a foreign missionary, taking campus ministry overseas. Dave Gable, the next national director, gave legs to the vision that Howard had set forth. In the mid 1970’s, he began to bring leaders together to strategize about the opportunity on campuses nationwide. The youth movement had brought a whole new flavor to campus ministry, and now-understood patterns of ministry had emerged, stable enough to be encoded as a philosophy of ministry.
At the annual Campus Ministers Conference in 1977, the attendees chose six representatives to work with Gable in articulating this. The names of the seven were: Dave Gable, Herschel Rosser, Dave Argue, Jim Hall, Dennis Gaylor, Brady Bobbink, and Harvey Herman. A varied group, they were made up of ex-hippies, people who had grown up in church, Bible college, from secular college backgrounds from every region of the country. Gable, Rosser and Hall also had M. Div. degrees. They met at the home of Dennis Gaylor’s aunt near San Antonio, Texas, therefore they were later known as the “San Antonio Seven.”
During their time in San Antonio, they asked one question: What are the best words to express what the Spirit has led us into becoming? The result was a four-fold philosophy. The principles that emerged from their study of the book of Acts was that the church was defined by becoming a community: a community of worship, fellowship, discipleship, and witness. More recently, prayer as added to the ministry philosophy. This understanding became the foundation for a renewed ministry outreach that has grown nationwide and around the world since 1977.
Before the meeting of the San Antonio Seven, Chi Alpha existed on about 40 campuses across the United States. As the new philosophy has been communicated and implemented, students (and staff) have caught the vision and given their lives to pioneering and developing new ministries. By the end of the 1990’s, there were close to 250 Chi Alpha chapters across the country, and Chi Alpha had spread to most of the continents. In 2000, a world SALT (Student Activist Leadership Training) conference was held in Los Angeles with 2,400 students in attendance from close to 50 nations.
Since 1977, students have been mobilized for campus outreach, and thousands of students have started following the teachings of Jesus. Students have reached out to international students with friendship and hospitality. Students have given up their spring and summer breaks to serve on U.S. based and overseas mission trips. And students have graduated and gone into the marketplace to continue passing on the philosophy the San Antonio Seven discovered in the Book of Acts.
Chi Alpha Campus Ministries exists to reach the strategic mission field of the colleges and universities of the world. As a mission arm of the Assemblies of God, we are committed to the fulfilling of Christ’s Great Commission on campus. We are a national organization of students in higher education, with sister fellowships in many countries, who unite to express the claims of Jesus Christ to campus communities and call students into relationship with Him.