Chi Alpha: Birthed with a Vision for Student-Led Spiritual Renewal

This Week in AG History — October 2, 1955

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 01 October 2020

College campuses birthed many of the world’s great Christian revival and reform movements. This fact was not lost on J. Calvin Holsinger, who pioneered Chi Alpha, the Assemblies of God ministry to college students.

In a Pentecostal Evangel article published 65 years ago, Holsinger recounted how Martin Luther, a professor at Wittenberg University, helped to spark the 16th century Protestant Reformation. He also noted that the great Methodist revival of the 18th and 19th centuries began when John Wesley, an Oxford University professor, gathered students for prayer and Bible study. The students in this “Holy Club,” as it came to be called, helped to spread revival across England and, ultimately, around the world.

Even the 20th century Pentecostal movement, Holsinger observed, had origins on a college campus. When students at Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas, gathered in 1900 to study the Book of Acts, they experienced a profound spiritual outpouring that helped to birth the worldwide Pentecostal movement.

Why should the Assemblies of God support ministries to college students? To Holsinger, the answer to this question was obvious: history shows that students led many of the greatest revival movements. He asked, “It has been true in the past; why not today?”

Holsinger, at the time, was a professor at Central Bible Institute in Springfield, Missouri, and served as campus adviser for the National Christ’s Ambassadors Department, which was the youth organization of the Assemblies of God. He also led a college ministry at Southwest Missouri State College (now Missouri State University), one of a handful of AG campus ministries at non-Assemblies of God schools around the nation.

In 1953, Holsinger began developing plans for a national AG campus ministry at non-Assemblies of God schools. He developed manuals that defined the new organization’s purpose and mission, and he conceived a name — Chi Alpha. In 1955, the fledgling national campus ministry featured three services to college students: a Campus Ambassador magazine offered free to all Assemblies of God college students; local chapters on college campuses; and college chaplains.

By 2020, Chi Alpha had grown to 296 active chapters on campuses in the United States, served by over 1,500 affiliated staff. Chi Alpha is now the fourth-largest evangelical campus organization in the United States, after Baptist Collegiate Ministry, Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

Read the article by J. Calvin Holsinger, “A Campus Witness,” on pages 17 and 20 of the Oct. 2, 1955, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Witnessing of the Acts 1:8 Variety,” by Robert L. Brandt

• “Witch Doctor Saved!” by John L. Franklin.

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel
archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200

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