Evangelist brings personal stories to campus

A friend once told James Choung that, “evangelism doesn’t happen from a lack of courage, but from a lack of compassion.” Sharing this poignant statement, and many others, Choung connected well with the students of John Brown University during Spiritual Renewal Week. He spoke during two traditional chapel services, as well as in a Wednesday night chapel and a talkback session on Tuesday evening.

Choung shared many stories and illustrations during the week to help emphasize and define the need for evangelism—including many from his own life.

Choung, the current national director of Asian American Ministries for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, grew up in a Christian home in Seattle. Accepted to both Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Choung ultimately chose to study electrical engineering at MIT.

Without visiting the campus, trusting simply that this was where he was supposed to be, Choung headed east. “I came to college on fire for God,” he said. However, the first semester left Choung feeling regret more than anything else. He pledged a fraternity and his priorities changed.

He described the atmosphere at MIT in the mid-90s as open to spiritual conversations.

“At MIT, your whole job is to find the answer as fast as possible, it’s not like Harvard where you are taught to question everything,” he explained.

Yet Choung was the only Christian is his fraternity. At least for a while.

During his sophomore year, Choung connected with a Korean Christian Fellowship and InterVarsity, an evangelical ministry focused on ministering to college students. And it was also around this time that he felt called to ministry.

Choung’s prayers eventually led him to start a Bible study for his fraternity brothers. Eight of his peers decided to devote their Fridays to tackling spiritual questions and texts. Some had a little bit of a religious background, while others had no exposure whatsoever.

“It is super fun studying the Bible with people who don’t know it that well,” Choung said.

Those with less previous knowledge ask thoughtful questions and bring new ideas and perspectives to discuss.

By his senior year, a third of the fraternity house was Christian; and today the same Bible study Choung started continues.

Besides the continual importance of evangelism, though, Choung also came to campus to explain the changing atmosphere of college ministry. Since 2000, the approach to ministering to students has been redefined.

Choung explained that our culture today is more antagonistic towards Christianity, many believing the believers unjustly use power to forward their own agendas. And he insists that this negative image in based not only on the media, but moreover on personal experience.

“So much of evangelism is hearing what they say and what God has to say,” Choung described. “And being open to what God is saying, and obeying.”

Although through InterVarsity he witnesses some college administrations trying to force the organization off of their campuses, Choung remains hopeful. The main task is to convince the colleges that they are not a ‘hate group.’

“90 percent of the time we’re on the same wave-length, we just need better posture,” Choung summarized. “We need to affirm what good non-Christians are doing… our students have really shown through.”