Making disciples of US college students

Share This Post

Our God specializes in making beauty from ashes, raising the dead to life and turning persecutors into apostles for his glory.

As a college student in the 1970s, Jeff Lewis went with his friends to break up a meeting. He didn’t know that the people in the meeting were Christians, and he certainly didn’t know God would call him to become one of them that night.

“As soon as I walked in the door,” he recalls, “I knew they had something I didn’t have.”

“You didn’t have to convince me that I was a sinner; that was obvious,” says Jeff. “I basically said, ‘Lord, if you really exist, I’m yours. Just take control.’ I woke up the next morning with a sense of fullness that I had been on a search for.”

The next week, Jeff returned to that same meeting looking for guidance as a new believer. He was introduced to Gary who would pour his life into Jeff for the next 18 months.

Jeff Lewis at IWMC
“My life of discipleship started June of 1971,” says Jeff, “and has been going on 44 years now.”

Jeff hadn’t grown up in a Christian home, and he used to find the Bible boring. He struggled with hopelessness. Today, by God’s grace and power, Jeff has become a disciple of Jesus and says he has helped disciple some 300 people, many of them American college students. He also has started two churches using a discipleship model.

God's Heart for the NationsShortly after God saved him, Jeff began to study what God’s word says about the nations, coming to learn that “discipleship must be done in a global context or it’s not biblical discipleship,” he says. He published in 1998 and revised earlier this year a Bible study called God’s Heart for the Nations and, since 1997, has developed and taught an Intro to Global Studies course dealing with two topics: global context of the Christian faith and the kingdom of God.

Discipleship through every sphere of society

“I was quickly convinced that the way you disciple the nations is through the marketable skill sets of God’s people who have entered the domains of society and disciple within the context of those domains,” says Jeff.

At the DNA, we likewise believe that whole nations are transformed from the inside out as disciples of Jesus live intentionally from a biblical worldview seven days a week in whichever spheres of society God has placed them.

While this concept is gaining more favor among Christians today, Jeff has been teaching it since the mid-90s in his course Marketplace Strategies for Global Advancement. “My missionary friends thought I was crazy,” he says. “I really felt like a lone ranger.”

Discipling Nations
as a textbook offers foundational principles, not a program

As a professor at California Baptist University, Jeff has been using Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Cultures as a required text since it was first published in 1998.

Jeff reads through Discipling Nations with his small classes–only about 15 students at a time–to help them construct a firm grounding in biblical worldview and their roles as culture makers. Not surprisingly, he finds the book especially helpful for students who have done international service projects or missions trips. He says that Applied Theology students, meanwhile, have the most trouble connecting the book with their own discipleship journeys.

“Hardly anyone talks about worldview shift; it’s just ‘Add Jesus onto your worldview,’” Jeff says of most modern discipling models. “But the core of Paul was worldview shift! I just have [the students] for that brief little time, and I want to give them some foundational discipleship principles that they can adapt to situations.”

Jeff insists he is not presenting to his students a program or a specific mold to squeeze themselves into, while those can be most appealing to students and teachers alike. Rigid models actually can inhibit growth, he says. “If you stay within a very rigid model, and if you don’t start breaking away when you see faithfulness so that it can be further developed, it will ultimately come to a point of stagnation.”

Jeff Lewis

The point, Jeff says, is to facilitate biblical discovery for young Christians–to help them not to be swept up by the newest popular book but to return constantly to God’s Word. If anything, Jeff says, “we need more materials that cause them to dig deeper [into the Bible] so that they’re developing the convictions they’ll die for.”

Marie King read Discipling Nations in Jeff’s Models of Discipleship class. “This class and the combination of books we read really equipped me to develop my own model for discipleship based on scripture,” she says.

“This was the only book we studied that considered worldview and how that affected our ability to make disciples,” says Marie. “This was huge for me! I had never thought of how essential this was to consider. I remember this book really putting a practical global context into the basics.”I want to live overseas and work in a urban city where few believers live, and I know this book will provide key insights into those pursuits. This book also helped make me more aware of the biases I fail to see when I ‘bring’ the gospel into areas of the world that are different than my own.”

You may contact Jeff at

Learned something new? Have a question? Enjoying this post? Let us know!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Like what you're reading?

Subscribe to the DNA blog and get updates directly in your inbox.


Podcast Episodes

The Consequences of Killing God with John Stonestreet

The foundation of our society has shifted beneath our feet. Where there was once a firm base rooted in the Bible, we now find our culture in a moral freefall. Special guest John Stonestreet from the Colson Center reveals how subtle shifts have radically eroded people’s ability to find truth, identity, justice, and meaning. Believers have a responsibility to shape society in such a way that people know truth and can find meaning and justice …

Podcast Episodes

Understanding the Times and Seasons by Darrow Miller

The men of Isaachar are described in the Bible as having an understanding of their times and knowledge about what to do (1 Chronicles 12:32). This is no time to sit passively, expecting the Lord to accomplish His work apart from His people. Jesus is not only the Lamb of God; He is the Lion of Judah, the Victor, and the Dragon Slayer. We must not fear going into dark and hard places as His representatives. Ungodly cultures are breeding death and destruction …

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x

Let's have a chat

Learn how we helped 100 top brands gain success.