The story of Cornelius and Peter in Acts 10 is one of the most fascinating evangelism stories in the New Testament. Cornelius is a Gentile described as a God-fearer and a man who gave alms to the Jews.
Despite being someone who believed in God and who did good works, Cornelius needed to hear the Gospel. So, God spoke to Peter and Cornelius through visions. He told Cornelius to send some men to Joppa to get Peter. The next day God prepared Peter, through a vision, to be open to Cornelius and the men he had sent to find him.
Peter went to Caesarea with the men Cornelius had sent. Cornelius tried to worship Peter, but Peter told him to get up and proceeded to tell him about Jesus and how Cornelius could be saved. Scripture tells us that Cornelius received Christ as his Savior and so did those who were with him.
On the surface this story certainly doesn’t seem as impressive as Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost when 3,000 people believed in Jesus. However, an encounter with people like Cornelius is more likely to happen to us than what Peter experienced at Pentecost. This story grabs my attention for several reasons.
First, it instructs me that no matter where a person is who believes in God that God will make sure to send a witness which causes me to be available and willing.
Second, it reminds me that there are people on my campus and in my community who believe in God and are doing good things who still need to hear the Gospel. Their belief in God and their good works are not enough without the saving power of Jesus.
Third, it reminds me that my ministry needs to intentionally engage people who believe in God but have never placed their faith in Jesus.
Through the years, one of the ways we have engaged students is that BCM has partnered with non-religious groups on campus to do community service.
I will mention two. One service project was with a fraternity on campus as we worked together to build a handicapped ramp for a home. Another was a service project with some of the cadets of the ROTC to help a local non-profit by cleaning out their warehouse.
After these service projects, we would meet afterward for a cookout. This afforded us the opportunity to build relationships with these students, see some of them get involved in our ministry and share the Gospel with them.
I wonder how many ways campus ministries and/or churches can find to serve alongside non-religious groups to find a “Cornelius” who needs a Savior? I am certain there are people like Cornelius all around us.
State Missionary Bill Morrison serves as lead Baptist campus minister at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.