Big questions at Newcastle University outreach


“I’m an atheist. I only came for the free food,” joked Andrew, 22. But he came every night, watching the Big Questions films and listening to Dr Grenville Kent’s talks on the evidence for Christianity. On the final night, he said, “These meetings are really getting to me. I want to know more about your God. Can I come to your church?”

“I was expecting apologetics seminars might move people from say a minus-10 on a spiritual scale to a minus-5,” said Dan Livingston, elder of the My House church plant
in central Newcastle. “But Andrew came to our church the next Sabbath—not bad for a treasurer of the Atheist Society. He told us, ‘I like the intellectual evidence, but I want to experience God’.”

Universities are a great untouched mission field. You have bright people in an open, curious stage of their lives, with time to ask big questions.

Keith, an agnostic, was having a beer in the bar near the seminar room when someone invited him to see the presentation, “Could God See The Future?” He was fascinated by the prophecy of Daniel 9. “I didn’t know there was such evidence that God can see the future with perfect accuracy, and sees my life too,” he said. “I’m going to go home and read the book of Daniel.” He’ll also be invited to Bible studies.

Melinda, 19, said, “I’m an agnostic because no-one has shown me evidence for God.” A very quiet, gifted person, she listened intently to the talks and is now reading books on Christian evidence. Adventist students helped her to feel included and even drove her home after the meetings, a 60-minute round trip. Ben, 19, was raised a Christian but lost his faith while studying science. He attended the seminar out of curiosity, and said, “I didn’t realise there were so many top scientists who have faith.” He is now reading a book by Oxford mathematician and Christian apologist John Lennox.

Rohan, 19, has a Hindu background. He enjoyed the meetings so much that he brought a fellow Indian student. These are just some of the people who came to outreach seminars at Newcastle University, where Dr Kent test-screened some of his new Big Questionsapologetics films and spoke about reasons to believe in Christianity.

“This outreach was run by young people . . . [who] worked hard at advertising and got great support from young Adventists who really reached out to visitors, inviting them to great follow-up meetings and socials,” Dr Kent said.

“Universities are a great untouched mission field. You have bright people in an open, curious stage of their lives, with time to ask big questions. You won’t get converts in 5 minutes because many people start at a minus-10, but they’ll start considering faith.

“It was good to test the Big Questions films, which we plan to release next year. The feedback was encouraging.”

Dr Grenville Kent (far right) with seminar organisers.

Education student Morgan Vincent, 20, one of the organisers, said: “If you want to take the gospel to the world, Australian universities have people from almost every country, and when they go home, they’re the thought leaders.”

Bible workers Katie Kuivisto, 23, and Tarenne Greenwood, 18, are happy with the outcomes. “People came and were challenged to reconsider Christianity and the evidence for it,” Katie said.

Tarenne said people at church were excited by this new idea for evangelism. “And they really helped out,” she said. “The seminar series was called ‘Is God Finished’? It introduced a God who gives meaning to life.

“This is just the first in a series of outreach events we’re planning. God isn’t finished with university students yet.”

NASA is the Newcastle Adventist Students Association, which is based at Newcastle University, NSW.