First on-campus baptisms in decades create glimpse of God’s work at Bethel

Ben Greene

Pastor & writer

  • Discipleship & spiritual formation

The obedience of four Bethel University students in the first recorded on-campus baptisms in the Converge school’s history shows the work of the Holy Spirit as men and women are deepening their faith.

Campus pastor Matt Runion said God’s clear but gradual work created the students’ desire to be baptized on May 21 in the Lakeside Center.

“There’s a spiritual hunger amongst our students in the last few years that is noticeable,” Runion said. “God was moving hearts and minds, and we wanted to see where the Spirit was blowing and put up our sails.”

He said students frequently stimulate each other in the school’s small groups and weekly chapels, plus faculty teach the young adults to follow Christ through classroom interactions. He also mentioned that local churches, including Converge North Central congregations, strongly contribute to spiritual formation at the university. 

Bethel’s board, which includes Converge leaders and pastors, worked closely with campus staff to reflect on, plan and affirm the baptisms. Runion said the school’s team generally perceives baptism as the action of a local church. 


There's a spiritual hunger amongst our students in the last few years that is noticeable.

Bethel University campus pastor Matt Runion

But when students responded to a professor’s classroom lecture on baptism by indicating they wanted to obey Christ, the school reached out to Converge North Central president Mark Bjorlo for advice. 

The group of churches that formed the Baptist General Conference, now known as Converge, officially adopted the school in 1914 and moved the college to St. Paul, Minnesota.

“It’s a close identification [with Converge], and that’s important to Bethel,” Runion added. 

“Bethel’s still acknowledging the importance of the local church.”

Converge and Bethel’s collaborative relationship empowered a wise, faithful way forward, Runion explained, allowing local churches, the believers’ families and the university to organize a baptism for these disciples.

“It acknowledges the priesthood of all believers,” Runion said. “It was such a great little microcosm of the spiritual community at Bethel.”

That community includes student-planned worship services, 24-hour prayer meetings, voluntary chapels, and small groups where students eagerly seek the Lord. 

The young adults are finding the God they desire on and off campus. 

For example, the men's golf team studied Acts this spring. The early Christian church’s faith so moved one player and one coach that the men were baptized. A couple of years before that, two players were baptized as well. These are just two of several stories of spiritual renewal in other corners of campus.

“We’ve got leaders on our campus doing amazing ministry,” Runion said.

Ben Greene, Pastor & writer

Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.

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