The Gospel of John Challenge

Isaac didn’t plan to spend two hours riding backward in the charter bus, perched on his knees and leaning over the headrest.

But as he spoke with Simon,* the student in the row behind, he decided it was worth it.

The bus was heading to the CCO’s Jubilee conference, which Simon, a committed atheist, had agreed to attend in order to understand Christians and their religion better.

On the bus, Simon and Isaac talked freely, covering topics from psychology to whether aliens would resemble humans or not. Then Simon asked a question that confused Isaac.

“What’s up with all these numbers?”

Simon was asking about the Bible. He had agreed to read the Gospel of John with a friend, but he had never before opened a Bible. Searching for John 1, he’d come across 1 John, later realizing he’d read the “wrong thing.” His confusion also encompassed what different verses meant. Another student, also new to reading the Bible, joined the conversation on the bus, asking, “So Isaac, why are you a Christian?”

“Who gets questions like this?” Isaac marvels as he remembers that bus ride last February. “My knees were really sore by this point, but I was happy to explain how Scripture tells the most compelling story I’ve ever heard. God began to soften hearts before the bus even arrived in Pittsburgh.”


All of this really began the previous semester.

Isaac serves as CCO staff at Anne Arundel Community College in Annapolis, Maryland. For the school year, Isaac and his student leaders chose “Sharing the Gospel” as the theme of their midweek gathering. Throughout the fall, they covered topics like boldness, relationships, and prayer. Several students became Christians that semester, and they were eager to share this new life with their friends.

In January, students asked for a practical challenge, and “John One-on-One” began. 

The premise was simple: Ask a friend who doesn’t know Jesus to read the Gospel of John with you, one chapter every day. Meet weekly to talk about it. Pray. See what happens.

By February, a number of students had approached their friends. Kasey invited Simon, whom Isaac later met on the bus to Jubilee. Caleb approached Johnathan, who wanted to say no, but didn’t. “I’m always telling people to be open to new things,” he says. “I’d have felt like a hypocrite if I said no.” Julie asked Airiana, who was both nervous and excited.

“I have never been the most religious person, but I wanted to try,” Airiana remembers. She also started coming to the midweek fellowship gathering. She didn’t have a car, so Julie picked her up and they talked about what they read in John.

At first, Airiana found the Bible really confusing. “It was like I was back in high school trying to read Shakespeare,” she says. “But once I understood the basic ideas, I was able to focus on the meaning behind the words.”

As they talked, Julie felt unprepared to answer all of Airiana’s questions, but she kept reminding herself that God’s Word is powerful, even if she didn’t know what to say. About halfway through the book, Julie noticed something. “When I hear you talking about this, it sounds like you believe it,” she said to Airiana. “Is that true?”

“Yes. Yes, I guess I do,” Airiana replied.

Julie was right—God’s Word is powerful. Seven students became believers last year, like Johnathan, who as Student Body President shared his story as a part of his commencement speech. Others, like Simon, are involved with the Christian community at Anne Arundel even as they continue to ask questions. And Isaac and his students are continuing to invite friends to open the book of John and read,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.”

As these words reach the hearts of college students, Jesus is—once again—creating something new.

*name changed to protect his privacy