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Let’s talk about trees. 

A good tree bears good fruit.  Those are Jesus’ words.  A good apple tree makes good apples.  And sitting in every one of those apples is the potential for an entirely new tree.  Every tree contains a forest.

We view our students in much the same way.  Campus ministry is not a “holding tank” for Christian students.  It is not our goal to provide a college youth group to keep Christians safe while in college.  Quite the opposite.  It’s our hope to inspire students to believe they are Kingdom workers – future missionaries and elders and deacons and pastors and world-changers.  They are the ones who will spread deep roots and bear the fruit that is the start of a new forest.

This is why we see discipleship as the engine of our ministry.  It’s why we have focused a great deal on finding real ways for students to serve and grow.  In the half-century that Encounter has been alive, we’ve seen many generations come, be transformed and leave to transform others.  It has happened.  It’s happening right now.  And, by His grace, it will continue.  Isn’t that just like the Lord?  We invest deeply in our little corner and He somehow uses that to change the world.

Encounter (first known as Christian Collegians) was founded at Illinois State University in 1967 as a partnership between students and Eastview Christian Church. What began as a small collaboration between students and local churches has, over the years, grown into a parachurch ministry with significant impact within the campus community, reaching beyond to the international community.

Our Senior Campus Ministers: David Lang (serving from 1968-1973), Jim Simkins (serving from 1973-1996), Pete Cocco (serving from 1996-2017), and Ben Miller, who began working with the ministry in 2004 and transitioned to the Director position in 2017.  

Since the year 2000, Encounter has planted several campus ministries in the Philippines. Each of those ministries has full time Filipino staff, all a part of our budget and given oversight by our Board of Directors. Arnold Pasion, a native of Baguio on the island of Luzon, serves as director there.

While there is oversight and discipleship from the staff, as well as helpful volunteer hands from the community, it is the students themselves that make the ministry thrive. Encounter opens up all types of leadership roles to students so that discipleship and service during students’ college years will equip and prepare them to be effective leaders within the local church after graduation.

Our desire is to continue to be a rooted, thriving ministry for college students at Illinois State University, Heartland Community College, and Illinois Wesleyan.


The Bible

The sole basis for our belief is the sixty-six books of the Bible, which is uniquely God-inspired, without error in the original manuscripts, and the final authority on all matters of faith and practice (II Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 4:12; II Peter 1:20-21).


We teach that there is but one true and living God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 45:5-7; I Corinthians 8:4), perfect in all His attributes, one in essence, eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19; II Corinthians 13:14), each possessing all the attributes of deity and deserving of our worship and obedience. In the beginning God created out of nothing the universe and all things therein, thus manifesting the glory of His power, wisdom, and goodness. By His sovereign power, He continues to sustain His creation. By His providence, He is operating throughout history to fulfill His plan of redemption.

Jesus Christ

We teach that Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, though being equal with God (John 10:30; Philippians 2:5-8), surrendered His prerogatives of deity and came to earth to pay the debt for man’s sin. Having been born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23-25), Jesus lived a totally sinless life, and was therefore qualified to pay for our sins by dying on the cross as our atoning sacrifice (John 10:15; Romans 3:24-25; I Peter 2:24). He literally and physically rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father where He now mediates as our advocate and high priest (Matthew 28:6; Luke 24:38-39; Acts 2:30-31; Romans 4:25, 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; I John 2:1). We teach that Jesus will return to earth, personally and visibly, to consummate history and judge all mankind according to the eternal plan of God (John 5:22-23; Acts 1:9-11; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; II Corinthians 5:10).

Holy Spirit

We teach that the Holy Spirit is a divine person, coequal with the Father and the Son in all the divine attributes (Matthew 28:19; I Corinthians 12:4-6; II Corinthians 13:14). He enlightens the minds of sinners, awakens in them a recognition of their need of a Savior and regenerates them. At the point of salvation, He permanently indwells every believer and equips them for personal growth and for personal service/ministry within the body of Christ (John 16:7-9; Acts 2:38; I Corinthians 12:13; II Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:22). The indwelling of the Spirit is a divine guarantee which seals the believer unto the day of redemption (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13-14). Christians are endowed with spiritual gifts through the sovereign act of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are intended to strengthen the Church and glorify God (John 16:13-14; Acts 1:8; I Corinthians 12:4-11; II Corinthians 3:18).

Man's Greatest Need

The central purpose of God’s revelation in Scripture is to call all people into fellowship with Himself. God originally created humans to have fellowship with Him and to glorify Him (Isaiah 43:7; Colossians 1:16), but they defied God by sinfully choosing to go their own way. As a result, man suffered alienation from God and the corruption of human nature (Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:1-4). The salvation of mankind, therefore, is wholly a work of God’s free gift of grace, not the result in whole or in part of human works or goodness. This salvation is a gift, made available through faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone (John 1:12; 10:18-27; 14:6; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-9; I Peter 1:18-19).

The Church

We teach that all who genuinely place their faith in Jesus Christ are placed by the Holy Spirit into one united spiritual body, the church (I Corinthians 12:12-13), the bride of Christ (II Corinthians 11:2), of which Christ is the head (Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:18).  The Scripture calls believers to gather together to devote themselves to worship, prayer, teaching of the Word, observance of the ordinances, fellowship, service to the body, and outreach to the world (Acts 1:8; Acts 2:38-42; Ephesians 4:12).  Wherever God’s people meet regularly in obedience to this command, there is the local expression of the church (Acts 20:17; Galatians 1:2; Hebrews 10:25). The members of the body are to work together in love and unity, intent on the ultimate purpose of glorifying Christ and making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20; John 17; Ephesians 3:21).

Baptism & Communion

We teach that two ordinances have been committed to the local church: The Lord’s Supper, and Baptism.  We teach that the Lord’s Supper is the commemoration and proclamation of His Death until He comes, and should always be preceded by solemn self-examination (I Corinthians 11:28-32). We also teach that whereas the elements of communion are only representative of the flesh and blood of Christ, the Lord’s Supper is nevertheless an actual communion with the risen Christ, who is present in a unique way, fellowshipping with His people (I Corinthians 10:16).  Because baptism is commanded by our Lord and His apostles (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38), we teach that all professed believers are compelled to be baptized. We teach that baptism should occur immediately upon confession of faith in Christ, as modeled for us in Acts (2:38-41; 8:35-39; 16:31-33). Baptism as an immersion is taught in Scripture and symbolically portrays the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is also a sign of fellowship and identification with the Church, which is the visible body of Christ (Acts 2:41-42).

Human Destiny

Death seals the eternal destiny of each person. For all mankind, there will be a resurrection of the body into the spiritual world, and a judgment that will determine the fate of each individual. The saved will be raised to eternal life and will be rewarded on the basis the life already lived for God (John 6:39; Romans 8:10-11, 19-23; II Corinthians 4:14), and the unsaved to judgment and everlasting punishment (Daniel 12:2; John 5:29)

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