As Chairman of the Mission America Coalition, a network of Christian leaders, Paul Cedar influences and serves churches and denominations across the United States. He came to that position after previously serving as president of the Evangelical Free Church of America, pastor of several churches, and Crusade Director for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Before all of that, he was president for two years of the InterVarsity Chapter at Northern State College (now Northern State University) in Aberdeen, South Dakota. “InterVarsity was a very important part of my spiritual formation and my leadership formation,” he said. “I don’t think I can exaggerate the investment it made in my life.”
Growing up in Presbyterian parsonages in Minnesota and South Dakota, Paul sensed God calling him to become a pastor as early as age 12. He got involved with InterVarsity as soon as he arrived at Northern; his older brother was the chapter president. “We roomed together that year and I was immersed immediately,” he recalled.
The training and experience he got from leading inductive Bible studies in InterVarsity was foundational for the ministry activities Paul was involved in during college and following. “During the years I was a pastor and the years my wife Jeannie and I worked with young people, Bible study was a very important part of our ministry,” he said.
Paul worked his way through college, two or three jobs at a time. He served as a youth pastor at a local Wesleyan Church. He also started his own ministry, The Dakota Christian Youth Crusade, and had a short weekly program on a local radio station. Other InterVarsity students often joined him on the program to share about their faith in Christ.
Paul was heavily involved in evangelism at Northern. “Evangelism has always been a part of my pastoral ministry; conversion and growth have always been important,” he said.
During Paul’s time at Northern, the chapter grew from 25 students to 100. In those days, even though it was a state college, Northern had a Spiritual Life Week. Paul served as chairman of Spiritual Life Week his senior year. “We had a very active group, and we saw a lot of young people come to faith in Christ,” he said.
Even though Paul had met many missionaries as he grew up in the church and while he worked at a Christian conference center during high school, he was not prepared for what he experienced attending InterVarsity’s Urbana 57 Student Missions Conference. He and five other students drove across the snowy plains to Illinois to spend five days learning about God’s purposes in the world and the opportunities to get involved in missions.
“I had a lot of exposure to missions prior to that but nothing compared to Urbana. It was life affecting,” he said. “It gave me a vision for world evangelism and missions that I have maintained and grown over the years.”
Today, looking back on the campus ministry he was involved in during his college years, and ministry in a variety of venues since, Paul sees the training and experience he received through InterVarsity as foundational for setting the course he has followed ever since.
“God was really at work and it was a very active chapter. It was formative in my life and ministry,” he said. “I am so grateful for my InterVarsity roots.”