Ministry Story: Quiz The Campus Minister

As we began our Wednesday night study this week, many of the students were really tired. One of them admitted up front:  “Can we just talk about something or ask you questions instead of reading the bible? I’m too tired to read.” This seemed like a rough start to the study that night. However, I ended up compromising with them. We would read the passage, discuss it a bit, and make sure we got to the main point. After that they could ask me whatever they wanted.

We got to the main point relatively quickly which was really summed up in Mark 10:45:  “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” We talked about why Christ really had to die and in light of that what were the implications for his disciples.

After that, they began grilling me with questions. One student asked me question after question:

“Is Christianity the only way to God?”
“What do you think of Satanists?”
“What do you think about those who say after we die there is nothing?”
“Why should I trust the bible?”

Another student chimed in asking:
“How do I know which churches are good?
“Why are there so many hypocrites in the church?”
“Does the bible say homosexuality is wrong?”

At the end of our meeting that night, one of the students said to me “I really appreciate this. I’ve never had anyone in my life to ask these questions to.”

These series of tough questions reminded me why RUF sends ordained ministers to campus, those who have spent years studying and training and who have been tested and examined by the church to confirm that they are able to “rightly (handle) the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). In moments like these, it is incredibly obvious why I had to read all of those books, write all of those essays, take all of those exams, and have all those conversations with professors and other pastoral mentors.

People have real questions that need real answers. Students in particular are open to hearing serious answers to life’s major questions in this transition time of college. While my answers are not perfect, I’m thankful for the ability to answer many of these questions while also continually pointing these students to their need for a saving relationship with Christ.

Yet even as I share what I have learned with them, I must acknowledge my helplessness. Many of the things I said that night were tough for these students to hear. We talked about issues of sexuality and some students found it very hard to accept that God intended sexuality only for marriage between one man and one woman. Biblical truths like these are becoming more and more of a stumbling block to students as our culture changes. Of course, I cannot takeaway these offensive aspects of the Gospel. As Jesus says in one of the moments he encountered opposition to his teaching, “it is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all…the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (Jn 6:63). Only the Spirit can cause these students to come to the point that they confess too what Peter said to Jesus as many were rejecting him:  “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,  and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (Jn 6:68–69). Pray that Jesus would be so compelling to these students that they would be willing to follow him wherever he may lead them, even if that path is difficult.

When believers confess who Jesus is, they also and inevitably confess what they must become.

This quote from my bible study preparation this week was so good I had to share it!

“Mark 8:27–9:1 is a continental divide between the first and second halves of the Gospel. It unites Christology and discipleship in a unique and symbiotic relationship. It teaches that a proper confession of Jesus involves a new understanding of discipleship. When believers confess who Jesus is, they also and inevitably confess what they must become. Jesus is not an objective datum that, like a rock under a microscope, can be observed and examined in supposed neutrality. The statement “ ‘You are the Christ’ ” (v. 29) imposes a claim on the one who says it. The Son of Man calls those who would know him to follow him” – James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary

Pray IUP students would both confess who Jesus is and realize the claim that confession has on their lives!

The “Strangeness” of Bible Studies and God’s Work at IUP

Bible studies are increasingly an oddity in universities. One of the RUF at IUP bible studies meets in the lobby of one of IUP’s dorms. One week a student passed by our study and interrupted by exclaiming “what are you guys doing?” I responded “we are reading the Bible together and discussing it.” With considerable incredulity she asked, “Is this for a class? Are you doing some kind of project?” I responded “Nope, we are just curious to find out more about who Jesus is and what it means to follow him. You are welcome to join us!” Her last response was simply, “You guys are weird” and walked off.
From a secular point of view, it is incredibly weird for a bunch of students to gather around to study the bible for an hour every week. Even the students in the study themselves recognize there is something unusual about what we are doing. One student told me in passing as we were walking back from playing basketball, “I never imagined myself being in a bible study in college.”
I’m continually amazed and encouraged that students keep coming to this study and actively participating, many of which are studying the Bible for the first time. There are so many other things they could be doing and yet it is evidence that God is at work that week after week they find themselves meeting with me to read through the gospel of Mark. Praise God for the work he is doing in revealing himself to students in these “strange” Bible studies.

RUF New Minister Orientation and Other Updates

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This past month has been both exciting and tiring! Not only did I finish up my last semester of seminary and graduate on May 24th but I also then had my final examination for ordination in the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) before the Pittsburgh Presbytery. I passed, in case you were wondering!

Right after that, I stuck around in Indiana, PA looking at housing. I’m thankful to say we made an offer on a house two weeks ago and we are in the process of closing on it. However, we’ve quickly learned that buying a house is not an easy task.

The firehose of new information continued at RUF Orientation this last week. That being said,  I’m happy to say that the orientation was an incredibly encouraging and energizing experience. I was very quickly reminded of why I’ve wanted to work for RUF for so long. All the RUF staff leading the orientation were very pastoral in their approach. We began each day with a devotional that applied Scripture to the unique experiences and difficulties of starting out as a campus minister. However, the training was not only pastoral but very practical. We had seminars on topics such as support-raising and the particular challenges facing those taking over existing works or new works. RUF also addressed necessities such as health insurance, taxes, retirement, etc. These talks were so helpful that I recorded many of them and took copious notes.

I also appreciated meeting all the other campus ministers starting new or taking over existing RUFs all over the country. Many of them I already knew from assessment last summer and it was great to continue to get to know and encourage each other as we all seek to go out onto university campuses around the country to reach students for Christ. Coming away from training, I’m very encouraged and thankful that the LORD has directed my steps towards serving with RUF.

Now I’m back in Philadelphia and trying to hit the ground running. If you are reading this, here are four things I’ll be praying for and I would love for you to join in me in prayer for. 

  1. Pray that I would pray more and more. I’m already experiencing a renewed sense of my need for the LORD but pray I’d continue to be joyfully disciplined about seeking him even when I’m tired and distracted with all that needs to get done.
  2. Pray for RUF at IUP’s financial support. Pray that God would provide what RUF at IUP needs to be fully-funded so that we will be able to focus on reaching IUP students for Christ and equipping them to serve. Pray God would move people to joyfully give for the sake of God’s kingdom and for those who are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36).
  3. Pray for everything to come together with the house we are buying and our move in July. We are having to learn a lot quickly but thankful for the ways God has already provided. Pray we would continue to make wise decisions especially as this process is all very new to us!
  4. Lastly, pray for Kim and our first child due to be born August 14th. We are thankful for a healthy pregnancy so far and we pray that would continue! Pray also for the LORD to prepare our hearts and minds for the new responsibility of being parents.