Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Spring E-Update

From the Director's Chair

This past weekend we celebrated my daughter’s 4th birthday.  As a parent it was a little traumatic for me in that I allowed myself to get caught up in thinking that Ella is a quarter of the way to driving age, proms, and worst of all… dating.  In my emotional state that evening, I looked at her and said “Ella, promise me that you won’t grow up.” A pretty reasonable request I felt.  But without any concern for her traumatized father she grabbed my face, looked me in the eyes, and said “Dad, I have to grow up, I can’t be little forever.” 

After I pulled myself back together I started thinking, as often as I’ve wished for my children to stay young forever, realistically, all parents want proper development for their children.  That’s why we are constantly worrying about things like motor skills, speech and language, and cognitive function as they are growing up.  Bottom line, as parents we want our kids to grow up healthy and happy.  Ella nailed it when she said she “couldn’t be little forever.” And although it pains me to admit it, I don’t want that either. 

Ella’s revelation started me thinking about Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus.  “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his peoples for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.   Instead speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12-15)

It would seem that our heavenly father is also concerned with our development, specifically our spiritual growth.  Actually as I read this passage it seems to me that our involvement in this process doesn’t end when someone new comes to Christ, it is actually just beginning.  Ultimately, spiritual growth is vital.  Not just on a personal level, but rather on a kingdom level.  In order for the body of Christ to be its best, we have to mature into the one that is the head of the body, Christ.

I am continually amazed at the way God equips and empowers us to grow as a body.  I am blessed with a front row seat to see this played out within our community at ROC.  We see older students in the ministry mentoring younger students, peers working with each other in our Discovery Workshop (new believer / Biblical foundations class), student leaders serving as spiritual leaders in the community, and of course the ROC staff leading and encouraging students to continue to grow in their faith.  Spiritual growth really is at the heart of all we do.  Why? Because our goal is to send students out into communities around the country, and in some cases the world, equipped to disciple others and encourage others to grow as well.  Spiritual growth -- it’s vital for us personally and it’s vital to the body as a whole.  Thank you for your continued prayers and support of ROC as we strive to build up the kingdom. 



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Reading the Gospels with Students: Three Vignettes

1.            I met Sean[1] through the conversation partners program at Ohio University.  He was born and raised in a Southeast Asian country and is familiar with the church there. Sean loves to pepper me with questions about Christianity and the church in the United States. Recently, when we were reading from the Bible, he challenged:

"Do you remember when Jesus was baptized by John? I think Jesus made a mistake."

"Really?" I asked, "Why do you say that?"

"Jesus is God, and God should have a higher position than people. When Jesus was baptized by John, he put himself under John. That was not right."

"If you think Jesus made a mistake there, then he certainly made a mistake when he washed his disciples' feet."

"Oh yes," said Sean, "that was a mistake too. God should be above people, not below."

"And isn't it the same as when Jesus died, nailed to a piece of wood," I offered. "It seems that we have a God who doesn't care about the rules of position."

"I know! But it still does not make sense," he protested.

The scandal of our humble Lord, the crucified Christ, is fresh to Sean. This week he will be coming to our CrossWalk meeting for the first time, and he’s bringing all of his questions with him.

2.            As Dodger and I were working in the office last week, Jack walked in, flopped on the couch, and fired a question at us:

"What did Jesus teach?" Jack's eyes burned with certainty: he already had the answer in mind.

"Jesus taught many things," I offered. "Loving your neighbor, caring for the poor, living righteously, and so on."

"Yes, yes. I know." Jack wasn't impressed. "But there were two things that Jesus preached more than anything else."

"It has to be the kingdom of God," said Dodger.

"To repent?" I chimed in.

Jack was satisfied. "A lot of people say that Jesus' message was love and peace or tolerance, but that's not the case. It’s true that those things were in there, but Jesus came to preach about repentance and the kingdom."

I think that Jack did his homework. Dallas Willard translates the Lord’s proclamation in Mark 1:15 as such: “All the preliminaries have been taken care of, and the rule of God is now accessible to everyone. Review your plans for living and base your life on this remarkable new opportunity.” [2]

3.            As Sean and I were waiting for his bus to come, I saw Rita across the street and waved her over. She had been involved in ROC during her first two years of school, but her schedule and social circles made it easier for her to meaningfully invest herself into a different Christian group on campus. That was no problem in my eyes; I was happy to know that she was still connected to Jesus and to folks who love him.
When Sean and I said good-bye, Rita and I walked and chatted about her post-college plans and about the ROC community. She told me that she missed having teaching that helped her grow in her faith.

"Over there, it's the same ‘Jesus-died-for-your-sins’ talk every week,” she explained. “Don't get me wrong, that's great for those who need it! But I already know that. I'm already a Christian, but I need to know what to do now! I need to grow."

She loved reading the Pauline epistles. She hungered to have mature teaching—solid food, as the author of Hebrews puts it. But Rita wasn't finding it in her context.
How easily we rush from the manger to the cross! We can point Christ’s crucifixion as the ultimate expression of God's gracious love and we can learn how to live as the Church from Brother Paul. Both of those things, however, depend on our knowledge of Jesus and his teaching as revealed in the gospels. We cannot gloss over his proclamation of God's present reign in our world, his scandalous humility, and his authority to even say,

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even life itself—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." [3]

Rita and I will soon begin meeting once a week to read through a gospel and talk about applying Jesus' teaching to our lives, figuring out "how the rubber meets the road," as Dodger puts it. I can't wait to start.

[1] Students’ names have been changed to respect their privacy.
[2] Dallas Willard. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), 15.
[3] Luke 14:26-27 NIV

Monday, October 6, 2014

Darkness and Light

I was sitting with Ken in Donkey Coffee this past summer, getting to know him and talking shop about church. He worked at a local congregation and I had just started full time with ROC. After a pause in the conversation, Ken asked me:

Don't you think Athens is a spiritually dark place?

I was taken aback. I never thought of my town as "spiritually dark." There are plenty of churches and ministries throughout Athens, I thought. How could anyone say that?

John the Evangelist compares one in spiritual darkness to a blind man who stumbles around, having no idea where he is going (1 John 2:10-11), and such a person can't really grasp Christ (John 1:5). Are people really stumbling around? It seems like plenty of folks around the university are confident in how right they are and how wrong the gospel is. The last thing they would admit is that they don't know where they're going in life.
Recently, Dodger has been sharing with me his desire to reach out to the darkest parts of campus. We have to live up to our name, he explained, by connecting people with Jesus. From the party scene to the classroom, we see our neighbors living in and celebrating the destructive sin to which they are blind. Nonetheless, John recorded a holy promise:

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

How can Jesus' words break through to this culture today? Are we waiting on our neighbors to teach themselves about Christ? Are we content to sit back, cluck our tongues disapprovingly, and say "God, I thank you that I am not like other people"?

Jesus was not content with staying in well-lit places: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Yes, there is spiritual darkness here in Athens. Yet I also see a network of gospel light, surrounding and permeating the OU campus and culture. It is followers of Jesus who show and tell a better life with God. Here at ROC, we want to put a spotlight on Jesus uptown and down the hall, and we’re going to do that by first loving our neighbors through friendship and service. And that means stepping out of the ROC House, out of our circle of Christian friends, and out of our comfort zones.

The Pharisees asked, Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? I hope that we can have a good time and raise some eyebrows, just like Jesus did.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

Support ROC through your Amazon.com purchases!

Dear friend of Reach Out on Campus:

Before I started as an intern here at ROC, I had a seasonal job at an Amazon.com warehouse.

Never before had I seen so much stuff.  Each day, the entire contents of a Wal-Mart Supercenter would be unpacked, scanned, re-packaged, and shipped from our building.

Can you imagine what it would be like for even a small part of that business to glorify Jesus?  What would it mean if even a fraction of each item that came through those warehouses built the kingdom?  The good news is that we don't have to imagine: we can make it happen.


AmazonSmile is a free way for you and I to turn all of our Amazon.com purchases into a way to support ROC's ministry to students at OU.  5% of the price of all eligible purchases is donated by Amazon to ROC at no additional cost to you.  It's the same products, prices, and service.  Just click the link (http://smile.amazon.com/ch/31-1074080) and start shopping--it's that simple!

Thanks for your support and continued partnership with our ministry.  Please continue to pray for us as we show and tell good news at OU.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

5 Essential Things to Know about ROC This Fall

Whether you're a freshman, transferring in, or a returning student, welcome (back) to Athens!
Here are the 5 things you'll need to know about Reach Out on Campus this fall semester.

1. Why we exist:
ROC is about one thing: putting a spotlight on Jesus Christ.  We want everything that we do to glorify him.  We want our lives' stories to reflect the hope and change that Jesus brings.

2. How we do community:
ROC values three beats that define our shared rhythm of life:
Belonging to God and each other.
Becoming more like Christ.
Being Sent to love, serve, and disciple. 

3. What it looks like: 
We welcome people into Christian community that is filled and fueled with God's presence.
We eat, laugh, play, study, worship, and pray with one another.
We daily learn to be and act as Jesus' followers in the university.
We work together to understand, live out, and be transformed by the gospel.
We lovingly serve others, building relationships that show and tell good news.
We ask God to do his transformative work in our world and through us.

4. What this has to do with you:
You are always welcome with us.
If you're a committed Jesus follower, we want to be a community where you find friendship, growth in your faith, and being Jesus' hands and feet.
If you're not sure about Jesus, church, or religion—if you've got your own ideas or you don't know what to think—you are welcome.
Any way, you are welcome to come along. As we're trying to love and serve people the way that Jesus did and taught, we want you to go with us and see what you will find along the way.

5. What's next:
Put these dates on your calendar: August 24, 27, and 29.
SUN 8/24: ROC Introductory Pizza Party
— Baker University Center Rm. 240, 6:00 PM
— Free for all students. Come, get to know us, and find out more about Reach Out on Campus.
— Come hungry!

WED 8/27: CrossWalk
— ROC House (directions), 7:00 PM every week
— Kicking off our weekly gathering for fellowship, worship, teaching, and prayer.

FRI 8/29: Bowling Social
— Rollerbowl on Palmer Street (time and transportation TBA)
— Push heavy balls down a corridor to knock over wobbly logs!
— Most of us are terrible at bowling, so don't worry about breaking a hundred.  ;)

Thanks for reading!  Don't hesitate to shoot me an email if you have any questions.  God bless you as you prepare to come to Athens!