Monday, November 2, 2015

November 2015 Update

One of the cooler elements of ROC’s location at 50 South Court Street in Athens is the view that God has blessed us with. Not only is the intersection of Court and Union a hub of activity, but we also have an amazing view of one of the most picturesque locations on campus. The past few days I have taken the opportunity to appreciate just how spectacular this view really is as God demonstrates his creative beauty through the change of seasons. What seems even more amazing to me is the fact that the change in color that we associate with this time of year has seemingly happened in just a few short days.

This reminds me of how quickly God can work to make a change in our lives. While clearly Christ continues to work throughout our entire lives to change us, sometimes dramatic change can happen in a relatively short amount of time. 

One of the challenges I’ve encountered in my time at ROC is trying to figure out how to make the best use of the relatively short amount of time that we have with students. (In most cases 3-4 years at best). What I’ve learned, however, is that if we allow God to handle the dramatic change, it frees us up to help equip students with the tools and skills to pursue Him passionately the rest of their lives.

Acts chapter 9 records the story of Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. In the account of his conversion Saul comes into contact with Jesus and this becomes the catalyst for the major change that occurs in his life following the encounter. But as we continue to read we see that God places other people in Saul’s life at just the right time. Ananias is one of these people. He is sent to Saul to tell him of his new mission. While it was God that worked to make the change in Saul’s life, God used Ananias to play a major role in preparing Saul (later to become the Apostle Paul) for ministry. While Ananias only spent a short time with Paul, his role was nonetheless vital.

ROC sharing a meal with our friends from
Middleport Church of Christ during Crosswalk
At Reach Out on Campus, I see our role as similar to that of Ananias’. God has directed us and placed us in the lives of students at a very specific and crucial time. While it’s definitely not the ROC staff or volunteers that affect the change (that’s still the work of God and His Holy Spirit), we get the opportunity to be able to enter into a student’s life at a very exciting time and help prepare them and point them toward the mission that God is calling him / her. Like Ananias, we don’t always get to spend a great deal of time with them, but God often does amazing things through our faithful efforts in the time that we do have with them. 

Speaking of making the most of the time we have. As I write these words, we really only have about 5 weeks left in the semester, including Thanksgiving break and finals week. Even so, we have plenty of things going on. This Wednesday, October 28th, Donna and Al Hartson from Team Expansion in Louisville, KY will be leading Crosswalk and talking about reaching unreached people groups with the message of the Gospel. November 14th ROC students will be spending a day serving with Lifeline Christian Mission in Columbus, Ohio. November 15th and December 6th we will be visiting local churches. So, as you can see, even with time in the semester winding down, we certainly haven’t slowed down.

In closing, please know how much the staff, volunteers, and students appreciate your prayers and support. Our ministry partners really are the lifeblood of ROC. Thank you for giving us the ability to impact lives for our King!
In Christ,


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

October 2015 Update

ROC Fall Retreat Group at New River Gorge
As I write these words I find myself wondering how it can already be the halfway point of the semester. It seems like just last week the students were moving in, welcome activities were happening almost around the clock, and we were giving directions to different buildings on campus. But the change in temperature and the leaves beginning to fall from the trees reminds me that we are in fact moving quickly through another semester.

If the weather cues weren’t enough of a reminder, ROC’s fall retreat definitely was. Speaking of which, this year’s fall retreat was absolutely amazing! Not only did we have the spectacular backdrop of the New River Gorge as the setting for the retreat (which, by the way, if you’ve never done worship on a mountain top overlooking creation, it is a fantastic way to connect with God) but God really “showed up” during the weekend in ways that I don’t believe any of us had anticipated. Our students came back refreshed and renewed in their mission to Reach OU’s campus with the message of Jesus Christ.

Speaking of ROC students let me mention a couple things that I am excited about. While ROC has always been student led and run, I am really impressed with the way our leaders are stepping up within the community. First, several of our leaders will be facilitating a “Discipleship Workshop” in October. This was a workshop that ROC staff led last year, and students were so encouraged by it they wanted to offer it again this year and lead it themselves. Secondly, this past week two of our undergrads offered to teach during Crosswalk since I was going to be out of town that day. They not only did a phenomenal job, they really opened the door for other students who have since expressed the desire to teach. Finally, one of our students will be preaching at a ROC Church visit coming up in a few weeks! I’m really amazed at the way our students are stepping up to allow themselves to be used by God.

As I consider all these things, a verse that we used as the basis for our leadership agreement keeps coming to mind. 1 Timothy 4:10-13 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

While verse 12 has been the theme Scripture for just about every youth event I’ve ever attended, I think we often miss that in setting “an example” young people are called to action rather than to simply adopt church etiquette. The verses that precede verse 12 talk about laboring, striving, commanding, and teaching. Verse 13 instructs devotion to the scriptures, preaching, and again teaching. Sometimes I think that we pass up golden opportunities to call young people to labor, teach, and preach. In doing so I fear that we not only rob them of the opportunity to do what God has called them to do, but also rob ourselves of the encouragement, inspiration, and passion that comes from their example.

I love that within the campus ministry I am blessed to be able to witness the fullness of 1 Timothy 4:10-13 played out within our community every day. I pray that this process continues to happen each and every year that God chooses to use ROC on OU’s campus. Thank you to each of you who play an integral role in supporting our students and providing them with the opportunity to serve, labor, preach, and teach.

In Christ,


Thursday, September 10, 2015

September 2015 Update

Kelly, Trey, and Jessica work the ROC
table during the involvement fair.
What an exciting time around campus! In case you haven’t been through Athens the past couple weeks, students have once again returned to campus and a new group of freshmen have found their way to OU’s campus (this year even beats last year’s record for the largest enrollment in the history of the university). For the ROC community this has been an incredibly busy, yet incredibly fruitful time.

As many of you may already be aware, ROC has always taken advantage of this time to try and meet as many people as possible and extend to them an invitation to join our community. Generous donations of cookies from our supporting churches help us in this endeavor. Our student leaders did a fantastic job in engaging people and talking with them about Jesus and the ROC community. As a result we have been seeing new faces each week at Bible Study and Crosswalk!

Likewise our grad and young professional group has been growing as well. Jeremy Hatfield, long-time member of the grad group, has volunteered to the lead the group this year, and has been doing a splendid job. Speaking of the grad group, were you aware that our grad ministry is the only one of its kind on OU’s campus? We believe that for this reason, this is an exceptionally important part of ROC’s ministry.

As I write this letter and think about the people we’ve met the past couple weeks and the opportunity that God has blessed us with to “Reach Out” to students on OU’s campus I am reminded of Acts 17:26-28.  From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

As I read this passage of Scripture it becomes increasingly clear that it’s no accident that ROC is on OU’s campus. It’s no accident that we’ve met new people each week and many are finding a home within the community. All of this has been a fulfillment of God’s plan. We look at these meetings, as divine appointments. Even ones that seem almost accidental, like a conversation that I had with a young man on Court Street that turned into a meet up for coffee which in turn led to him getting involved in ROC’s praise band.
Dodger is very excited about all the cookies!

So, what is your role in this process as a supporter of the ministry? First and foremost, please continue praying for these opportunities. Each year as a new group of students enters the ministry another group leaves. Without these divine appointments ROC quite simply does not exist. So please continue to pray that our ongoing outreach efforts are fruitful. Secondly, help us facilitate these meetings. Help promote ROC within your church, within your youth group. Provide us with contact information for students coming to OU. Finally, continue to provide for the needs of the ministry as you have been faithfully doing. ROC’s partnership with churches, alumni, and individuals help provide for the needs of the community and allow for ROC to continue offering a variety of ministry opportunities for students to connect with. You really are a vital part of ministry! We continually thank God for the partnerships He has blessed us with.

Please join me in praying for a new year of ministry on the Campus of Ohio University. The staff, student leaders, volunteers, and the entire community are excited to see what God has in store for us this year. God truly is good!

In Christ,


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Summer Update

I can’t believe what a busy, but great summer this has been. May was spent wrapping up the year, visiting new churches, and preparing for Bobcat Student Orientation. Kyle did a fantastic job organizing things and allowing us to make the most of our time with students during the crazy process of orientation, which went on throughout the month of June.

During the month of June I was blessed with the opportunity to spend a couple days at Ohio Valley Christian Assembly’s senior high week. In addition to preaching at senior high week I had the opportunity to share during junior high week and middler week (which was led by current ROC supporters Jay and Martha Proffit). It was a fantastic opportunity to get to network with students and talk about campus ministry.

In addition to spending time at Ohio Valley Christian, ROC was selected by Lake James Christian Assembly (in Angola, IN) to be the mission for senior high week. I really enjoyed my time at Lake James as a workshop leader and the morning speaker. The students from Lake James blessed ROC through their mission offering to the tune of nearly $900! How awesome is that?

Last week was ROC’s mid-summer reconnect. It was great to see so many of our ROC family back together again. Many of our students returned to Athens for the first time since finals to meet up. A huge “thank you” goes out to Jean and Jim DiFlippo for opening their home to us and hosting us for the event. At reconnect we had the opportunity to celebrate with Kyle and Tiffany as they prepare for their wedding, just a few short weeks away. Additionally, I was excited to introduce Annie Holbert as volunteer for the fall working with our undergrad women’s ministry. Annie comes to us as a graduate of Kentucky Christian. She is a member of the Glouster Church of Christ where she currently lives. I am excited to have her serving alongside us this fall!

So with all that behind us, what’s next? Well as I write this article, I am preparing to lead a team of 31 people to New Orleans next week for a mission trip (including several current ROC students). I am beyond excited because this will be the first time that our students have went out on mission with a team made up of people from at least 3 different churches! I am absolutely loving the idea of ROC students serving side by side with people from our local churches. If you would, please be in prayer for our mission team as well as our ROC students.

Once we return from the mission field it will only be a few short weeks and we will be gearing up for students returning to campus. A huge part of our initial outreach is our cookie ministry! We are looking for supporters, alumni, and local churches to bake cookies that we will be using to “Reach Out” to students as they return to campus. Cookies are an “ice-breaker” that allow us to have conversation with folks about Jesus and invite them to participate in the ROC community. And who can say “no” to a free bag of cookies? If you would like to participate in this outreach event with us, you will want to make certain that cookies are dropped off at the ROC house on one of the following dates: Friday August 14th, Monday August 17th, or Tuesday August 18th.

Finally, I want to say “thank you” to all of our supporters. Thank you for partnering with us in ministry and allowing us to share Jesus on the campus of Ohio University. Please know that we are praying for you, as you pray for us. If you have a specific prayer request, we’d love to cover it in prayer during one of our weekly staff meetings.



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