Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December 2015 Update

I recently returned from a gathering of student and young adult ministers in Louisville, Kentucky. Each year the National Youth Workers Convention plays host to youth leaders from all over the United States and even around the world. It’s amazing to see so many people gathered for a common purpose and with a common passion; seeing students grow in their relationship with Christ.

ROC Students serving at Lifeline Christian Mission
Some of the big questions that have been raised in and around the convention the past several years have centered around why churches are failing to connect with Millennials. There is no shortage of research, books, and articles about this problem ranging from why this is to what to do about it. But the problem still remains; we are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of an entire generation.

Personally I don’t believe that the solution to the problem lies in programs or strategies for looking more appealing to Millenials as much as it lies in some key spiritual truths. These are things that Jesus taught and demonstrated throughout the course of his earthly ministry.

Matthew 9:35-38 records the following; Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

One of the things that really stand out to me in this passage is that Jesus is moved to compassion for the crowds. Compassion is powerful because it often moves us to action. My guess is that if you are reading this then you care deeply about students and that’s why you have chosen to partner with ROC. Our churches need to continue to be motivated to act out of compassion for the lost of this generation.

Because of His compassion, in verse 38 Jesus instructs the disciples to “Ask the Lord of the harvest.” Prayer is such a powerful, yet often underutilized tool, in reaching students. That is why the ROC Staff, volunteers, and student leaders covet your prayers. We believe that current trends will only be reversed through the power of prayer. For this reason we would ask that you continue to remember us as well as the unreached on campus in your prayers.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He tells the disciples to “Ask the Lord of the harvest… to send out workers into the harvest field.” Romans 10:14-15 puts it this way “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” As I’ve said many times before, I believe that God has placed us in a specific place at a specific time for this very reason. God has blessed us at ROC with an incredible opportunity to go into a field ripened for harvest. Your continued prayers and support allow for us to be sent onto this campus. Additionally please pray that God would send out more workers in places where they are most needed.

I don’t believe that this generation, or any for that matter, is too far beyond the reach of God. I see great promise in the students at ROC, and I am encouraged daily in seeing the ways that God works in and through them. Thank you for the vital role that you play in this process.

So from the staff, students, and volunteers at Reach Out on Campus we would like to wish you the very best this Christmas season. We pray that your holidays would be filled with joy and peace as we remember the humble way that our Lord and Savior entered into the world.

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas,


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,