Fall Retreat

It has been one hectic start to the school year. I have been running around a lot from campus to campus...which will explain my lack of posts. In campus ministry we have what we call "cycles of momentum" to the school year. The beginning of the fall semester is our busiest, craziest, and least routine schedule. We want to be on campus as much as possible helping students move in, setting up survey tables, giving things away, hosting events like cookouts, meeting freshman, following up with contacts, and going to meetings. Our goal during this period is to talk to as many people as possible, share the Gospel frequently, cast vision for the ministry, and get a new group of freshman involved. This cycle ends after we have our annual fall retreat. We are one of the only catalytic (think multiple campuses folks) teams to host our own retreat...which we value because it is a great way for students from campuses that normally don't get to spend time together to get to know one another. We feel that if we can get students who have come to a weekly meeting to go to this conference, then they will stay committed to the ministry, begin growing in their relationship with the Lord, and be exposed to the bigger vision of what Cru is about.
Since we host the conference ourselves, fall retreat is not a refreshing vacation for us staff. Our team all divided up the tasks in order to tackle the retreat. My job seems simple enough: the main meeting. However, there is a good bit of stuff to do with that...enough to keep me working the whole weekend, miss out on sleep, and not spend as much time as I would like bonding with students. My first task is to find someone to be our feature speaker...someone who will lead everyone in the Word, relate to college students, and passionately cast our Win, Build, Send vision. Next, I need to round up an emcee...a student to bring energy, games, cast vision, make announcements, and transition the flow of the meetings. Then, I need to recruit a band to lead worship and set the tone of our meetings. I try to get students from all of our campuses to go up front and fill these roles, so that they all feel involved and have a personal connection with the meetings. My next task is figuring out how to promote other conferences and mission trips (summer projects) during the meetings...if we will have testimonies, interviews, and/or videos. Only after all of this is in place, do I sit down and actually plan each meeting's minutes (followed by telling everyone the details they need to know to do their jobs well). I have to get the emcee, band, and speaker's powerpoints and make sure everything looks good and will run smoothly. Also included in this job description is ambiance for the meeting area, running powerpoint, lights, and sound for everything. I have to be flexible enough to adjust to things right before or during the meeting and make it flow right and come off smoothly. I need to do all of this by faith in a spirit of dependence on God. Fortunately, I had a much better idea of what to do and how to run things with last year's experience under my belt. So this year, it all came off pretty smoothly, PTL!!

The conference turned out to be a great time for everyone to connect, learn, grow, get a sweet t-shirt, play games, and have a dance through the decades party. We ended up having about 75 students (90 people total) from 5 different campuses show up. Fall Retreat always ends up being hard work, but very rewarding as we see how God is working across the Triad campuses and in individual lives. We hope to build off the momentum from Fall Retreat in our next cycle of campus time and continue to trust God to turn lost students into Christ-centered laborers.


Start of the new semester

Sorry for the delay in new posts! This is mostly due to me running around Triad campuses like crazy here at the beginning of the new semester. My schedule this year takes me to 5 or 6 different campuses a week. I also have 5 awesome guys I will be discipling (growing in cross-cultural ministry), working on starting an athletic ministry, going to weekly meetings, and developing a new webpage...all amongst typical office work, staff meetings, developing contacts, raising support, and what not.

I wanted to write a quick note to let you guys see some of the things we are going over with our students. We have our own discipleship notebook (focusing on the foundation, Christian life, attributes of God, apologetics, and church history) and the Bible studies all come from Cru.comm, however, most of our weekly meetings are centered around a series. The series comes from Tim Keller's new book The Reason for God. This is perfect because he takes a rational, intellectual, and theologically sound look at
belief in an age of skepticism. The talks serve to reach out to the un-churched/skeptics and to help believers understand some questions or doubts they may have. Some of the issues delt with are: can there be just one true religion, how could a good God allow suffering, legalism, injustice in the name of the church, how can a loving God send people to hell, science/evolution, and can you take the Bible literally. He covers all of these topics, examines them, takes apart the issues, and shows where the Gospel is the ultimate solution to each question. I encourage you all to read the book; maybe it will better help you love others and answer their legitimate questions. I am also including a video that's worth watching of Dr. Keller discussing this material at a Google symposium.

God is at work here in the Triad! Our staff team has increased in size again this year, which further enables us to reach the whole Triad with the Gospel. It feels a more attainable goal each year. Our big three campuses have all seen an increase in numbers this year as well, and not only that, but our student leaders have begun to catch the vision and own/run things themselves. Pray for our students to be sharing the Gospel, incarnating the Gospel in word and deed, unity, loving others well, getting new students involved, discipling younger believers, plugged into healthy churches, and to go to conferences/mission trips. Please join in with me in praying for a revival in the Triad starting on college campuses!!


Ni mama qu daxue

The title means, your mom goes to college.
My aim is to accomplish the impossible in this post: to somehow communicate to you what the Lord did in and through my team on our summer project in East Asia (all that in a clear and concise manner as well). Well, here we go...

"Missions exist because worship doesn't." This quote from John Piper struck me rather profoundly on the other side of the world this summer. Most of those people had never even given serious thought as to whether or not there is a God; much less seen the Gospel fleshed out in word and deed in others' lives. We were not merely there to convince people to believe in Jesus, but rather to reveal to them the character, beauty, and person of Christ. If people see Jesus as he really is, God incarnate, then they will believe and worship Him. This was certainly the experience of Paul on the Damascus Road. So we shared the love of Christ boldly.
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2 Cor. 4:1-7 ESV
Our task: helping people see, savor, and know Jesus personally.

Our vision: to glorify God as we prayerfully trust Him to change lives by...growing in intimacy with the Lord, living in Biblical community, sharing the Gospel, and engaging East Asian culture.

As the team leader, I decided to focus my attention on investing in our students. If I could teach, train, equip, and model ministry to my team, then I would provide the proper platform for our students to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and to trust God with the results. We loved the Lord each week by having Bible studies, trainings, church, men's/women's time, discipleship, and reflection time. We loved our team by eating together, having weekly social events, sharing and praying for each other, serving and encouraging one another, and just goofing around together. We learned the culture by taking 3 hours of language class a day, one culture class a week, eating mostly East Asian food, hanging out with native students, traveling some, asking a ton of questions, and basically just trying & experiencing new things. We helped to launch a movement by getting in spiritual conversations, sharing the Gospel, following up with students to provide growth, and getting them to meet long term missionaries who will work with them next year on campus.

By all accounts it was a successful 6 week trip! My students really grew in their understanding of the Gospel, application of the Gospel in their lives, and communicating the Gospel to others. We engaged in hundreds of spiritual conversations (in the 5 weeks we were in our city), shared the Gospel to the point of decision about 92 times, saw at least 20 East Asian students begin a personal relationship with God, and engaged nearly all of them in at least one follow up appointment.

One quick story to highlight the ministry there...which happens to be our international partnership in the Triad (and at NC State, UNC, Vandy, App St, et al). April and Berkely befriended a student on the way to her dorm one afternoon. They built a friendship in the following weeks and eventually got to share the Gospel with her. She nodded with seeming understanding at hearing the Gospel, because she had previously attended a few Bible studies on campus. She told them, "I want to believe this, but I am not sure it is the truth." The women explained some more and even got to share their testimonies. She responded, "How did you come to simply believe in Jesus?" She was so spiritually hungry, interested, and open. The women had built a relationship with her to the point where she invited them over to her house for dinner. As the conversation again turned to Jesus, she said, "I think it is blank (a word in her language) that I will believe in Jesus." Her not knowing the word in English and they not exactly sure what she was talking about, got her to put the word into her electronic dictionary. Surprisingly, the word translated as predestination! She said, "I think it is this that I will believe in Jesus soon. I do not know many people who believe in Jesus, but every year He sends someone to me to tell me about Him. I think He must want me to know Him." Indeed and WOW!!

We truly are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope--at the very same time. Belief in the Gospel is not just the way to enter the kingdom of God; it is the way to address every obstacle and grow in every aspect, as we continually grasp and apply the Gospel in deeper ways in our lives. Thanks Tim Keller for helping me to understand this.

Be actively involved in the great commission...Pray, Give, Go. Chew on that and drop me a note!!


You know it's fall when football season kicks off

After 8 months without college football...it's finally that glorious time of the year again! Perhaps like many of you all, I spent the whole first Saturday gorging myself watching student athletes pop pads. Game, after game, after game, with some pundits talking football in between. And I wouldn't have it any other way (I did enjoy one special visit though). I figured that I would provide a change of pace to the reader in my blog world; a little lighter reading if you will. But I do have a few other topics of interest to come, so stay tuned! (I have included several hilarious video links that you should take the time to check out as well!)

Not too many interesting match ups yet, and everyone is trying to figure out what they have for the upcoming season. After the first week is over, guys all over the country will spend countless hours scouring through webpages, blogs, and message boards looking for a reason to find hope for the upcoming season. Let me save you NC State fans some time...it looks pretty bleak this year. Positives: defense and coaching; Negatives: offense and special teams. I would figure on about 4 wins this year. Anything less is disappointing and anything more is gravy. If you were fortunate enough to attend a university with a D-1 caliber QB currently under scholarship, then you have a lot to play for this season.

Every year it seems there is more parity amongst teams in college football (that's right App St). That is just one of the things that makes college football the best way to spend a Saturday. Important caveat: if you can attend a game in person, then do it and do it right (tailgate, throw a football, and enjoy good food and people all day). My personal favorite tailgating is found in the sea of red at the Carter with some BBQ and sweet tea before a noisy evening game. If you can't attend a game, then sit back in a comfy seat and watch it in glorious HDTV with some good food and friends (notice a theme?). More than just tailgating, college football is great because of school pride (no matter how nostalgic). I know that if you went to an university without football, it is hard to understand the level of school spirit this one event can generate. However, if you have experienced that kind of atmosphere and spirit, then it's something that will continue to grip you each and every fall...as you
wax poetic with the first chill in the air, the leaves changing, the smell of grilled food wafting through the air, wearing your school colors and face painting, and seeing the next generation at your alma mater experience the same things you did years earlier. Not to mention the benefits of smack talking your annoying co-workers the following week.

Finally, here is
my advice for the upcoming football season that is guaranteed to make it a success for you! This comes from years of personal experience with heartbreak as an NC State fan...the perpetual wait til next year, get your hopes up, and crush you, lovable losers that define us as fans. Don't get too wrapped up in every game, athletic performance does not add to or take away from the value of your diploma, and keep it in the proper perspective that it is just a game. BUT, if you can't resist and insist that you play to win the game, then...go ahead, raise the bar so that your team can walk effortlessly underneath and exceed your easily attainable low expectations!

Do you think this is good advice? Were you at least entertained? Let me know...


Gotta know where you come from

Have you ever received something you didn't deserve? Well I know I have...if you have as well, then you certainly know that you can't forget the experience. No matter what the act of unmerited favor, by its very nature it leaves an indelible impression on you. I believe the reason for this impression is because unmerited favor strikes a chord within each of us that resonates with the truth of a larger narrative. Something from deep within our soul is drawn to, cries out for, and testifies to the truth of this gracious act. We seem to almost intrinsically understand that there is more to the story. And so this is my own story of when I came to understand the Gospel of grace and how it fits in with God's narrative redemption story.

I was born and raised in Durham, NC. I lived what I would consider a pretty normal childhood growing up, which pretty much consisted of fun, sports, video games, etc. Then my parents got divorced when I was about 8 years old, and that change of events rocked my little world. What I unknowingly decided was a breach of trust caused me to not open up much to others and to look out for my own best interests. I placed a lot of value in getting good grades, in playing sports, and in being funny...all things designed to get others approval. And so I did the best that I could in these things which I decided mattered and used to define myself. I wanted to be known as a good guy. My goal in life was simple back in high school: to aspire to what I considered an average and normal life. I just wanted a decent job, good family, nice house and I'd be happy I thought. I guess that could be a common dream of people, but what a funny dream it is...to be average. I acted like everything in my life was good, and so it may have appeared from the outside. However, I knew my life was not as together as it seemed at all!

As an illustration of grace (getting something you don't deserve--remember?), I will give a personal example here. A family friend gave me an old car for free before my senior year of high school. That was great because I could not afford one due to a financially tough family situation. The only thing that this friend said he wanted from me was to consider visiting church and give it a chance. I mean I went to church at least a couple of times each year with family or on holidays. So no big deal, I could do that request! Growing up in America, the south no less, of course I believed in God, right? Even from my admittedly limited exposure to church, I had heard that God created and loves me. Cool but not exactly life changing knowledge at that point. So that was about as much thought as I put into it then. Fortunately as I graduated and headed off for college, I already had my life all planned out (or so I thought). I was going to NC State to become a civil engineer. I wanted to meet "the right kind of crowd" to be friends with in college. So I began getting information on some of the student religious organizations. On one of the pamphlets I read that sin separates us from God. This happens when we choose to go our own independent way and is characterized by an attitude of active rebellion (commission) or passive indifference (omission). Well I knew that I was not perfect despite my best efforts, so I figured that I fell into the same sinful camp as everyone else. The thought of being separated from God because of my sin made me want to seek out some more information. In an effort to make some friends and learn more about this stuff, I decided to go to a Bible study that I was invited to in the dorm I lived in. I noticed that something was different about the guys I met at the Bible study...and that intrigued me. Unsurprisingly, they talked a lot about Jesus. It seemed like they knew something that I had not quite figured out yet. I had heard that Jesus was God's Son, but they also said that Jesus Christ is God's only provision for our sin. If that is true, then it means all of my efforts to earn the approval of others could never earn me God's approval. Therefore, life is not about all that we do or don't do to earn favor with God, but about what God did for us through Jesus. A few weeks later, the two guys who led the Bible study that I had been going to without even owning a Bible invited me to their place. They went over these things that I had been learning and told me that I had to individually and personally receive the free gift that God was offering. For some reason in my 19 years of life, I don't think that I had ever heard that before. And at that moment something clicked in my mind, and everything seemed to make sense. Right then and there I prayed with my friends and asked God to forgive me of my sins and to come and take control of my life. From that moment on, I began my personal relationship with God.

I had somehow previously missed that idea. Redemption is not found through religion, but through relationship. Almost immediately, I started noticing changes in myself from the inside out...in my thoughts, motivations, and actions. My outlook on life shifted from caring mostly about myself to having a growing love for God and others. I finally gained peace as I found my identity and purpose for life in Christ and not in grades, sports, or being funny. I went from wanting merely an average and normal life to wanting an extraordinary life...desiring to make an eternal impact and difference in others and the world. That's why I no longer chose to work as a civil engineer, because I'm positioned to invest in college students' lives for His Kingdom instead of building roads for this world. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." You see...the only catch about a gift is that you have to receive it.

Have you ever thought about this before? Are you going about life in a completely selfish and hedonistic manor with no concern of God? Are you trying to earn God's favor by being good and doing the right thing in and of yourself? If you don't want anything to do with God now, then what makes you think you would want to spend eternity with Him? Do you want the blessings of God and nothing to do with a relationship with Him? It is about time that you think where you fit into God's redemptive narrative.

Whether you want some help processing through this stuff or you just want to share what's going on in your story, then please write me a note and leave a comment!


It's the end of the world as we know it

So after being convicted while watching the office this year (you know the episode where Michael Scott says that technology tried to kill him after he blindly followed his GPS directions into a lake), I decided that I needed to finally join the 21st century. Yay, taking my bows...I know, I know, and you're welcome!!

Now, by nature I am a skeptic and it takes a while for me to come around to new ideas. Important side note: This fits perfectly with my hatred of trendy things (I am not a sell out!), because I decided that it is no longer trendy to have a blog -- it's now so common that it's normal! However, once I commit myself to embrace something, I tend to be extremely loyal. That is what I am aiming for at least. So hopefully I will update this weblog at least semi-frequently...and it's up to you, my loyal and currently non-existent readers, to hold me to that.

Unfortunately, I cannot promise that I am an adequate writer or even readable for that matter. Much less my spelling and grammar mistakes. I guess I tend to write almost entirely informally, bouncing from one topic to another...like I think (which is why you have so many asides explaining or confusing my thought process and flow even further). Fortunately, I am counting on the fact that you aren't reading this because of my writing, or lack thereof, skills; I am also not particularly famous, interesting, smart, good looking or funny; so that leads me to conclude that you are reading this because you have a vested interest in me (or stumbled upon my page somehow).

And that is exactly why I am doing this now. I want to stay connected to you: family, friends, supporters, facebook stalkers, whatever. In this post-collegiate world, where everyone has moved all over the world and life seems to change at an ever quickening pace, I try to do what I can to let you know what's going on in my world or at least my mind. Hopefully you will do the same for me and leave me some feedback, updates, encouragement, etc.

Take a look around, enjoy, and cheers!