Don’t Go There!

I was informed today that one of the ESL students studying at the University of Louisville has been told by several of her friends to avoid the International Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM), where I serve as the director.

It seems that her friends told her that we talk about Jesus too much, that we will try to convert her, and that we should not be trusted.

I would ask that you join me in praying for this student. Pray that her friends would not persuade her to avoid us or our activities. Pray that the gospel that she has heard here would become clear in her mind. Pray that the Lord would give her a new heart, and put a new spirit in her. Pray that he would remove the heart of stone from her flesh and giver her a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Pray that God would shine in her heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). While you are at it, go ahead and pray these same things for the dozens of international students and scholars to whom the International BCM and local churches are ministering each week.

My heart was saddened for this student when I heard that her friends were discouraging her from being a part of our weekly free lunch/Bible studies. At the same time however, a small part of me felt proud. Let me explain.

I am thankful that the International BCM has a reputation for being bold with the gospel. Our goal is NOT to have the largest number of international friends, or for international students to primarily view us as their home away from home, or their “family.” Our goal is to make disciples of all the nations that God is bringing to the University of Louisville, teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded us. We are bold with the gospel because the gospel is the only message by which all people everywhere must believe and obey in order to be reconciled to God.

Make no mistake, we also want to be warm, inviting, helpful, friendly and loving. However, we are not willing to sacrifice faithfulness for the sake of unity by leaving out uncomfortable and divisive parts of the good news.

For example, in sharing the gospel a necessary component is to demand a response. Telling others about Jesus without saying that they are responsible for responding to his command to repent and believe is not really sharing the gospel at all.

Calling for a response to the gospel is key to our evangelism with the International BCM. Everything is fun, games, and good times for example until a Christian tells a Muslim that he has a responsibility to deny Islam and embrace Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the only one who can save him from his sin. The “family” is great until a believer tells a PhD student from China that unless she loves Jesus Christ more than mother or father (or a degree, reputation or success) she is unworthy of Jesus and will be condemned to hell.

The gospel never promises to make a Christian or a particular ministry popular. In fact, the Bible is quite clear that when a Christian is faithful to proclaim the gospel, the result will be persecution, hatred, and difficulty. A clear presentation of the gospel often moves ministries from “All in the Family” to “Family Feud” and Christians must not be surprised or offended by this fact.

My prayer is NOT that the International BCM would be the most popular ministry on campus. Instead, my desire is that we would be faithful, and that we would trust God to be at work through the preaching of the gospel even if it means we develop a reputation.

Please remember to pray for our international friend and others like her who are told to stay away.

Note: My position as the director of the International BCM is not connected to our ministry through Global Service Network where I am an associate in ministry and raise part-time financial support for international student ministry.

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Christians and Halloween

I found this article to be extremely helpful in thinking through how Christians should view Halloween.

What if thinking evangelistically about Halloween didn’t mean just dropping tracts into children’s bags, but the good candy—and seeing the evening as an opportunity to cultivate relationships with the unbelieving as part of an ongoing process in which we plainly identify with Jesus, get to know them well, and personally speak the good news of our Savior into their lives?

I agree that Halloween could/should be a unique season of evangelism especially with our neighbors and those people who live on our blocks for whom we have been praying for opportunities to befriend.

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Playing Catch-up

Stealing a page from the blog of my friends, Adam and Mary, Here’s a timeline of some of the major events in our lives over the last 8 years. This should help you get up to speed with us :-)

Summer 2002- Sumer 2004: Riley and Laurel serve on church planting teams in East Asia.

June 2004: Riley and Laurel return to the States.

July 2004: Riley moves to Tampa, FL to be closer to Laurel.

August 2004: Riley proposes to Laurel and she says yes!

February 2005: The two get hitched.

Spring 2005: Riley and Laurel begin attending a church plant focused on reaching internationals.

Spring 2006: Riley and Laurel prayerfully decide to attend seminary.

July 2006: They moved to Louisville, KY so Riley can attend Southern Seminary. Initially our thought was for him to get his degree and and begin the process of returning to East Asia.

July 2006: They begin attending Third Avenue Baptist Church.

Winter 2006 – Spring 2007: Laurel participates in an evangelistic Bible study with other women from Third, and some Chinese women.

Summer 2007: Riley travels to East Asia as part of a short-team evangelism team through Southern.

November 2007: Riley and Laurel move to an apartment complex close to the University of Louisville which is largely populated by international students and scholars.

Early Spring Semester 2008: Began participating in a regular prayer meeting with other members of Third to pray about international and student ministry opportunities.

May 2008: Riley lands a part time job as the Director of the International Baptist Campus Ministry at U of L. An answer to prayer!

December 2008: Riley and Laurel travel to East Asia, to visit her parents and participate in evangelistic Christmas activities.

May 2009: Riley graduates seminary with a Masters in Missiology.

May 2009: Riley travels to East Asia with Third’s pastor and another mission-focused member for a vision trip. By this time, Riley has a strong desire to see work overseas be tied closely to the local church stateside.

October 2009: Riley and Laurel welcome sweet Libby Claire into the world.

May 2010: Riley leads a team of Third members on an evangelistic short-term trip to East Asia.

Summer – Fall 2010: They prayerfully consider in what way they should minister. Riley loves his job as Director of the International BCM, but it is only part time work. After much prayer and seeking godly counsel, they apply to join Global Service Network, to seek a way to enable full time ministry among international students and scholars in the city they have come to love.

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