Musings from BCM students about what life in college can be like.
As in incoming freshman, I was coming from a broken home. Strained and heavy from watching my own family fall apart, I was ready for a fresh start, and honestly the sound of getting out from under my dad's roof and doing life on my own for a while was refreshing.
I was heartbroken from my own failed relationship. Sparing the details, this had stolen all the enthusiasm for coming to college, and almost anything else I otherwise would usually enjoy.
I loved Jesus, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to pursue Him in a college ministry, knowing that I could just continue living my lukewarm Christian life I had been living for years and doing what would have been considered stereotypical "college life."
Whether you relate to me, or nothing I've said so far hits home, bear with me.
I had been very active in my home church throughout high school, and before I went off to college, my pastor kept pushing me and reminding me that I should go visit the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where I was headed to go to school. I wasn't reluctant to visit, I just didn't know if I would fit in or if I would want to make my friends there. I had all sorts of "What if's" in my head, such as…
What if they don't like me?
When I moved into my dorm, I took my dad, my brother, and my best friend on a tour of the campus (which is insanely huge). Tired and hot, I told them there was one last place I wanted to take them before they headed home. We walked into the BCM, and the rest is history, as they say. I say the rest was and still is God's Divine Purpose for this stage in my life. When I walked into that building, I was greeted by the friendliest faces I had ever seen on campus. I was very soon introduced to some of my best friends, future roommates, and people who began to share the love of Christ with me in the sweetest way possible. I was given opportunities to serve the college campus and the community around me, and opportunities to share the Gospel across the globe on mission trips. Through all of these attributes, God was and still is shining through this ministry and showing Himself to me in numerous ways.
Now that you know my backstory, here are my reasons why I am staying involved in college ministry.
The context of this verse is pertaining to the importance of unity and maturity in the body of Christ. Instead of living lukewarm lives void of true devotion to Christ or a desire to grow a relationship with Him, we are called to grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ.
Whether it is college ministry or a church, or both, the Bible makes it clear in so many ways that we are called to be a part of a body of believers desiring to grow, both together and individually in our own relationships with Christ. My college ministry has put many believers in my path who are all on different levels concerning their relationship with Christ, but one thing that they all have shared with me is their desire to grow in their Faith as they seek the Lord in their daily lives as college students
I'm not demeaning the importance of sharing the Gospel with the nations. This is a direct straight forward command from the very lips of Jesus that we should all pursue in some way or another, whether it be going yourself or funding someone to go, praying for the nations, or however else God calls you to do.
But this issue of hidden complacency is blinding us from the gold mine we are sitting on.
For example, at the University of Tennessee, the 40,000 students that grace the grounds of campus do not come from Knoxville alone, but all over the country, and all over the globe. During a time of prayer, one of my mentors gave this prayer of thanksgiving before the BCM's International Coffee and Conversation that absolutely blew my mind:
"Lord, we thank you for bringing the nations here to us at UT"
God brings people from numerous nations that don't know Christ to a majority of college campuses.
Those words from Jesus's lips I was referring to was the Great Commission in Mark 28:18-20
"Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
We can obey this command from Jesus without ever setting foot on a plane. We can do it while we are in class, while we are walking across campus, while we are living among people who are lost without Jesus.
We live among people from all nations, and we are called to share the Gospel with them.
We are called to share the Gospel with everyone, and our campuses are full of those who don't know Christ and are struggling through life in the darkness. From locals to all nations people, we are called to be a light to them if we bear the light of Christ. I can't stress this enough.
My college ministry realizes these things and has given me the opportunity to attempt to fulfill the Great Commission by participating in numerous campus and community outreach activities.
My sophomore year I was able to serve as the Freshmen coordinator, and I got the privilege to introduce many freshmen to the BCM and build long-lasting relationships with them, hoping to make them feel welcome on a campus that's so big. I planned weekly meetings called "Freshmen Connection" where they all got to come and hang out, make friends, learn about the BCM, and learn of ways to serve the Lord through the BCM as well as growing in their relationship with Him.
This year I get to serve as the Worship Leader, which will be a completely riveting and exciting, and I'm so excited to see what God does during worship this year.
I know that I have gained some very useful skills that I will be able to use when I go to serve on a more permanent basis in a church once I graduate, and I'm excited to see what is in store for the use of what I've learned.
I could seriously ramble on and on about all the fun things we do as a college ministry, and the fun things my friends and I get into. All of it is just a wonderful perk that I've gotten to partake in while doing life with the BCM.
Talk about some sweet memories.
Doing life with those who want the best for your relationship with Christ is far better than people who want only the best for you, or worse, for them.
We are called to go get those people and lead them to Jesus with love, because He is better than anything this world has to offer.
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Please understand that my main point here is Jesus first and foremost. College ministry has just helped me see and serve and know Him better.
So if you're where I was two years ago before starting college and you're trying to make a decision, choose Jesus, because I promise you that He is better. Find out how to make some good friends that are believers and find ways to serve your campus and share the Gospel, and have fun doing it.
I promise you won't regret it. God just might use it to change your life.
-Meghan Russell, UTK '19
Before arriving at UT, I knew I would visit the BCM. My brother had been involved with the B when he attended UT, and had shared stories about his involvement with my family. However, I did not know how involved I would become. The first event that I went to was 4th meal and 4 square where I met some BCM people there. But, like any other first encounter with new people at a large gathering, I did not remember all the people I met. Even at other Welcome Week events, it was overwhelming. Although everyone was friendly at the events, it still did not feel like home for me. I was also struggling emotionally because it was the first time I was really away from my parents after shadowing them during their missionary trips. I really felt lonely. At that time, I remembered the stories my brother shared of how he hung out at the B when he wasn’t at class or studying in the library.
On the first Monday that we had classes, I decided to visit the B and see what it was like on a day when nothing was happening. I was scared and nervous because I constantly worry about intruding on other people. All of those worries were blown away after I met some of the people who were in the building at the time and some of the residents. They were not only friendly, but also very welcoming.
I became friends with the people I met from the B and they became the kinds of friends I could share my struggles with. As a result, I started attending events more regularly, hanging around the BCM, and becoming closer with some of my friends who I could spend late nights talking about real life and our relationships with God. These friends not only pushed me closer to God but also shared with their struggles. In Proverbs 27:17-18, it is written, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who cares for his master will be honored.” The older girls that I met at the B took me under their wing to disciple and encourage me. At the same time, I got to encourage them through my growth.
Through the BCM, I received many opportunities to go serve God and the B. I went on my first mission trip which was a time of learning: how to step out of my comfort zone along with brothers and sisters in Christ, the importance of prayer, and its power. Simply believing that God can move people’s hearts and asking Him to do it has been one of the biggest themes for me. He even moves our hearts when we worship Him. I ran lights for TNT during Spring 2017, and have seen and felt God move when everyone is genuinely worshipping Him. Through the formation of friendships and seeing God work, I knew that the BCM was the ministry for me. Now as the next school year approaches, I look forward to seeing my BCM family again and to meeting all the new people.
I look forward to pouring out what God had poured into me through the upperclassmen.
See you soon!
Alisa Lim UTK '20
At the beginning of this summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to serve on my first international mission trip in Guatemala. As I was preparing my heart and mind to go, I had to humble myself before the Lord and realize that I did not know what to expect because at my core I am a planner. But what I came to realize on this trip is that God’s perfect plan is so much greater than my plan or what I expect to happen. He had a specific plan in mind for each home visit we did, each child we interacted with and each church member we encouraged. His plan is always greater than my own, because He went before us all throughout the city of San Pedro La Laguna.
Our ministry in San Pedro was really two-fold. On some days, we would teach and work with students in Getsemani Baptist Academy. We would also go around the town and deliver food baskets to the community. Both of these required a translator because none of us were able to speak Spanish fluently none the less the native Mayan language that many of the townspeople spoke. At one point in a conversation, all three different languages were being spoken at the same time which is a beautiful picture of what heaven may sound like. Before I left, one of the expectations and worries I had was the language barriers we would encounter. But as I said earlier, His plans are always greater than my own. God broke down every barrier that I could have ever imagined.
Tennessee Baptist Churches giving through the Cooperative Program, the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions, and through the Chilhowee, Clinton, and Knox Baptist Association make this BCM ministry possible.