Posted by: Brian Musser | July 11, 2016

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Posted by: Brian Musser | July 16, 2018

But They Speak Russian Too

Early in my ministry at Drexel, I had the privilege of working with several Russian and Ukrainian students, either international students, immigrant students or second generation students.  The conversations I had were amazing. A few of those conversations have ended up (or will end up) as part of this Blog.

One of the Russian international students attended a Russian-speaking Baptist church just south of the city in a town called Crum Lynne.  That church shared a parking-lot with a Ukrainian-speaking Baptist church. So two church buildings separated by one parking lot. The churches coordinated their schedules so that there was typically enough parking for each.

So one day, long before any of the recent escalated violence between Russia and the Ukraine, after a meeting chatting with my Russian student, we figured out that I know where his church is located because I have spoken in the Ukrainian church.  That moment of recognition is followed by an interesting statement. The student says, “Most all Ukrainians also speak Russian. I don’t know why we don’t just have one church service in Russian. We could be a bigger and better community if we joined together.”

Now on the surface there are some halfway decent sentiments in this statement.  If after all they have been through Russians and Ukrainians could unite together it will only be through the sheer power of the Gospel.  If they were able to unite, it would prove to be a great church with a strong witness for Christ in the area. The student leaders that were in those two churches at that time were simply remarkable.

But there were some problems in the statement as well.  He never considered joining the Ukrainian service. Ukrainians all knew Russian because the Russians at one time had conquered the Ukraine and forced them to speak Russian.  Many of the Ukrainians in that church had migrated to America to escape the Russian communism. Now in defense of the student, he came to America to escape Russian communism as well.  When he thought about Ukrainians being oppressed by the Russian communists he identified with the Ukrainians more than the communists.

Although he had good intentions in his heart, I stated that because of the history between Russians and Ukrainians, sharing a parking lot might be a form of unity in Christ to celebrate.  It is always a difficult question as to what is considered unity in Christ on this sinful side of eternity.

Posted by: Brian Musser | July 9, 2018

Do You Know Jesus?

Let me tell you about the time I met Moniquetta Hall (now Shafer).  Since I am a campus minister, you may be expecting this to be a story about how I initiated a conversation with a student asking her if she knew Jesus.  That’s not this story. Several years ago, closer to the beginning of my ministry at Drexel than it is to now, I was approached on a sidewalk that no longer exists, outside of MacAlister by two ladies with the question, “Do you know Jesus?”  The first was Lowell, a young female missionary sent to University City by her church in Korea. I hope you understand that last sentence. She was a missionary from Korea sent to share Jesus with us here in the U.S. The second was a young African-American Drexel student from North Philly named Moniquetta.  Allow me a moment to clarify the picture. We have a missionary from Korea who’s English language skills are not yet perfect and a sophomore student directly asking a Drexel staff member about Jesus. American to Foreigner. University Administration to Student. Male to female. White to Korean and African American.  There are multiple reasons why this conversation should have been initiated in the opposite direction. If we were in New England, the word for their actions would be “Moxie.”

Once the question exits their mouths, I feel a large grin overcome my face.  It almost results in a chuckle but I figure that laughing would be rude, at least laughing before I explain what is making me laugh.  So I respond, that I do know Jesus and introduce myself, handing them each a card that identifies me as the Baptist Campus Minister at Drexel.  The tagline on the card is “To know Christ and to make Christ known.” After that brief encounter, as I was hurriedly on my way to a meeting, Lowell, Moniquetta and myself start to develop a friendship.  As Lowell moved from Philadelphia to New York City due to ministry transition and in the absence, Moniquetta joined Disciples InDeed. She goes on to serve on the leadership of that Christian student organization throughout her Drexel undergraduate and graduate degrees. That one question and brief encounter leads to a friendship that has lasted to this day and even included me attending her wedding to another Drexel alum Jeff Shafer last year.

Posted by: Brian Musser | July 2, 2018

How Do I Ask For Forgiveness?

As the Baptist Campus Minister on a major secular university in a large city on the East Coast of the U.S., I get into conversations that most other people don’t.  My office has consistently been near the Muslim Prayer Room. Because of this I have develop36261307_953520338151926_1315024342135865344_n.jpged many friendships with Muslim students on my campus. Most of the student leadership of the Drexel Muslim Student Association (DMSA) know who I am.  Those conversations have been rich and meaningful both to me and to the Muslim students. I’ve received several thank you cards and gifts from them.

Recently I was invited to be part of an interfaith panel discussion hosted by the DMSA. The president who moderated the event referred to me as their dear friend.  People often think that the only way to befriend Muslims is to be less Christian, to water down what you believe about Jesus but if you can watch what I say in this video you can see a conversation with other faiths that does not shy away from the core beliefs of our faith.  

Because of how we presented ourselves on the panel, a Drexel alum and member of the DMSA who now works for the Drexel College of Business, invited us to speak to the Mandela-Washington Fellows, a group of African leaders being hosted by Drexel on behalf of the U.S. State Department.  We were given 20 minutes to talk about our faiths in the context of Philadelphia and especially how they relate to each other. The Imam began by acknowledging me as a mentor figure to him. During my presentation in the context of William Penn’s vision for the city of Philadelphia, I was able to include the following paragraph:

Now from my perspective these ideas of freedom of conscience and religious tolerance fit perfectly into the Christian worldview.  I believe that:
1) No one is born a Christian.  At some point in your life you need to make a conscience decision to follow Jesus of Nazareth the Christ.  This decision must be of your own free choosing and cannot be coerced.
2) That Christianity was first presented to the world on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem through multiple languages to many different people.  So therefore, Christianity was founded to have diversity within its own ranks.
3) I also believe that Jesus died and rose again for sinners who were separated from God and even enemies to God.  So the person I strive to follow with my life dies for those who disagreed with Him. Jesus is my example so I should be willing to sacrifice myself not just for my friends but also for my enemies.
4) This idea is practically played out in Scripture that the first time the message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was publicly proclaimed, it was to offer forgiveness to many of the same people who may have been responsible for His crucifixion just weeks earlier.
I say that, to say this:  Freedom of Conscience and Religious Tolerance are not just good American ideals, both William Penn and I believe that they are at the very heart of the Christian faith.”

It is one thing to get to publicly proclaim the Christian faith on these panels and at the conferences, but I regard the individual conversations with my Muslim friends as the most valuable.  I remember this one time several years ago, another student president of the DMSA stopped me on the sidewalk outside of my office building. We started off with just normal everyday greetings but the he gets serious and asks, “Can I talk to you?”  Now for those of you who know me, that answer is just about always yes. I ask him if this was a sidewalk conversation or a sit down in my office conversation. He replies, “office.” When we get to my office, since at this time the prayer room door was immediately next to my office door, I asked him if we should keep the door open or closed.  He closes the door.

I always love that moment right before a conversation gets interesting.  I can usually tell its coming. I enjoy the anticipation of knowing it will be a conversation that I never imagined having.  

The next words came.  “As president of the MSA I have made some mistakes.  How do I ask forgiveness of my fellow student leaders for the mistakes I have made?”

For the next two hours we talk about what forgiveness looks like in Islam and what forgiveness looks like in Christianity.  We talk about how forgiveness is always a gift. We can only ask for it. We can never demand it. We can’t earn it. The offended person must choose to forgive us.  We can do things to help them choose but we can’t force them to choose. Then we talked about how we can ask in the right way and give others every reason to forgive us but they can still choose not to forgive.  Finally, I talked about how what I believe about forgiveness from God through Jesus helps me be able to forgive others.

On some levels this conversation was extraordinary but on the other hand it was just another day in the office for me.  I love how at my job extraordinary conversations are routine.

Posted by: Brian Musser | June 11, 2018

Spring 2018 Finals Week Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, Lord God Almighty,

Our Creator, Guide and Friend, Leader of our lives and Lover of our Souls, the Giver of every good gift, our Comforter, our Hope and our ever-present Help in times of trouble.

Lord, we come to at this moment and in this place with praise and thanksgiving on our lips.  We would not have gotten this far if not for your constant presence throughout the term.  Lord, we are now able to take these exams and submit these projects because of your continued faithfulness to us over the last 10 weeks.  You have carried us up to this point and we are grateful.

Because of you faithfulness in getting us here we are confident that you will continue to be faithful.  Lord, help us during this week.  Lord, be with us in this time of testing.  Lord, walk beside us as our work over the previous time is being evaluated.

Give us the ability to perform well.  Help us to be successful.  Help us to understand the questions that are being asked.  Help us to comprehend the assignments that are being required.  Help us know what we need to do.  Give us the ability to remember that which we have learned.  Help us to be able to reproduce the knowledge within our minds clearly and coherently.  Help us not to be confused by the phrasing of questions.  Do not allow us to waste precious time on misunderstanding and frustration.

Allow us to study well.  Help us to avoid distractions.  Keep life from interrupting our designated study times.  I pray that the external chaos this week will be minimal.  Give us diligence to work hard and help that work to be fruitful.  Bless us with the wisdom when we choose which portions of the material to concentrate on and which portions we can gloss over.  Bless us with discernment as we determine how much time to dedicate to each class.  Guide and direct our decisions on when we have sufficiently studied and when we need to press on.

But also allow us to rest well.  Give us good sleep.  Help our rest to be efficient and uninterrupted.  Help us to be able to push worry and anxiety out as we try to sleep.  Allows to maintain good nutritional levels as we engage in a season of added stress.

But most importantly, in success or in failure give us the ability to see our worth not as measured by the score on a paper but measured by a Savior on a cross.  Let us know that pass or fail we are your creation and have intrinsic worth because of that.  And allow for this moment to be a moment when we consider the claims of Christ on our lives either for the first time or the millionth.  Get you glory through all that we do.

We pray this all in the precious and powerful name of Jesus the one who defeated death, AMEN

Posted by: Brian Musser | June 11, 2018

Community Based Evangelism

Often when we think about sharing our faith with others it is in the context of specific one on one conversations.  So many times it is a conversation that centers around what I believe.  But as my ministry at Drexel develops, I have come to respect the power of multiple voices testifying to the same truth.  This is not only what I believe but what WE believe.  And even more impressive is when that witness shifts from not only being what we say we believe but that community of voices is accompanied by a community of lives showing the truth of the beliefs.  This is how WE live based on what WE believe.  I have a lot of things to say to the modern day church but probably one of the most necessary messages is that we need to intentionally switch from the first person singular to the first plural in our expression of the Gospel.

As you may have read from my previous post (Defining the Church) Disciples InDeed (DID) was an impressive community in how they lived out the Gospel on an everyday basis.  There was a core group of students who each individually believed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus but also came together as a community of believers and demonstrated their beliefs to the community around them. This community attracted students to them and attracted students to Jesus.

I remember one student who came from a Christian family with a church background and was educated in a Christian high school.  He had heard the story of Jesus and the meaning of Christianity thousands of times throughout his life. He considered himself a Christian.  But after a year of involvement with the Gospel Choir he started spending a lot of time with the guys from DID, he realized that he didn’t live like they did but how they lived was what he wanted.  So he started coming to DID’s Bible Studies and Accountability groups. After a while he also realized that he really didn’t believe like they did. But the community didn’t discourage him. They loved him as one of their own.  Then week after week and day after day of processing what he had always heard but was now witnessing he realized that he believed and was working on living like they did.

When he was asked to give testimony to how he became a Christian.  He couldn’t point to one person who definitively made the difference.  He couldn’t name one time that was the pivotal moment. All he knew was that he believed that God raised Jesus from the dead and confessed Jesus as Lord and it was all because of what he witnessed in the life of a community of believers testifying to the truth of the Gospel.

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