Posted by: Brian Musser | July 11, 2016

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Posted by: Brian Musser | August 21, 2017

Friday Night Fundamentals

One of the blessings that God provided me when I was starting the ministry at Drexel is that Epiphany Fellowship was being planted almost at the same time.  It was a fruitful connection for many of my students to be part of the ministry on campus and then invest in a vibrant church plant like Epiphany.  I reaped many benefits from the opportunities several of my key student leaders found in that church as it started to hone their leadership skills for the kingdom.  I’m not sure what the ministry at Drexel would look like if the leaders of Epiphany had not Faithfully answered the call of God at the time they answered it.

I remember attending one of Epiphany’s Friday Night Fundamentals with a Drexel student.  These were intended to be small gatherings that taught interested folks what the church was going to be about before the church even launched.  Small was not the case.  The basement of the building was packed.  I’m guessing from a decade old memory that at between 50 and 100 people were there on a Friday night during primetime.

I don’t remember much of what was being taught.  It was one of the church’s core values.  But I do remember is when the African American student who came with me leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Do you realize you are the only white person in this room?”  I had realized that.  I whispered back, “Besides the teacher, I am also probably the oldest person in this room too.”  It was awesome to be in the heart of North Philadelphia with a room full of next generation African Americans on a Friday night going over the vision, mission and values of a new church.

That was very encouraging for me but my students comment got me thinking.  Unlike the some of us, most students have spent their entire lives in a desegregated world.  Elementary, Middle and High Schools have been diverse.  Every summer job and internship has had minority protection clauses.  Their college and university peers have included the nations.  Their TV show and movies were intentionally multi-ethnic works of art.  Their normal is diverse and for many of them a homogeneous group is the exception.  Unless they have grown up in the church.

Now Epiphany is much more diverse than it was back then before the launch but that is not true of the rest of the church.  The bad news is the lack of diversity in most of our congregations is just one of many reasons why the church seems disconnected from the next generations.   The good news when and if the next generation takes over the leadership of the church diversity will be the new leaderships new normal.

Posted by: Brian Musser | August 14, 2017

He Was Too Nice

Ministries built around one leader tend develop a personality that is similar or at least compatible with that leader.  This is a lesson I knew but was reinforced early in my work at Drexel.  Several students and I were having a small group Bible Study in the basement of the Creese Student Center.  Back in those days the ministry was mostly if not entirely made up of guys.  There were five of us gathered around the table.  We were talking about our weeks, gathering prayer requests from each other and fellowshipping before the study.  A friend of ours walks by.  She was the daughter of one of our local area pastors and had participated in several events with the group but never completely committed.  She was a commuter so that at times made things hard.  But also, whenever she showed up she would be the only female student in the room.  The ironic thing was we had several female students like this but none of them ever attended a Bible Study at the same time.

She was on her way somewhere and had not intended to participate in the Bible Study but dropped by to say hi.  She quick glances around the room looking at each person that she knew.  There were no strangers.  But then she asks; “Where’s Jake?”  We explain that Jake had decided to completely invest in a different ministry on campus and although was still connected with us and friendly with us, he wasn’t really a part of us.  She looks sad and then quickly said, “Oh, but he was the nice one.”  She did not mean anything by it but that comment sparked a room full of laughter.

For those of you who know me this probably does not need to be said but I tend to be sarcastic.  I also tend to attract sarcastic people around me and in my ministry.  After her comment I looked around the room and realized that it was full of guys who had a very similar sense of humor as mine.  Eventually this encounter became a joke about how Jake was too nice to be part of our group.  We could laugh about it but it made me think through a lot of the design of the ministry.  How could I empower the students more so that the ministry would not be limited by my particular personality?  Even if they were similar to me they were not exactly like me and the more diverse the leadership was the more reach we could have into the campus population.  The more voices we spoke with the greater number of folks would hear us and understand our message.

Posted by: Brian Musser | July 24, 2017

Re-starting the Church

Surprises come often when working with students.  The will do and say things that you never expect; sometimes for the bad but sometimes for the good.  I remember this one time.  I took several of my Christian leaders to help a church with a community service project at their local library.  It was a great partnership.  The church got extra man power.  The students received community service credit.  The library was painted, cleaned and organized.

While everyone was there it seemed like a good chance to record some student interviews.  I always have a list of thought-provoking questions in my mind for just such an impromptu occasion.  One question that I like to ask in multiple different situations is, “How would it affect your life if the church in America completely disappeared tomorrow?”  I often ask this question in random interviews to see how disconnected students are from the church but this was one of the first times I asked it of Christian student leaders.

My assumption was that the question would surface comments about how connected the students are to the church.  It would highlight that for many of them multiple areas of their lives revolve around the church.  Their beliefs, schedules, social networks, families, priorities and many other things are connected to the church.  I was expecting to see a contrast between these Christian student leaders’ answers and the other students I had ask.

I was surprised by the answers.  Not so much by the contrast but by how my question almost didn’t make sense to them.  Three separate student leaders independently came to the same conclusion and answered the question in relatively the same way.  If the church disappeared tomorrow, they were starting it back up the day after.  They could not imagine their lives in America without a church because they were the church.  Even if all the trappings of the institution crumbled and the large numbers of attendees dissolved the church would persist because they were the church.

We talk a lot about owning your faith.  We wear t-shirts that have Christian clichés like “Don’t go to church.  Be the church.”  We look for ways to have people grasp the concept that they are the church.  Those student leaders understood that.  They are the church.

Posted by: Brian Musser | July 17, 2017

Missed Connections

One of the priorities in campus ministry is to help students stay connected with the local church.  At Drexel we are adamant about this.  (As this story will illustrate, sometimes maybe a little too much.)  One of the flagship events on the Drexel Christian student organizations calendar is Find-A-Church.  It is a partnership event between several Christian student organizations at Drexel and several local area churches.  Usually for the first four weeks of the fall term early on a Sunday morning new freshmen have the opportunity to meet upperclassmen, hear them describe the churches they attend, get logistical details about their services and be invited to join the upperclassmen as they go that day.  There are many Drexel students who name Find-A-Church as the moment they got plugged into the Christian community at Drexel.

This is event is one of the few that was in existence before I arrived on campus 12 years ago, and I have had the privilege to be involved in it for over a decade.  Usually, I will just be an extra that helps with transportation to one of the represented churches or if needed I will be a fill in representative for a church whose main person is out of town for a weekend.  I also help answer any random questions that may surface.  On one occasion, it was the scene of one of my greatest ministry mistakes ever.

After the initial introductions and descriptions of churches a new freshman approaches me with a question.  He is from out of town but his pastor and home church recommended he attend a specific church in the city.  Did I know of a Victory Christian Fellowship?  I knew of one that a few Drexel alumni and one Drexel staff member attended several blocks away from the campus in the heart of West Philadelphia.  I thought it was too far to walk so I offered to give this freshman and his friend a ride.  I had to make it quick though because I needed to get back to campus and provide some transportation to another church as well that morning in the opposite direction.  But the service start times were different enough that I believed it to be logistically possible.

So, I proceeded to drop these two brand new Drexel freshmen, one who was even brand new to Philly, off at a church in West Philadelphia about 20 blocks away from the campus they had just moved into.  I head back to Drexel and pick-up a second car load and head off to a second church in North Philly.  On my way to the second church I realize that I never told the freshmen how to get home from the church, I didn’t get their contact information, I didn’t even give them my card so that they could get back in touch with me.  Basically, I took two students to the middle of West Philly, dropped them off without any information about how to get back.  I got excited that they wanted to go to a specific church and wanted to help them get there but didn’t think through the logistics.

The church I attended in North Philly started and subsequently ended much later than the one in West Philly.  When I got the second group of students back to campus, I started trying to figure out how I was going to connect with the other two I had left.  But there they were in the cafeteria waiting for me.  It turns out that they were able to figure things out on their own.  They ended up walking back to campus after church and enjoyed getting to know that part of the city.  It was the wrong Victory Christian Fellowship, however, and wouldn’t be attending it in the future.  Both students remain my friends to this day even after one graduated Drexel and the other transferred to Temple.  I’m not sure why.  But many times we have told the story about the day we met.

Posted by: Brian Musser | July 10, 2017

Religiously Disconnected

As a campus minister, I connect with a population that is isolated from the rest of our world.  Due to some unique choices Drexel is less isolated than most but it still can be a world of its own.  College and university life is a culture unto itself and each individual campus has its own blessings, idiosyncrasies, greatness and challenges.  Every campus is like a different person that you must get to know separately.  So, I have made it a priority to get to know my campus and the folks that call Drexel their home.  That means I ask questions, lots of questions.  Often, I am surprised by the answers.

One day I was wandering around campus trying get a better feel for a certain part of school.  I approached a student sitting on the outside steps of his dorm smoking a cigarette.  I asked him some of my usual questions.  The question I remember asking specifically was, “If the church in America disappeared tomorrow how would it affect your life?”  I ask this one a lot.

His immediate response was, “It wouldn’t.  I have absolutely no connection with a church and I’m not sure I know anyone who does.”  But then he thought some more and put his Drexel business degree to work.  He continued, “Well, the church is a pretty large economic entity in our country so if it disappeared I’m guessing there would be a lot of people out of jobs.  That wouldn’t be good for our economy and that would probably affect me.”

I remember this conversation because of how honestly and completely disconnected this student was from the church.  If he and students like him are ever going to hear the Gospel, it will only happen when Christians intentionally leave their world and visit his.  We must purposefully leave our homes and missionally engage each part of the world around us that includes our campuses.

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