Posted by: Brian Musser | July 24, 2013

2012 – 2013 Year In Review

This was first presented as a sermon at Bucks County Community Church and has been edited to better apply to this context.

Everything about a tool is purposeful.  There are no non-functional features on a tool, no extras, no leather seats, no cup holders, no pretty lace, no garnishes.  Every single piece of that tool is there to help facilitate the completion of a very specific task.  Everything that goes into the creation of a tool is for one intended result: to make the tool good at accomplishing its goal.  Some tools I like better than others.  Some tools I am better with than others.  The sledgehammer is a tool that just seems to fit in my hands.  When I hold one I hear “John Henry” rolling through my head.  There have been times when the sledge has felt as if it were just an extension of who I am, a part of me. Growing up, I spent a good deal of time with a sledge in my hands.  All through Junior and Senior High School, from the ages of 13 to 17, I worked on the farm next door.  There was this rock in the middle of one of the fields.  It was a big rock much like an iceberg with only a portion of it sticking out of the ground.  Every time there was nothing time sensitive to do, I would spend time with my sledge beating on that rock trying to break the rock into small enough pieces so that it could be removed.  The sledge was the perfect tool for the job.

100_1734I believe that every follower of Christ is called into ministering in their own unique context.  Some of us get to do it professionally but all of us are designed to be witnesses and ministers.  As I think of my call into the ministry at Drexel University as a pastor to the 25,000 students and 4,000 employees on that campus, I see myself as a tool in the hands of God.  He has designed me to complete a certain task.  That task is to bring Him glory in the place that he has positioned me.  And just like a sledgehammer everything about me is able to be used in the completion of the assigned task.  God is wanting to leverage all that I am, all that He has given me,  everything I have experienced for His glory and the expansion of His kingdom in general, and specifically for the expansion of His kingdom at Drexel.  My life up to this point, the good and the bad, my successes and my failures, my abilities and weaknesses, my support system, family, friends and network, my finances and even my future is all invested in bringing the gospel close to those on this campus.

Have you ever considered how God has uniquely designed and led you to be able to serve Him?  Have you ever thought about it on the level that everything about you is intended to fit into God’s plan to reach the world around you for His glory through the tool He has crafted out of you?  Everything about you can be used by God for His kingdom?  Everything He has given you, everything He has led you through and around, every sin that you have struggled to overcome, every painful question that you have asked, every doubt that you have found an answer, every joy that you have been blessed with, every opportunity that God has placed on your doorstep, all of you, who you are and what you have God wants to use for His sake.

This Sunday, I am going to do things a little bit different.  Instead of preaching a typical sermon, I am going to present what God has been doing in and around the ministry at Drexel.  Consider this a report back to you all about what your missionary has been up to.  Bucks Church has freed me up and invested in the ministry in a significant way.  In the tradition of Paul and his first missionary journey allow me to tell you some of the details of what’s been going on.

Acts 13: 1 – 3 (NIV) Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 14: 26 – 28 (NIV) From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.  On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they stayed there a long time with the disciples

Allow me to highlight about how God is using me because of you to change the world.  At Drexel I have four distinct purposes.  It has been a learning experience to see how God has been shaping me through my entire life to uniquely fill each one of these purposes.  The first purpose is to challenge every member of the Drexel academic community to evaluate what they believe in regards to the claims of Jesus.  In others words this is evangelism to the entire campus; faculty, professional staff, administration, students, alumni, even trustees and parents.

When I was a year old, my mom walks in on me eating dirt.  I turn and smile at her with potting soil on my face as if it were Oreo cookie.  Potting soil makes toddlers sick.  I end up in the hospital for a brief visit.  No big deal, however, a few days later I and one other guest of the hospital that evening were back with bacterial meningitis.  I caught meningitis from the hospital because my mother let me eat dirt.  Meningitis is a big deal, especially when you are one.  That movie line, “If he makes it through the night,” was said in reference to me.  As you have probably figured out, I did live through the night but not unscathed.  I am completely deaf in my right ear; my balance and coordination are limited due to the damage.  I had to learn how to walk twice.  I had to learn how to talk twice.  All through elementary school I was exempt from certain activities in gym class and got the privilege of going through speech therapy.  I did not learn how to talk properly until after I learned how to read.  Up until seeing the word spelled I wouldn’t say the first consonant sound of most words.  My brother can still perform a wonderful impression.

The development of my speech has been a defining part of my life.  Public speaking and even everyday conversations have never been natural for me.  After a sermon, I will usually go home and sleep.  But I have grown calloused to the fear and nervousness that most people feel in front of others.  I have become accustomed at overcoming awkwardness in personal conversations.  It has been necessary to work on communicating well and those habits of developing my ability continue.  I have been trained to choose my words with great care, to think through what I am going to say before it is said, to repeat several different ways the same idea so that communication is clear.  These characteristics developed through my past have allowed me to be a tool of God to slowly pound away swing by swing with the gospel clearly and effectively communicated into many parts of the Drexel community.  Drexel is a big rock and I am working on it one swing at a time.

Engag24 1We have had a least two important “swings” with the sledge in the last year.  On 10/11/12 of last year, I was part of the leadership team for Engage24.  Engage24 is a 24 hour period when college students from all over the nation and Canada and even internationally made a coordinated effort to engage their campuses with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Throughout the world on this day we saw 2,000 college students share their faith over 9,000 times.  I not only helped plan the national strategy but we also participated with the ministry at Drexel.  At Drexel we set up a Soularium table right on the corner of 33rd and Market streets next to our statue of Mario the Magnificent, the dragon mascot of the University.  Throughout the course of the day we had 9 different students engage about 75 of their peers in conversation.  At one point, Darian a senior leader in Disciples InDeed, Frank an international student leader in the Chinese Christian Fellowship and Jaun Garzon were all engaged in spiritual conversations with several Drexel students.  As a freshman it was Jaun’s first time sharing his faith on campus and it was Frank’s first time sharing his faith in English.  It was awesome to see a diverse set of students intentionally engaging the diverse population that is Drexel University.  We are repeating the event again this year on 10/10/2013.  Please pay attention to us via Facebook, twitter, email and website.  I am the social media czar for this event so if you are getting online info about Engage24 is it usually coming from me.  When we are closer to the date I will be organizing a coordinated time of prayer for Bucks Church to pray for us as we Engage Drexel on that day.

As you have probably sensed, Drexel is a diverse community and it does not always connect with everybody at one time.  Because of this dynamic it is completely clear to me that one ministry will not reach the entirety of the community.  In fact you may say that there are several Drexel communities layered on top of each other in the same physical space.  So I am working with what has been coined the multiple ministry model.  At the moment we have connection points for faculty and staff, Disciples InDeed –a student ministry with an intentionally urban feel, a Chinese speaking fellowship for internationals and immigrant students, and something designed for athletes.  Throughout my time at Drexel we have ministered with grad students, on the center city medical campus, into the indie movie genre, within the business department, student leadership development, reached out to fraternities and sororities, with Russian and Ukrainian speaking students and even tried to plant a church.

The other big sledge hammer swing from the last year has had to do with reaching athletes.  Since I have been at Drexel as the Baptist Campus Minister for eight years, no one has been able to connect with athletes in any significant ministry way.  A few athletes have at times plugged into the different existing ministries but never more than one or two at a time.   Athletes don’t plug into the other ministries on campus because with games, travel, workout schedules on top of being a student and sometimes an employee life gets complicated.  Athletes get isolated into a niche.  Sometimes their only friends are other athletes and all their free time is spent in the gym.  Most scheduled ministry events directly conflict with an athletic regimen.  We have never had a Fellowship of Christian Athletes or an Athletes-In-Action or even a jock centered Bible Study until this year.  For the last eight years, if you had come to my campus and asked about my prayer requests one of the significant ones would have been for a ministry to athletes.  Mission teams from all over the nation have walked past my Rec center asking God to provide a ministry to athletes.

That changed this year.  One Christian freshman soccer player came in and started a FCA chapter.  I did not get involved until the process was well on the way but at their first large group meeting in November they had 40 students attend.  In February they were still averaging 40 students showing up who do not go to anything else that is Christian on campus.  The brand new regional coordinator for FCA, Mike (who is a recent Messiah College graduate – go Falcons, Whoop, Whoop) gave his testimony about wrestling and cancer and Jesus.  He gave an invitation to commit and recommit your life to Christ. Heads were bowed and eyes were closed, so I didn’t peek but I was told the room raised their hands.  In a room of 40 students over 20 Drexel student athletes made a commitment or re-commitment to Christ that night.

There are different tools for different purposes.  Let’s talk about loppers or pruning shears.  When I think about pruning and how it relates to my ministry, I think about my second purpose which is discipleship: To challenge every member of the Drexel academic community to live up to what they say they believe.

Regarding discipleship in my life, I was never intentionally discipled.  I grew up in a small church.  Youth ministry was the responsibility of volunteers who would change on almost a yearly basis.  Although I had all the information about what discipleship looked like, no one took me under their wing and walked me through it.  It was not until I was an associate pastor did I really have someone intentionally invest in my personal discipleship that systematically developed the key spiritual disciplines in my life.  It is not that I didn’t know I should pray, read and memorize scripture, and fast.  It is not that I didn’t know how to do those things.  I picked that information up along the way.  It was a question about the day in day out practice of those things I knew I should be doing.  Was I becoming more like Christ?  Where specifically in my life should I be working on growth?  Do you know if you are walking closer with Jesus today than you were this time last year?  How about two years ago?  What are you specifically doing to develop your relationship with Him?

A Typical PEACE & POWER Bible Study

These ideas about discipleship and accountability, about pruning out the sin in hopes to grow, which were so fundamental in my life they have become the basis first in PEACE & POWER and then in Disciples InDeed’s small group Bible studies.  On a weekly basis Christian students ask each other some very probing questions.  This is not with the intent of legalism but in hope of edification.  We want next week to be better than last.  We want to be able produce noticeable growth and we want to be paying attention so that when there is growth we can notice it.  When a student graduates from Drexel after 5 years we want them to enter the world a spiritually mature Jesus follower.  We not only specifically look at the spiritual disciplines but we also look at who they are, what they are studying, what they want to do with their lives and how the whole picture can be used to impact the world for God’s glory at Drexel but with the intention that it continues long after they leave campus.

Personally sharing the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with students, faculty, professional staff and administration is a high priority in my ministry.  It is an awesome experience to be able to do that but it is not the most rewarding or the highest priority of my ministry.  On January the 11th I was able to witness why I am in collegiate ministry.  We had a movie night.  Darian Davis is a recent Drexel graduate and part of the leadership of Disciples InDeed.  He is a Digital Media major at Drexel intending to pursue a career in the field of animation.  So in other words, movies are his thing.  Because of Drexel’s educational license we are able to show most any movie we want to as long as we have a discussion relating to the purposes of our organization afterwards.  We decided to show The Dark Knight Rises.

imageOn the night of the screening we had about 40 students attend.  Approximately half of the students were regulars involved in our ministry and at least 20 of the students were completely unconnected with what we do on campus.  Darian after the movie led a great discussion about the themes in the movie.  He focused on the themes of hope and fear.   We wanted to draw the conversation to the idea that many of the different characters’ hopes and fears revolved around the symbol of Batman.  We wanted to compare and contrast the symbol of Batman in the movie and the person of Jesus Christ in our lives.  He was then able to effectively and smoothly transition into a complete gospel presentation that fit perfectly into the context.  It allowed Darian to connect evangelism with his heart and passion (and probably his future career) for movies.  Not only did a student share the gospel with his peers, but he did it in a way that will be foundational to his future.  He shared the gospel in a context on campus that will allow him to be able to share the gospel in his probable context when he is no longer on campus.

Not everything I do is as much fun as watching movies.  Often I am on campus in a suit and tie because my wardrobe is just another tool.  I remember back to working on that rock at the farm.  There were times when we tried moving it with a six foot pry bar.  I had the bar wedged up in under the rock and was using all the force I could muster with a whole lot of leverage, trying just to budge it.  My boss said “If you see my house (which was 200 yards away) start to move we should stop.”  Some of what I try to do on campus is at the foundational level trying to make the entire institution move.  My third purpose is:  To engage the Drexel administration in ways that make it easier to be and become a Christian at Drexel tomorrow than it was yesterday.

I have been uniquely prepared and positioned for this third purpose.  I am a professionally trained biologist who has worked for a museum, as a teacher at a Christian high school, and in a contract pharmaceutical laboratory at (immediately prior to becoming a Baptist Campus Minister) the Drexel University College of Medicine.  I am a published author in the Journal of Neurovirology, May 2003 in an article entitled “The chemokine receptor CXCR4 regulates cell-cycle proteins in neurons.”  Unlike most ministers, I have experience on the inside of both corporate and educational settings.  I have seen the motivations and driving forces behind them.  I left the position at DUCOM to become a Baptist Campus Minister; little did I know I would end up back at the University I used to work for.  This unique perspective has enabled me to communicate what I now do on campus in ways that are easily understood by the administration.  I can see the connections that many others miss.

It has been surprising to see which doors Drexel has allowed me to open along the way.  At one time I had the opportunity to chair a committee assigned to investigate how the University would react if a dangerous group was targeting our community.  What would we do if a “cult” was influencing Drexel students?  After several months of work the committee, which included representatives from Student Affairs, Fraternity and Sorority Life, Office of Student Conduct, Campus Engagement, the Provost’s Office, Counseling, Spiritual and Religious Life and Public Safety, created “A Student’s Guide to Evaluating Groups.”

At other institutions when a dangerous group has engaged a campus the fallout usually negatively impacts the access and abilities of the legitimate groups, especially if that dangerous group is a religious entity.  At times “cults” have created so much turmoil at Boston College and University of Washington that all religious life on campus was temporarily suspended for a season.  I did not want this to happen at Drexel so we started the conversation before there was a crisis.  We now have a document that identifies the difference between dangerous groups and legitimate ones.

This was fortunate because in the last couple of months, I have had to put this policy into play.  The Greater Philadelphia Church of Christ, which is a specific cult in Philadelphia and connected to the International Churches of Christ, which has a long history of dangerous and destructive practices with students, has been targeting Drexel students.  I was made aware of this.  I was able to bring Public Safety and Student Affairs into the response.  The GPCC’s negative influence is able to be limited by the institutional structure of Drexel.  At times it feels like I have been able to slowly move the huge rock that is Drexel University in such a way that creates an environment that is more conducive to being and becoming Christian on campus.

One of the significant reasons I am allowed to impact the campus in the ways that I do is because of who I represent.  No other evangelical campus ministry directly represents a population similar to the one Baptist Campus Ministries does.  As part of the Greater Philadelphia Baptist Association, I represent 150 different churches reaching at least 19 different ethnic groups speaking a wide variety of languages every Sunday morning.  A couple years ago I won the President’s Award for Intercultural Engagement and Diversity.  In my acceptance speech I acknowledged that I won the award for simply doing my job; connecting the diversity which exists within the GPBA to the diversity that exists within Drexel.  This is my fourth purpose:  To inspire, encourage and equip the local congregations of the GPBA (and others) to engage academic institutions (especially Drexel) as mission fields.  I am a conduit, a hose, through which the power which is present in the churches comes into contact with the needs on my campus.  At times I speak for the church on campus and in other situations I arrange opportunities for the church to speak for itself.

This may be the part of my job that is of the greatest importance.  If the 25,000 students and 4,000 employees at Drexel; or the 300,000 students on the 80 different campuses in and around Philadelphia; or the 750,000 international students in our entire nation are going to come into contact with the gospel of Jesus Christ it is going to take more than just me.  It is going to take the combined effort of the entire evangelical church.  It is going to take all of us to reach them.  It is going to take every Bible believing church to disciple them in such a way that they connect their whole life to the Kingdom of God.  It is going to take all of our voices to influence these institutions to be our allies.

But just imagine if the church had at least some access to the world changing potential in the university.  Every year Drexel sends out a mission force through graduation, co-op, internships and study abroad.  Just imagine if we came alongside some of these students in such a way that as they went, they went to where Drexel sent them but along the way they were making disciples at every stop.  Just imagine if we had students studying abroad in Japan and England and Egypt and Spain, or interning in Australia and Sacramento and New Jersey and Allentown and Philadelphia.  Just imagine if these students went to these places with the intention of changing the world for the Kingdom of God.  Just imagine if these students graduated and got jobs in Lockheed Martin or Amazon or Northrop Grumman or Hewlett Packard or Drexel equipped to change their co-workers with the gospel of Jesus Christ.    Just imagine if international students from Kenya and Nigeria and Cameroon and Jamaica and China and India and Morocco returned to their countries with a Drexel education to bring effective change and the investment of a church so that they can speak the life of Jesus Christ into the dead parts of their nations.  Do you see that picture?  Do you see what is possible?  I don’t want to change Drexel.  I don’t want to reach Drexel.  I want to change the world.  I want to reach the world through Drexel.  Want to come along for the ride?

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