Greetings friends & family!
If you’re reading this, welcome to my first official newsletter in almost SIX years of ministry. Thank you for your friendship and constant encouragement since I joined staff at Antioch Dallas back in 2012. It has been an amazing ride, filled with new beginnings and hardships, beautiful stories of life change, and an overwhelming sense of hope and faith in God’s continued desire to transform the lives of the college students. I’m going to use this blog to unpack some highlights to give you a glimpse into what God is doing here in Dallas. I hope these testimonies encourage you to pray more than ever before for the tipping point of a student-led revival I’m believing for.
Why College Ministry?
I have thought and prayed hard over the years about how God would have me leverage my life for His namesake, and have consistently come back to how much of my story relates to theirs. God upended my life my Freshmen year of college at Texas A&M. I learned what worship was at a late night outdoor gathering of a few students who were on fire for Jesus. I attended a dorm-room bible study and began to grow in understanding of who God is. I encountered the forgiveness of Jesus. I started discipling other students and developing as a leader. In college ministry, I get to relive my own college experience. I get to watch God change the lives of other students - true, abiding, and abundant life change - during their college years.
College students come to Dallas with a variety of aspirations and from differing backgrounds. I’ve invested in students from across the spectrum: students with athletic/academic scholarships and students who are first generation college students. Theater majors and finance majors. Highland Park legacy students to International students. They each come to campus with a worldview shaped by their distinct cultural and life experiences. They come looking for new friends, opportunities, job skills, and a hope to find the right path forward for their life. A renewed sense of identity and purpose. But in all these things - in their college years - will they find it? Will they find what they were really made for? Will they find a vision they can run with for the rest of their lives, a God-sized vision?
My desire and life goal in college ministry is to present, or even better represent Jesus to every college student I meet SO THAT they might know who He really is. I want them to find a God-sized vision for their life no matter where they end up after their college years. I want every student to experience the love of the Father, the freedom of relationship with Jesus, the empowering of the Spirit, and the joys of being the church in this hour of the world.
“I want you to make it.”
Last February, I felt God speaking to me at our annual missions conference called World Mandate. This conference is always a mile marker for Katy and I in our journey with the Antioch family. This year, we heard a missionary share about their experience building a support team for the work God had called them to. His message was simple: the effectiveness of long-term church planters can easily be traced back to how diligent they have been to build a support team around them to hold them up in prayer, in friendship, and in finances. This support will make or break your ability to follow through and live out God’s vision for your ministry. As I listened to him share, I heard God speaking in my mind, “I want you to make it.” I WANT YOU TO MAKE IT. God wants to sustain the vision he has placed in me. He is invested in me. This word has stuck with me since then, and continues to fuel a transition in the way I view my own ministry in relation to prayer, friendships, and finances.
Painfully, I must admit I have underappreciated the effects and the importance of the prayers of others in my ministry over the last six years. And I repent. Again and again, I have seen the prayers of others breaking through the barriers I’ve always thought were mine to face alone with God. A quick story from this semester: I met with a good friend of mine named Nathan Shaub over coffee in August. He prayed this audacious prayer over me, “God, today I want you to lead student to Stephen on campus. I want you to have them ask about how they can be a part of his college ministry.” Later that day, during an outreach we had with our student leaders, a UTD student approached us and asked, “Do you know about a college ministry I could join? I’m looking for community and want to go to church and grow in my faith.” God woke me up. Lord, I refuse to see my ministry as mine to carry alone. My ministry is the Lord’s, and it is yours as well if you will contend with us in prayer.
Regretfully, I have undervalued friendships while in ministry to make room for other things. Not just distractions like TV shows, but even ministry itself. I had a season a few years ago where I led four college lifegroups on four different nights at three different campuses every week. That season left Katy and I feeling completely isolated from our family and community of peers, to the point that we considered whether or not vocational ministry was healthy for our own well-being. Never again. We are so thankful for the ways God has given us friends devoted to our well-being in ministry, and we appreciate every step you take toward relationship with us. We want friends to be family. God has spoken so much to us in our recent season of infertility about how HE HAS FAMILY FOR US. We are not waiting to build family later. We’re building family now.
When it comes to financial support, I am undoubtedly thankful. God has provided for me financially over the last six years, helping me lead in various roles at Antioch Dallas. As I have transitioned to only overseeing the College Ministry this Fall, I am leading out in raising monthly support as an example to future members who join our support-raised college staff as we continue to build the ministry. Again, I am thankful and grateful for the ways God has provided for us through the support we have received through those who give at Antioch Dallas, and ask for your continued financial support if God so leads.
JULY 2018 UPDATES
TRIP TO KURDISTAN
Every summer I lead a short-term trip overseas to give students a glimpse of the nations. These trips help facilitate a long-term team’s vision while giving our students a God-sized vision for their life. I led a team from Antioch Dallas to Kurdistan for two weeks, assisting our friend Heather Mercer in her work aiding refugees, IDPs, and Peshmerga Freedom Fighters.
We were able to meet and interview a handful of families whose father’s died fighting against ISIS, a survivor of a chemical attack carried out by Saddam Hussein’s regime, and numerous families who have fled the Syrian conflict.
Katy and I both felt a heart connection to Heather’s work in the region, and intend to make a trip back in the near future. I will be releasing some documentary footage from this trip in the coming months.
Full-Time College Ministry
Moving into the Fall, I have officially transitioned out of a few staff responsibilities at Antioch Dallas (related to media and communications) in order to focus solely on the college ministry. This transition has given me a renewed vision to see even more laborers released to focus on the harvest on college campuses in Dallas where the laborers are few. It’s been great reflecting back on all of the media projects I’ve been able to be a part of. I will still do pictures from time to time to keep grounded (creatives need outlets), but I’m looking forward to using my creative giftings to push forward some initiatives specifically for the college ministry! More on that soon.
New College Staff Member
I added a new full-time staff member onto our College Ministry team, Marshall Herndon, to help me push our vision of building Antioch College Ministry in Dallas, TX (you can read more about Marshall here).
Thank you for reading. Please consider the ways you can continue to support, encourage, and enable me in ministry to invest in college students.
Ways to support:
Contend in prayer for the campuses I’m reaching: UTD, SMU, and DBU. I will start consistently sending out prayer requests so you can contend for us in our ministry. Our prayers will kindle the next student-led revival on campus in Dallas.
Consider giving $100 monthly to support me and Antioch College Ministry at antiochdallas.org/stephen
Join me in ministering to college students, or connect me with others who are interested in making disciples on college campuses.