Would Jesus Go to Chapel?

One of the things I miss about being back on campus at Piedmont Baptist College is the daily chapels. I’m thankful my school offers online classes so I could do out of state internships while finishing a few classes, but I do miss being able to go to chapel everyday. Honestly, this was not my attitude over the past four years of being on campus though. Going to chapel everyday during the week started to get routine and with everything going on in classes it became a great time to take a “chapel skip” and do work or get a quick nap. Now that I am doing full-time work in a church, I miss being able to gather with my peers daily for a time of worship in singing and hearing God’s Word preached. I also think back to my high school years when I attended Union Grove Christian School. We had chapel 2-3 times a week and those became too routine for me as well.

Between growing up in Christian school and attending a Bible college that had chapel everyday, I had the privilege to hear God’s Word preached so often that if I applied everything I heard my spiritual growth should be off the charts! When your in a Bible college and you have to attend chapel a few days a week, or everyday, its easy to get into the rut of just going and not truly receiving God’s Word. If you can identify with where I am coming from, or go to a school or college that has chapels many days a week, then take the time to read this great article from a website called Going to Seminary.

Weekly chapel is an exciting rite of passage in the first weeks of seminary. I can still remember many sermons where a pastor would talk about his own chapel experiences way back in the day. This past year it was my turn. My wife even came to the first couple of chapel services too. I have to admit: the novelty wore off by the third or fourth chapel.

The first time I didn’t go to chapel I thought I had a pretty good excuse. I missed my quiet time with the Lord that morning at home. I was tired from not sleeping well the night before and my brain was already full from two hours of mind-boggling new information in hermeneutics class.

I was surprised to learn that I was not alone. I walked around the campus feeling like I’d stumbled into a secret club. Here and there, students were dotted around the campus. I thought I’d missed the rapture—and I’m an amillenielist! Other guys and gals were talking on their cell phones, typing away on their laptops, or just clustered around a table in the corner of the student center talking sports…or Greek (and then back to sports). When I asked one guy about why he didn’t go to chapel he shrugged his shoulders, “It’s an hour to get stuff done.” By the next week, when I had an assignment due that afternoon, I found out he was right.

OK, forget me, forget the other student. Forget even yourself. What about Jesus? He is our example for all things, but what about for attending chapel?

Think about the Lord’s experience growing up in Palestine. In coming to fulfill the Law and being Himself a model Jew, Jesus would have certainly attended synagogue every Sabbath and journey to Jerusalem at set times. Judging from what He had to argue against during His public ministry, I can’t imagine what He sat through before then.

Imagine Him sitting quietly, listening to Pharisees placing legalistic burdens on their hearers. How He must’ve wanted to shake His head at the misguided Sadducees denying the resurrection. How many eloquent-but-meaningless musings from the scribes, did He endure? Sure, there had to be times where He thought joyfully to Himself, “This one is not far from the kingdom!” But those moments were rare, unlike the religious hypocrisy of many teachers on display in the public places during the week. How many trips did He make to Jerusalem, where He would see and hear all of these things on a grand scale? It’s enough to make one never go again…

…but not Jesus.

Scripture gives no indication that He ever questioned/debated/argued with the religious leaders of His day before His public ministry began. To do so before His appointed time would have been disrespectful. It would have been dishonoring to His Father. No, Jesus came “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). He did “all things well” (Mark 7:37). In fact, for these same reasons, not only did He attend services, He would have paid careful attention too. (As hard as this is for me to write–knowing my own shortcoming in this area—if He was a student today He also would not be surfing the internet during class lectures.)

Jesus, then, would go to chapel.

As I thought all of this through, when I came to the conclusion that Jesus would go to chapel (and pay attention in lectures) I was convicted. I started going to chapel again. Honestly, it is not always edifying. Sometimes I don’t know the songs, sometimes the sermon is academic, maybe, but not inspired. Other times I am simply pre-occupied with thoughts about what I just learned that morning, upcoming papers, or how I am going to pay for next semester. But I go because I want to be obedient to the Lord. He brought me here to seminary in the first place. He also was obedient and faithful in far more than just going to mid-week chapel. Do I not owe Him at least that?

Piedmont Baptist College students, please don’t take going to chapel everyday for granted. Go with a heart that is ready to worship God and apply whatever He teaches you. Christian school students, enjoy the break from classes and go to chapel ready to learn something from God’s Word. Online students, take time regularly to stop doing work and listen to your school’s chapel podcast or a chapel podcast from another school you respect.

Anthony Russo is a seminary student preparing for pastoral ministry. He originally wrote the Would Jesus Go to Chapel? that appeared on the Going to Seminary website. You can go here to see more of his posts. He has some really good stuff so check it out!

Pastoral Internship in Review

As of last Friday I “officially” finished my pastoral internship at Weymouth Community Church. This internship was the last thing I had to do to complete my degree from Piedmont Baptist College (soon to be Piedmont International University). As many of you know this was the second of two internships I had to complete for school. I did a youth ministry internship this past summer (you can read all about that internship in another post) and then came to Medina, OH to do this internship which was a pastoral internship. I wanted to take some time and share with you what I have done and learned during this pastoral internship.

I was able to do some much during this internship that it is hard to even recall so I will hit the highlights. First, I was able to attend a few days of meetings at Life Action Revival Ministries headquarters in Michigan along with the lead pastor Dan Jarvis. Dan and Life Action are launching a nation wide movement that is a call for revival called OneCry. I was able to meet other pastors and church leaders from across the country and help them organize this movement. Second, I have had the opportunity to preach several times. I preached three times in the local jail, a few times in some local retirement homes, and several times in Sunday morning services here at Weymouth as well as at the south campus. You can listen to two of the sermons I preached here by going to my “preaching” page here on my blog. By far preaching has been my favorite thing from this internship and it has helped me become a better preacher of God’s Word. Third, I have been leading a Wednesday night teen guys Bible study. We started doing a study called Habits which deals with spiritual disciplines and now we are going to start walking through a few key chapters in the Bible for the next few weeks. This has been a great opportunity for me to practice youth ministry while doing this pastoral internship. I was able to build good relationships with the guys and influence them for Christ. Fourth, I was able to go out visiting with the Care Pastor John Lurtz. This part of the internship has been the most rewarding thing because it allowed me to see that pastoral ministry is about people and building relationships with the people of your church. I was able to visit a man named Bill Mueller a few times who is dying of cancer. Bill is 80 years old and has served in pastoral ministry for 60 years! It was a privilege and an honor to sit with him and hear him talk about his years serving the Lord within the local church. This man has been faithful for so many years and it was an honor to spend time with him. Pray for him and his wife as he is coming to the end of his life. These are just a few of the many things I was able to do during this internship.

Now for the important part, what did I learn during this internship. With each internship I try to think back about the one major things I have learned. In my last internship I learned that you had to build relationships with people in order to teach them God’s Word better. You can about that here. I learned something similar in this internship as well. During this internship I learned this: ministry is about people. If a pastor spends all his time in the office and behind his computer he will miss the rewards of ministry which come from being with the people. I am not saying a pastor should neglect his time praying and studying God’s Word for preaching because that is his main responsibilities, but in order to lead the people you have to spend time with the people. I have learned this and pray that as I step out into full-time ministry God will help me remember ministry is about people.

You may be wondering what is next for me. I’m glad you asked! I am staying here at Weymouth as a pastoral intern until December 11th then will be headed back to NC for a few weeks for Christmas. By the way, I will be speaking at The Grove on December 14th so stop by and see me! I am completely done with my degree from PBC so I am able to start working full-time whenever God opens a door. I am using this time to make connects as well as send my resume out to as many churches as possible. Pray for me as I wait and trust God to give me my first full-time ministry job. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me and has supported me throughout this internship.

A Heart and Gift to Preach

This past Sunday I had the privilege to preach four times! I preached at the early service at the main campus of Weymouth Community Church and then at the 10:30am service at the south campus. Then during the afternoon I preached at two local retirements homes. It was a long, exhausting day of preaching, but the Lord gave me strength to preach His Word each time. It was last year, my junior year at Piedmont Baptist College (in January new name will be Piedmont International University. You can read my thoughts about that here) when the Lord started giving me more of a heart for preaching when I had the privilege to take Homiletics and Expository Preaching with Dr. Tim White. It was in those two classes that the Lord started giving me a greater desire to preach as well as equipping me to do it well.

Two things happened last year that showed me that God really has given me a heart and gift for preaching.

First, I got to preach my senior sermon in chapel at Piedmont. All the senior guys that take Homiletics are required to do this, but for me it was the hard work, preparation, and blessing I received out of it that helped me see my desire and gifting to preach. Click here to listen to the audio of that sermon.

Second, I was honored to received the Expository Preaching award my school gives out to one student each year. It was those two things that really showed me I have a desire and gifting to preach God’s Word. Since last year I have been given the opportunities to preach many times and everyday it seems like God’s gives me a greater passion and desire to preach. Myself and others have seen that God has given me a heart and a gift to preach God’s Word.

My Thoughts on PBC’s Name Change

Yesterday my school, Piedmont Baptist College, announced that they are changing their name to Piedmont International University. Because I am not on campus this year, because I am doing an internship in Ohio, I got the news through my friends tweet’s on Twitter. When I first saw the first few tweets I wasn’t really sure what to think, but the more I thought about the name change the more I really liked it. I like the name change for two reasons.

First, I am glad “Baptist” is not part of our school’s name anymore. Before anyone who is a Baptist reads this and get mad, let me explain that I do not have anything against Baptists. I grew up in a great Baptist church. I learned to love God and walk with Him in that church. I also got most of my ministry experience in that church and God used that church to call me into full-time ministry. With that being said, I do not hold to “Baptist” very tight. I am not a big fan of denominational titles and groups anyways, but if someone would to ask me if I am a Baptist or not I would say yes because I agree with most of the Baptist distinctions. If someone doesn’t ask me, than I will not even bring “Baptist” into the conversation because I do not see it as a “closed hand issue.” Also, getting “Baptist” out of our schools name can help some of us students who are not pursing a Baptist church for full-time ministry get a job. Since the beginning of summer I have been up North, PA and OH, doing internships to finish my degree. The moment you leave the “Bible belt” not many people have even heard of PBC and then when they hear “Baptist College” you lose a little bit of credibility. I am not saying that it is all about titles or about “looking good,” but it does help some of us who are pursing a ministry job outside the Baptist circle to be from a school that is a university.

Secondly, I am glad we are now a university. Honestly, I cannot understand why people would get mind we are moving to a university. I believe just that change will help our school grow numerically as well as in influence. If I was standing in a room with a university graduate than that university graduate would look more qualified professionally than I would because I came out of a Bible college. Being a university will help us as we because it will show that we are a legitimate school on the professional level. It is sad to say titles matter this much, but let’s be honest, people do look at titles. To help you understand the decision my school made here is a letter from the President:

Dear Friends of Piedmont,

Effective January 1, 2012, Piedmont Baptist College and Graduate School is planning to change its name to Piedmont International University. Acquiring university status is only the latest in Piedmont’s steady progression from our original name of Piedmont Bible Institute. The institute progressed to become a college (Piedmont Bible College for most of our history), and the college progressed to the point of adding a graduate school (eventually being called Piedmont Baptist College and Graduate School). Over the past decade Piedmont has doubled in enrollment, added a nice variety of new graduate and undergraduate degree programs (including a PhD in Bible), launched branch campuses in two other countries (one is still a teaching site), created an online Spanish version of our Master of Arts in Biblical Studies, developed a world class online school, and restructured Piedmont with four distinct academic schools.

1)    School of Bible (with undergrad and grad degrees available)

2)    School of Ministry (with undergrad and grad degrees available)

3)    School of Education (with undergrad and grad degrees available)

4)    School of Arts and Sciences (music and various general education classes)

All of this has propelled Piedmont into the exciting position where we can now obtain university status. The university label should also be less confusing to prospective students from other countries where “college” is synonymous with high school.

Speaking of other countries, Piedmont has historically placed high priority on missions and world evangelism. Scores of our graduates serve our Lord Jesus Christ in gospel ministry on every inhabited continent, and more and more nationals from around the world are enrolling via our world-class online school. Our graduates who desire to serve in Restricted Access Nations (where Christianity is illegal or missionaries are not allowed) and nationals who would enroll from those countries have repeatedly told us that any religious sounding name is detrimental to their efforts or even dangerous. Terms like “Baptist,” “Christian,” or “Biblical” are wonderful to us, but they are not very endearing to an immigration officer in some place like North Korea or Saudi Arabia.

Just today I spoke with the gentleman who gives oversight to our teaching site in Bangladesh. He was elated by the fact that he would no longer have to explain the term “college” to people who think it means high school, and he was very excited about not having to worry so much about having the government coming after him if they found out he was connected to a Baptist/Christian school. Piedmont International University won’t raise the red flags like a religious name might.

Although Piedmont International University does not sound religious, it is very important to our Board, Administration, Faculty, and Staff that everyone knows our passionate desire not to stray from our original mission of quality Bible teaching and effective ministry training. We will continue to require a Bible major for every person seeking a Bachelor’s degree in any discipline.

Piedmont’s theological foundation is more important than ever, and we have every intention of equipping our students to interact with a constantly shifting and pluralistic world by anchoring them with a literal, grammatical, contextual, historical hermeneutic for accurate Bible exegesis resulting in sound theology. In short, we will honor our Biblical heritage and Baptist distinctives while tenaciously contending for the faith.

With some of those ideas in mind, our governing Board of Trustees voted to approve our new name, Piedmont International University.

PIEDMONT – Because of our stellar history and rich heritage
INTERNATIONAL – Because of the all-nations priority of our mission* and vision**
UNIVERSITY – Because it represents more accurately what we are

Finally, please join us in prayer for Piedmont International University.

Because God Alone Matters,
Charles W. Petitt
President
Piedmont International University

Moving On

For the past four years I have been highly involved at The Grove, student ministry at my home church, Union Grove Baptist. Because my school requires us to have a Christian service on a weekly basis I have had to not just volunteer, but have specific roles at The Grove. I am extremely thankful for the opportunities God has given me at The Grove over the past four years. Under the prior student pastor, Jeremy Pollard, I was able to run media/tech, be a small group leader, and other random things. Under the new student pastor, Josh Evans, I have got to run media/tech again, be a small group leader again, and do many more random things. I even had the chance to intern at The Grove for a few months! The Grove is a place where I have grown spiritually and also have grown in my love and passion for student ministry. I have got to apply the stuff I was learning in my student ministry classes straight to my ministry at The Grove.

The time has come for me to move on from The Grove. I have two internships to fulfill, student ministry and pastoral, to complete my degree at PBC. The student ministry one I am starting in a few days in York, PA under student pastor Brett Ayers. The pastoral one I will start at the end of August in Medina, OH under pastor Dan Jarvis. I am excited about the new opportunities that are ahead, but it is bittersweet leaving The Grove. I will always love, pray, and remember The Grove as a special place for me and a place God has used in my life and short ministry experience so far. To all the student, leaders, and my friends at The Grove, I love each and every one of you and stay strong in the Lord!

If you follow my on Twitter my name has always been @groveaustin due to my involvement at The Grove. Because I will be an intern in two places over the summer and fall I am changing my Twitter name to @internaustin. Follow me!