Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Looking Back, Looking Forward


Our UTD pastoral team this year! From left to right / top to bottom (ready for this?):
April, Cort, Peter, Brandon, Stian, Mandy, me, Andrea, Kylie, Coral, Amy, Hannah, Michelle, Lindsey, and Lailah.

This has been an incredibly bittersweet month of ministry for me! With the exception of my apprenticeship year at UNT, I have been involved at UTD for a decade, and now I'm getting to move on to a new chapter.
As I mentioned in my last ministry update, my wife and I are moving to Arlington at the end of this month- I'll be coming onto the UT Arlington team as their assistant director and continuing to help plant a chapter of FOCUS at TCU. I've felt called to the Ft. Worth / Arlington area for almost five years now, so this has been a long time coming, but it's still shocking that the time has already come. 
It's been such a blessing to get to be a pastor for the last several years at the campus that I first walked onto as a 17 year old with little to no direction and drive. God has blessed me immensely in this time, and I hope I can continue to be faithful and be a part of God changing many other students' stories out west.

Parking Lot Graduation

Parking Lot Graduation is an annual tradition that UTD FOCUS has been doing since 2020. It started as a spur-of-the-moment idea from Peter (one of our pastors) to do something for students who weren't going to get to walk the stage to receive their diplomas because of the pandemic. Now, it's a fun way for our students to celebrate each other and be able to invite more family members. The structure is simple: almost two hundred people line up along the sides of a parking lot on campus, and we play Pomp and Circumstance over a set of speakers and give students who are getting degrees their own (not official) FOCUS diplomas. It's very silly and very sweet.

Our fearless director Brandon graduated from seminary, and I got to congratulate him!

End of Year Party

All of our male pastors at UTD got together for a picture, and SOMEONE had to ruin it by blinking.

We got to celebrate the end of the school year by throwing a party for our students. It's incredibly rewarding to see all of the friendships that have formed between students by the end of the year that didn't exist at the beginning.

  • Please be praying for our students as they go back to their respective homes and hometowns for the summer break. The summer can be a time of rest and growth for some students, but it's a time of spiritual struggle for many.
  • Pray for our pastors as their raise their salaries. It can be a daunting journey (and a humbling one), but we're always blown away by God's faithfulness and peoples' generosity.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

He is Risen!

When your church has a petting zoo at its Easter potluck, you pet the baby goats.
This is not optional.

Spring Outreach Week

Every year, we have the pleasure of hosting a group of students from a ministry in Washington State called Campus Christian Fellowship. They spend their spring break (which is the week after ours) reaching out to and serving students on OUR campuses!  
This year, our outreach during this week was focused on how God is a relational, healing God who moves to restore our relationships with Him, others, and ourselves.

For one of the days of outreach, we created a life-sized (or bigger!) cut out of a person who we
affectionately named Frederick. We invited students to write down what it feels like to be them
on a mirror square and place it on Frederick. We then got to talk to them about how God can change
our self-perception and purpose.

Wisdom for Dummies

Every semester, we host an event called Pizza Theology, in which we dive into a topic related to Scripture and faith for four hours (!) with a one-hour pizza break in the middle. This semester, the topic was the wisdom literature (Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes). 

Rez Fair

For the past few years, we've had the pleasure of hosting a giant Easter celebration right by the student union at UTD! The celebration includes tables with interactive Gospel presentations, free food, raffles, live music, inflatable slides, and more. We get to partner with several other Christian organizations on campus for this, so it's a blast to get to do!

UTA, Here I Come!

While this has been in the works as a possibility for years, it's not official: I will be moving (with my wife of course) to Arlington to join FOCUS at the University of Texas at Arlington as their assistant director and lead men's pastor! This is an exciting (and terrifying) opportunity, and will move us closer to the accompanying goal of planting a chapter of FOCUS at Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth next year. Outside of one year at UNT (and TWU), I've been at UTD for a decade now, so it's a bittersweet time for me. I preached my last sermon as a pastor at UTD this past Friday.


  • Please be praying for the transition to UTA- that God would give me and everyone involved wisdom, peace, and strength.
  • Be praying for our upcoming trip to Washington with our student leaders for the Student Institute of Campus Ministry- the annual week-long leadership conference. 

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Love Always Hopes


"Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

1 Corinthians 13:6-7 (NIV)

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast

and have no compassion on the child she has borne?

Though she may forget, I will not forget you.

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;

your walls are ever before me."

Isaiah 49:15-16

“Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all.

As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; 

it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.”

GK Chesterton

Lately, God has been showing me just how insidious how an unloving, unforgiving heart can really be. I think we often assume that an unforgiving and unloving heart must be actively bitter- at the forefront of one's mind. While that is certainly often the case, I wonder if this kind of thing more often flies under the radar in the form of mild annoyance, lowered expectations, and subtle avoidance. Maybe a lack of love and forgiveness looks more like a lack of involvement than like hostility. Perhaps that's why Scripture tells us that God disciplines those whom He loves. He has enough hope for the kinds of people that He can transform us into that He doesn't give up or shy away from extreme measures. He has been showing me how often I don't exhibit this kind of loving persistence- passing off my dismissal of others as acceptance and my unwillingness to challenge others and myself as patience.

Is there anyone in your life who you've lost hope for in subtle ways? What would it look like to embrace the reality found in Jesus that love always hopes?


A group of professional African drummers and dancers teaching a dance to 
audience members.

One of the goals FOCUS has begun to pursue more is to more effectively welcome all kinds of people into our community. UTD is one of the most diverse college campuses in the country, but (like in most places), people tend to cluster into groups that look the same and think the same. It can be easy to reach out to students who look like me, invite them to a service where the pastors all look like me where they can sing music made by people who look like me and listen to me quote theologians who look like me in my sermon. While diversity for its own sake may not be the main goal of ministry, the call of God's people is to be a blessing to all nations, and often we assume this will happen with no effort or thought on our part. Some of our pastors and students recently put on an event called RELEASE that celebrated African American and native African art- much of which is Christian. It was a way to communicate to a large section of the campus that the community we offer is for them, too. That we want God's fingerprints to be on everyone at our campus, and we want our community to look more and more like the multitude of every tribe and nation that God revealed to John in Revelation. 

But beyond the seriousness of these goals, it was a beautiful event, and some of the most fun I've had in a long time!

The show ended with a New Orleans style second line chorus. It was one of
the most joyful things I've seen happen on any college campus.


  • The last week of March is Spring Outreach Week- a time where a group of students from another college ministry in Washington state called Campus Christian Fellowship joins up with our students to reach students across campus- connecting them with Christians, bringing them into Christian community, and sharing the message of Jesus with them. Please be praying that God work work through this!
  • There are still a lot of students and staff members in FOCUS who are going through a really hard time with crises and tragedies in their own lives and in the lives of family and friends. Please be praying for comfort, peace, and strength for them- both through God's people and directly through His Spirit and provision.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

The Word of God Lives in You

A moment of worship and celebration at our annual Winter Retreat. Sirak, Jadon, and Lailah- all sweet
friends are seen here making a joyful noise!

 "I write to you, dear children,
because you know the Father,
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,
    because you are strong,
    and the word of God lives in you,
    and you have overcome the evil one."
1 John 2:14 (NIV)

I am persistently amazed by the ability of myself and others to keep God's Word at arm's length while living lives that are surrounded by it. As a pastor, I read Scripture with students and with other pastors, I teach on preach on Scripture, I read Scripture on my own, I study Scripture in seminary classes, I ask and answer questions about Scripture nearly every single day. And yet, invariably, I find myself and others reducing Scripture to ideas- believing the mature student of Scripture is the one who can navigate the Bible the most quickly or who knows the most potential interpretations of the most frustrating passages. And yet the relationships with God's Word espoused by people of God like David, John, Paul, and others point to one on which the Word lives so much within someone that it shapes their assumptions, dreams, reactions, and hopes- stabilizing them in times of difficulty and destabilizing them in times of complacence. It seems that in the quest to let the Word of God live in us, there is no replacement for a combination of humility, openness, pain, and time. 

I have recently felt a push from God and from some key people in my life to not settle for learning about Scripture, but to lean into it with the constancy, intensity, and thirst necessary to make it come alive in me. 
How alive is God's Word in you? And do you believe He has a more vibrant relationship with His Word in store for you?

Lasting Friendships

A group of UTD grads- all of whom I got to know as students, and many of whom I got the pleasure
of meeting with on a weekly basis. Mark (in the Dr. Pepper shirt) is getting married next month!

While my monthly ministry updates usually focus on my time with college students while they are still in school, it is also a blessing to get to remain friends with many students well into their post-college years. One special way of getting to do that is at weddings, and I've had the blessing and honor of getting to be a groomsmen or officiant in several weddings of men who used to be students in FOCUS. This weekend, I'm a groomsmen in the wedding of two of our graduates- one of whom I got time with every week for two years. Next month, I get to officiate the wedding of two of our other students- one of whom has graduated, and the other of whom is graduating soon. As I push further past my own college years, I'm learning more about what it takes to launch from college into the rest of adult life as a disciple, and it's a great gift and responsibility to share this with the men I disciple.

Thank you!

Thank you so much to everyone who has been praying for our students and who has been supporting us with your prayers, your conversations, your encouragement, and your financial support. As I re-read the first several books of the Old Testament, I'm reminded of how the Levites were only able to serve in the Temple because they were provided for by the rest of God's people- thus, they all took part in caring for the Temple. Similarly, the pastors in FOCUS would never be able to devote their full attention to ministry without the support of hundreds of people who have long since left college and college ministry.

  • A lot of our students and pastors have gone through (and are going through) very difficult seasons of life right now, dealing with the serious sickness and loss of close family members. Please be praying for peace and provision for these students and their families, and for the students and pastors around them to have the compassion to grieve with them and the strength to be a support to them.
  • Our leader team is focusing in this semester on pursuing a vibrant prayer life, pursuing purity of speech in how we speak of one another, and growing in reaching our campus with the Gospel (it can be very easy to get complacent in the Spring semester). Please be praying for us to be faithful to this, and for the Spirit to work in these ways.