Professor makes faith a priority

By Ashton Smith, Assistant Faith Editor

When students think of larger campuses that aren’t associated with words like Baptist or Christian, they usually think of more secular or logical ideas about teaching subjects like math or science.

That isn’t the case here at Oklahoma Baptist University.

Due to the Christian roots in OBU’s founding, teachers are able to intermingle faith into the subject they are teaching.

“You’re freer to discuss the religious aspects related to science,” Dr. Yates, Associate Professor of Science, said. “As opposed to restrictions that you find in public schools. And it seems that students are more open to that as well, coming to a Christian university; in which they expect that the [religion] will be tied… that’s part of our goal. To tie it to our curriculum.”

At OBU, students often encounter the gospel – and teachable moments in their faith – even outside of chapel or the classes that are strictly about religion. This is especially true for professors such as Dr. Yates, who encourages his students to pursue their faith even in the field of science.

“Dr. Yates helps us to recognize the ordering of God’s creation and the perfection of God’s work even down to the smallest microorganism,” Anna Harmon, a junior biochemistry major, said. “With every new topic, he taught us to recognize how incredible and purposeful God is in everything that He does. The Genesis account has never been truer than when I was taking classes with Dr. Yates.”

Dr. Yates’ positive attitude and encouraging spirit to lead students on in their studies and in their faith has affected both his students and him equally.

By having this opportunity to bring glory to God, through a subject that many students normally struggled with, he has guided students to see the world of science in a different light.

“I’ve had students that, after a class, will email me and say, ‘You know, I have never thought about it like that,’” Dr. Yates said. “I’ve seen lights come on in student’s eyes and in their mind, and in their behavior. They become interested in the topic because you can tie it into one’s religious beliefs.”

Because of Dr. Yates and the large impact faith plays into his life and into his student’s lives, it becomes very apparent in his teaching, no matter what the subject matter be. “When [Dr. Yates] discussed how UV-radiation can control microbial growth – to non-science people, it may not mean anything except dead microbes,” Har-mon said. “But to me through the teaching of Dr. Yates (and other science professors), I recognize that God had a plan in mind when he was designing microbes and UV-light.”

Even though science and math may seem less interesting and not as applicable to non-math and science majors, there’s always something you can get out of it when it comes to the professors at OBU.

By mixing in faith with these subjects, students can connect and understand the subject matter more.

“It’s a good opportunity to have, to be able to teach science and within that realm of science to discuss religion as well,” Dr. Yates said. “Which, in the public school, you typically cannot do to a very high degree.”

RAs provide spiritual mentoring on campus

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

At any college, the role of an RA is a hal-lowed one. It is these students who help their younger peers undergo a stark transition: from living at home, to living alone.

But on Bison Hill, or at any university professing faith to Jesus, the RA role takes on a deeper aspect: spiritual mentor.

And this is a respon-sibility that RAs – and the people who train and prepare them – take very seriously.

“To be an RA or CL is to be a servant-leader,” Lanie Allred, the Residence Director for Taylor and the West University Apartments, said. “These students are exceptional in character and are no ordinary stu-dent workers.”

Leavi Everett, a freshman Elementary Education major who was recently selected to be an RA next year, echoes this sentiment.

Everett points to RAs as one of the reasons that residence halls begin to transcend simple living arrangements and become something greater.

“The RAs make the hall feel like it’s a com-munity,” she said. “Through various hall events and Bible studies, the hall eventually starts to feel like a small group, and the residents grow to love this feeling.”

Everett is quick to say what it is that allows RAs to have such spe-cial relationships with their halls: proximity.

“RAs… are never re-ally off the clock,” she said. “Because they live where they work, they are constant mentors to their residents… The RAs are defi nitely always there when you need someone to talk to and walk alongside.”

Another word for this? Intentional. It’s this point that Allred stresses.

“RA’s don’t just plan social events, but they intentionally try to meet each resident where they’re at and support them in a personal, unique way,” she said. “Whether that’s encouraging their hall to maintain good physical health by going to the RAWC, or connecting them to OBU’s Counseling Center to care for their mental health, an RA is there to bring peace while living among the community and being a friend who can point them in the right direction.”

This act of being pointed in the right direction is vital for students, especially for freshman who are trying to ensure a smooth transition to college life.

“There are lots of times, especially as a freshman, when things get really hard and confusing and you just don’t know what to do,” Everett said. “The RAs were completely ready to be there and help guide me back to the Lord.”

Often times, an RA can mentor in ways that an RD simply can’t, given that they are going through the same phase of life as the resident and can relate to it on a special level.

“RAs are in an opportune position for the greatest spiritual impact because they’ve established trust with residents and get to do life with them every day,” Allred said.

Micah Lynn is a recent graduate of OBU, but he spent his sophomore year as an RA in the Lodge. He asserts that while the opportunity is certainly there for an RA to help his residents grow, the RAs themselves are often changed the most.

“I hope I was able to make an impact to those on my hall, but also the guys on my hall made a huge impact on me,” he said. “Being surrounded by other guys going through the same walk of life as me, and guys who are Christians and non-Christians, really forced me to think about the conversations I was having with all types of guys on my hall.”

Allred agrees that this personal edification should be a goal for RAs.

“The most important way an RA does his or her job well is by striving after God and personal holiness, by allowing him to work through their own life,” she said. As a Residence Director, her overwhelming feeling towards RAs is pride: pride in what they accomplish and in the way they affect Bison Hill for the better.

“Our RAs and CLs have some of the biggest hearts that desire to serve and love OBU’s campus,” she said. “Just look around – they’re holding nothing back.

Identity found in the Lord, not human image

By Jaden Jennings, Contributing Writer

For me personally, working out has always been a part of my daily routine.

As I was in the gym yesterday though, I had an epiphany. I thought to myself, “wait a minute; why am I doing all of this work to my body?”

I run to get skinny, I lift to look muscular, but when I die, is anyone really going to care how chiseled my abs and legs were?

I do not believe this random thought came from my own mind at Planet Fitness on a Tuesday; Rather, I believe it came from God himself.

Now don’t get me wrong before you continue reading. I believe with my whole heart that working out is important as well as eating healthy.

Nevertheless, I have realized during my journey as a Christian, I was claiming I was exercising for God, when in reality; I was selfishly doing it for the results.

Being toned? A plus, but not my identity.

Rock hard abs and arms? Good for winning a fight, but not necessarily for winning souls.

You probably think that I will never step foot in a gym again, but I am here to tell you that is completely, 100% false.

Our body is a temple for God, and I hope to maintain it to the best of my ability here on this earth.

However, my mindset when going to the gym will no longer be one of selfish desires and comparison, but more so, of an opportunity I have to honor God with my body.

Nevertheless, I did have a small thought that maybe my philosophy to working out could be applied to shopping as well.

Ugh, that hurts to say in the very depth of my soul, but still, remains true.

What if we spent less time focused on designer brands, and more on our hearts?

I love my Louis Viton handbag no doubt, but I have been thinking lately, what is the point of having it?

Did I want it for myself when I bought it?

Maybe so, but I have a hunch that I bought it because of the prestige that came with it.

This column is not discrediting shopping of course, because I am a firm believer in looking good to feel good.

However, our identity should not be about our bodies or the items that cover it, rather, it should be more concerned with spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth.

That’s what we are here for anyways right?

To be good stewards of hope and worship God. All the rest is just temporary.

If you are reading this column, I would encourage you the next time you go to the gym to change your mindset.

Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself this body is just temporary, and I am working out for God because my soul is eternal.

Or in the dressing room, tell yourself that this article of clothing is just an accessory.

It doesn’t matter if it is from TJ Maxx or Versace. I will not rely on my clothes to define my worth.

If looks were important to Jesus, He would have been one good-looking man here on Earth.

Maybe He was, but the Bible describes His appearance as being common to man.

This alone should give us hope that attraction is not what God holds dear to His heart.

Instead, it is our actual hearts He evaluates.

Imagine what would happen if we exercised our hearts just as much as our bodies?

Or what if instead of buying new clothes every two months, we donated some of our old ones to those in need?

Or what if we stopped comparing ourselves to people on Instagram and started interacting with actual people?

God cares about our physical health and the way we feel when we look good, but you know what? I believe that it goes much farther than that.

I believe that Jesus loves us so much that He could care less about how skinny we are or how much money we spend.

I believe that He just wants us. Period.

We can run as much as we want, but if we do not have Him, we have nothing.

We can spend as much as we want on designer clothes, but if we do not have Him, we are just as empty as our bank accounts.

You see, if you are anything like me, this thought should set you free.

No longer will you have to be measuring up to an Instagram fitness model with an obtainable figure.

No longer will you be worried about the clothes you have on your back because you will know that brands don’t defi ne you.

You are loved just as you are.

No exceptions and no expectations; And that my friends, is a good feeling.

University Baptist Church welcomes students

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

For students at Oklahoma Baptist University looking for a church congregation to be a part of, home could be found just across the street.

University Baptist Church’s history has been deeply interwoven with OBU, and the church continues today to be a powerful partner in the spiritual development of students. The communities of the church and university overlap, and the result of this overlap is a congregation that enjoys welcoming the young people who come to Shawnee through the university.

Justin Dunn is the pastor of University Baptist Church, and he’s thankful for the connection that the church has been able to share with OBU.

“In the past, and in some ways today, the church being across the street from campus was convenient and helpful for students who didn’t have cars or were saving on gas money,” Dunn said. “At times the church has hosted OBU events and different organizations in our facility. A couple of times over the past ninety-eight years UBC has held services on the campus during times of construction or special occasions.”

The fact the church congregation is peopled by many from the OBU community – both students and faculty – allows connections to be made beyond the school, and sometimes beyond the time of service.

“Through the years there have been many from the OBU community that have remained in the church long after graduation or retirement from working at the university,” Dunn said.

University Baptist Church has a rich history in Shawnee, being founded in 1921 as North Church.

“In those early days of 1921 the church met in a home with around 20 charter members,” Dunn said. “Much of the leadership, from a ministry student as pastor to two young women leading music, came from the student population at OBU.”

A few years later, the church building was constructed – which still stands as part of the facility today. In 1931, ten years after the church began, it was decided to change the name to University Baptist.

As pastor, Dunn is especially proud of the church’s social conscience, and the way that it has guided the congregation through the years.

“The church has had a history of taking stands on social issues of the time,” he said. “This has included racial equality and fair housing practices. Believing strongly in the autonomy of the local church, UBC has a long history of upholding the role of women in ministry. As such, women have the opportunity to serve in the role of deacons as voted on by the church.”

That strong social conscience still exists in the church.

“Today UBC continues this legacy of seeking Christ and being Christ in our community,” Dunn said. “Our ministries include partnering with Mission Shawnee in serving lunch once a quarter through H2O, hosting families through Family Promise, and many partnerships with the work of Community Renewal.”

UBC hosts two worship times every Sunday, a traditional service and a contemporary service. Dunn is quick to point out, though, that these are not separate groups – they are all expressions of the one body. The many generations served by the church add a richness to the congregation.

“We come from various backgrounds and there exists within the church a healthy theological diversity,” Dunn said. “We have various ministries, various interests, and various perspectives, but there isn’t a different place for each of those groups. They are all a function of the one church.”

Dr. Canaan Crane, associate professor of psychology and one of two worship leaders for the contemporary service at the church, echoes this.

“I think UBC is a great place for students who want to find ways to serve and who also want to interact with all ages and generations,” he said.

Dunn’s first advice for any students looking for a church is to take the decision seriously.

“It may sound typical, or ‘churchy’ but I would honestly first encourage them to pray,” he said. “Then, I would ask them to consider that just as they are a member of the OBU community, that plugging into a Shawnee church could be their opportunity to broaden their community and enhance their time not just on Bison Hill but in Shawnee… At UBC you will find a place to expand, explore, and strengthen your faith. Our community is flexible, free, and open to people at all stages of their faith development to come add to the ongoing conversation of knowing Christ and displaying Him in our lives. Any student that is considering a church home should check out UBC.”

This aspect of the congregation, the ability to add to an ongoing conversation, is what Crane points out in his own life.

“It’s a place where I’ve been challenged to grow in faith and to follow God’s call on my life,” he said. “We are a thoughtful congregation that believes we are God’s people doing God’s work in God’s world.  We seek to deepen our relationships with each other and this also challenges us to live lives that reflect Christ to the world.”

Dunn, perhaps, sums it up best: UBC can become a home.

“UBC has become a home for me and my family,” he said, “and I want people in our community to know it may be a home for them – for a season or for a lifetime.”

Out of context scripture misses the mark

By Garrett Jones, Contributing Writer

You know what really grinds my gears? When people take Scripture out of context for a particular agenda 

I don’t mean people misunderstanding Scripture. That happens and while it isn’t a good thing, I can at least understand it.  

What really upsets me is when people quote Scripture to tell someone what they are doing is wrong, when realistically it isn’t.  

I’ll give you some examples: “Tattoos are evil!”  

Everyone who grew up in a good ol’ conservative Baptist church has probably heard something at least similar to this.  

Whether it’s from the old lady who, every time she sees you, tells you that she remembers changing your diapers when you were in the nursery, or the usher who makes visitors take their hats off in church.  

Now I’m sure these people love the Lord, and I’m sure they love you too, but they certainly are not applying the context to the verses they think speak against tattoos.  

Leviticus 19:28 says “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourself: I am the Lord. (ESV)”  

I’ll give you a little bit of context for this verse. This verse was written to the Israelites when they were enslaved by the Egyptians. During this time, the Egyptians were worshipping pagan gods by marking their skin. Moses is telling the Israelites, who are easily influenced by the culture around them, not to tattoo themselves because people will think they are worshipping pagan gods.  

Obviously, I can’t speak for everyone’s tattoos, but you’re probably not worshipping pagan gods with your bison tattoo or your tattoo that says (insert any cliché in Hebrew or Greek here). Another verse some people like to use against tattoos is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 which says “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (ESV)  

These verses are absolutely true… when speaking about sexual immorality.  

Seriously, just look at any of the seven verses before them. Paul is specifically talking about not being sexually immoral.  

“Do what your government tells you”  

In June of 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” when speaking about prosecuting anyone who crosses the border from Mexico. 

 This one really makes my blood boil.  

As I’ve proven so far, taking Scripture out of context upsets me, but using God’s loving word to defend such hateful actions is absolutely disgusting.  

In this passage, Paul has written to the church in Rome. Now, at the time, this church had recently been joined back together after a new emperor of Rome made it legal for Jews to live in Rome.  

Up until that time, it had been illegal for several years. Paul is specifically telling the Jews of the church not to act out against their government.  

Why? Because he doesn’t want them to get kicked out again!  

I’m not trying to say that you should do everything in your will to act out against your own government. I doubt it would be very easy to glorify God while doing that.  

But I don’t think that disobeying your government is, within itself, sinful. If your government made it illegal to own a Bible, would it be sinful to own one?  

(I don’t think I have to tell you the answer to that one.)  

“You can’t be poor and glorify God.”  

College students, this one goes out to you.  

In an interview with Oprah, Joel Osteen said “I can’t be a blessing to people if I’m poor and broke.”  

I feel like I shouldn’t even have to comment on this one.  

Joel, do you have a minute to hear about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?  

This one is so blatantly stupid that if I didn’t know who Joel Osteen was, I probably would just think he’s crazy.  

Folks, if you haven’t figured it out yet, Osteen wants your money, and he’ll tell you anything you want to hear in order to get it.  

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24 (ESV)  

Scripture is such an incredible gift from God. It is literally the Creator of the universe speaking to us. It has never been more accessible to us than it is now.  

We should never take it for granted.  

So the next time someone quotes Scripture to you, in an effort to prove their point, kindly speak the truth in love and tell them “I will have to look into that” Then thoroughly do your own research of the Word. Or just write a column about it.  

 

GO Trips make deep impact in students’ lives

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

Due to the sensitive nature of the work done during some GO trips, full student names are not given in this article, nor are specific countries mentioned.  

If Christians want to see the world changed, it’s their responsibility to go. 

One of the unique aspects to an education on Bison Hill is the university’s deep commitment to sending students out into the world to make an impact. Leaders in the spiritual life office take seriously Jesus’ command to “go out into all the world,” and it’s to that end that the Global Outreach program on Bison Hill exists.  

The GO office offers trips all over the world, as well as providing for local opportunities to serve.

These trips accomplish the key purposes of giving students hands-on experience in the ministry and of providing critical exposure to other cultures and cultural experiences.  

Alena, a senior who recently visited Central America during J-Term, points not just to her time on the trip as an opportunity for growth, but her whole college career. 

[These] four years have been a very growing experience with my faith,” she said. “The friends that I’ve made on campus have pushed me to spend time in the Word every day. Also, the professors in the classroom are constantly using the Word of God in their lectures and their discussions… they always point everything back to Christ.”  

It was this growth that convinced Alena to take the step of faith towards a GO trip, even though there was a lot to figure out.  

“I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go,” she said.  

It was the encouragement that Alena received from her Spanish professor – a mentor on the trip – and from her parents that led her to commit to Central America.  

“I just felt like that was there the Lord was calling me. I applied… and I got accepted,” she said.  

After making her decision, Alena had only one concern: money.  

“The only hesitation I had about the trip was financially,” she said. “[It’s] a lot of money… but I knew the Lord was going to provide.”  

Although the teams preparing for a GO trip receive extensive training together, it wasn’t until the trip itself that Alena’s team really meshed.  

“You just grow so close to the people on your team in those three weeks,” she said. “Even though we [had] met every Tuesday for weeks [leading up to the trip], we still weren’t familiar with each other. By the end of the first week, we were all best friends, hanging out, playing card games, suffering through the power outages and the wind…we all knew what the others were going through.”  

Alena says that her best moment on the trip came about through a conversation at a local family’s house.  

“We got to ask them, ‘If you were to die tomorrow, do you know if you would go to heaven?’” she said. “And all the people answered they didn’t know.”  

Through this conversation, Alena’s team was able to share the message with them, and the family came to know the Lord.  

She also admits that there were challenges. The timing of the trip – during J-term –created a hectic schedule, as there was a very short break period between the end of the trip and the spring semester beginning.  

“We flew back on a Wednesday, and school started on Monday,” Alena said. 

Moriah, a senior who spent J-term on a trip to North Africa, recognized another challenge: that not every experience on a trip can be quantified.  

“Obedience doesn’t always lead to visible results,” she said. “Through the experiences I had, God is teaching me that our success must be measured by obedience, not by results we see, especially when doing kingdom work.” 

She found the ultimate worth in the journey to be the impact that God made on her own outlook.  

“The much more valuable part of my GO trip experience to me is the changes I saw God working in my own heart and life as I was able to witness him at work day by day,” she said.  

Alena’s advice for anyone considering going on a GO trip is simple.  

“Just apply,” she said. “Just know that if the Lord is calling you to go on a trip, yeah it’s so hard to fundraise, but it’s so worth it in the end. The Lord will provide the money out of nowhere.”  

To those in preparation for an upcoming trip, her advice is practical.  

“Really research the culture that you’re going in to,” she said, also stressing the physical strain of a GO trip. “Go to the gym and walk ten miles with a backpack… be prepared for your GO trip spiritually, mentally, but also the physical aspect is so important.”  

Noonday providing bread of life

By Ashton Smith, Assistant Faith Editor

The semester is getting into full swing and that means free lunches for students, every Wednesday at noon.

This gathering, also known as Noonday, is a favorite of students because of the free food aspect, as well as the camaraderie.

Director of Spiritual Life Clay Philips is one of the leaders behind Noonday and also encourages students to join in the event.

“Noonday is a unique event on campus where students get to enjoy each other’s company over a meal, while also engaging with faculty and staff who share their experiences and wisdom from walking with Christ,” Philips said.

Every week, a different church comes to serve food for the students, whether that be a pizza they got from Little Caesar’s or a meal they made themselves and brought to give to the students.

“It’s a great way to see what churches are in the Shawnee area,” Jadelin Calmes, a junior family science and community service major, said. “Every week there is a different church that is eager to serve the OBU community, and that is so encouraging. These people that I’ve never met want to make food and serve to a bunch of college students. And that’s amazing to me.”

It is especially helpful for any freshman on campus who are still searching for a church community to get to know and grow with.

This gathering can be a possible solution for those still church hopping this Spring semester.

“It’s difficult to know where to start looking for a church to go to,” Calmes said. “And so having different churches come every week is really nice.”

The churches and leaders at Noonday are also usually in charge of sharing and connecting with the students as well.

Each week the churches or leaders usually have some sort of piece of wisdom or information to share with the students while they are eating their meal.

“We usually hear a devotional or a testimony from a staff or faculty member,” Philips said.

Calmes sees each week as unique.

“On that note, no week is ever the same though,” she said. “So students are always able to come every week if they please, and glean something new each time. Sometimes it’s a Bible lesson, and sometimes it’s a testimony, and sometimes various camps come to talk about Falls Creek or any other camp as well.”

Whether students are looking for a good campus activity to get involved with or to grab a quick, easy, and free meal, Noonday is the perfect place to go. It provides believers of OBU with a place to fellowship with friends and to grow and foster a new community of friendships for them.

“[At Noonday] we want to provide a fun, loving environment where people are able to hear the Gospel proclaimed,” Philips said.

Student preacher excited for opportunity

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

thomas 2
Courtesy Photo/The Baptist Messenger Thomas Shroder to preach in chapel March 6 as student preacher

For Thomas Shroder, the comparison between the preaching pulpit and the pitching mound is an apt one.  

Pastoral Ministries and Apologetics major here at OBU – as well as a pitcher on the baseball team – he has been caught in a balancing act between his call to ministry and his competitive fire ever since stepping foot on Bison Hill. 

This March, that balancing act is being rewarded, as Shroder has been selected by the theology department to represent them as a student preacher in chapel on March 6. 

The story of Shroder’s call to the ministry is a long one. A natural athlete in California growing up, he took to baseball immediately, and it became the driving force in his life.  

“Baseball was all I wanted to do,” he said. “And so much of my identity, growing up, got wrapped up in that.”  

It was baseball that paved the way for Shroder’s college journey, as he began playing at a junior college in his home state of Arizona.

After transferring to the University of Texas at Arlington – where his major was Economics and ministry was far from his mind – Shroder experienced his first big sports injury, prompting him to consider for the first time what a life without baseball would look like.  

“I really felt God saying, ‘If I took away baseball from you, you’d have nothing.’” Shroder said. “It was my whole identity, and I knew it was going to let me down.”  

Having grown up as the son of a youth minister and a worship leader, Shroder had been around the teachings of Christianity his whole life, but had never really embraced the lifestyle modeled to him by his parents.  

“I just sort of adopted their faith,” he said. “That made itself very clear when I got to high school and junior college. Church was just something I did on Sundays, and I ran to the world.” 

Forced to take time off from baseball while recovering from his injury at UTA, Shroder began to take his relationship with the Lord seriously, and he began to feel a calling on his life that went far beyond baseball and economics.  

Pursuing this calling with the spiritual mentors in his life, Shroder became convinced that God was seriously commanding him to a life in ministry, and when God opened the doors for him to transfer to OBU, Shroder jumped at the chance, abandoning economics for the theology department and beginning work as a supply preacher in his hometown and some of the areas surrounding Shawnee.  

These opportunities to preach on Sundays have allowed Shroder the chance to hone his abilities, as well as to test the calling on his life and confirm it. Once unsure that he wanted to serve officially at a church, Shroder now feels confident in that direction.  

“I’m sure that’s where everything is headed at this point,” he said. “Over the last year I’ve seen… certain gifts and talents that the Lord has given me really manifest themselves behind the pulpit in a way that it’s just really solidified that calling for me.” 

As to being chosen as the student preacher for 2019, Shroder confesses that he didn’t expect the honor. 

“I was pretty surprised,” he said. “It’s an honor…it’s really cool to be affirmed in that way from your mentors, your professors.”  

For Heath Thomas, the Dean of Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry, it was the dedication Shroder displays that made him a natural choice.  

Thomas exhibits a deep commitment to Jesus, a clear call to ministry, and he faithfully labors to be the person that God has called him to be,” Dean Thomas said. “All of the women and men in Hobbs College are extraordinary in their call and commitment to Jesus; we are delighted that Thomas will represent them as he proclaims the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ from God’s Word.” 

Shroder compares his nerves at preaching in chapel – which will undoubtedly be the biggest crowd he’s stood in front of – to those he feels before taking the mound.  

“I’m excited,” he said. “I think it’ll be just like on the mound. It’ll be a deep breath, and then let’s get after it.”  

That excitement, and the nerves that accompany it, is tempered by the fact that Shroder knows the results won’t be up to him.  

“It’s not even necessarily me,” he said I’m just excited for what the Lord’s going to do.” 

Shroder keeps his goals for the chapel message simple – and they’re the same goals that he has every time he preaches.  

“I want to preach the word clearly and concisely so that the Spirit is free to move as he wills,” he said.  

He also knows that preaching is only half of the battle. The other half comes from the example he sets in life, especially in the context of baseball and as he prepares to be a leader in a congregation.  

The challenge is always just living authentically,” Shroder said. “It’s a challenge to portray and live out Christianity as a viable option in your life.”  

Ephesians 1:15-23 is the text that Shroder plans on preaching from, and the density of those verses is a challenge that he relishes.  

“[It’s] a lot,” he said. “It’s going to be a task to pull it off in 25 or 30 minutes.”  

After March 6 – and after graduation – Shroder has immediate plans, but his long-term future is up in the air. The one thing he knows is what he wants to be doing.  

“I just want to feed the flock,” he said. “I want to be of service to the church in whatever capacity… being a pastor is a full-time job. It’s a lifestyle.”  

Shroder will portray that lifestyle for the rest of his days, and on March 6 he will portray it in front of the entire university.  

Men’s ministry provides a place to grow

By Ashton Smith, Assistant Faith Editor

This semester, Men’s Ministry is starting back up for the male students of OBU. 

Clay Philips, who is also the Director of Student Ministry, is one of the leaders of this organization, which leads men to grow in their walk with Christ and to fellowship with one another.  

We gather together men to learn from older men what following Christ looks like for men in our current context,” Philips said. We hope to promote the virtues of the Christian life by applying them directly to the life experienced by men in the context of our city and university. 

Not only are the men trying to grow and learn from other older and much wiser men, but they’re also trying to learn and glean information from one another.  

One junior ministry major at OBU, Victor Van Herreweghe, is also a leader at the Men’s Ministry, and approached Clay about this particular ministry 

“Victor came to me with a burden to see men growing in their faith as men and I agreed with him that it is a needed exercise to look specifically at how to grow as a man in Christ.” Philips said.  

Men’s Ministry is easy for any male student to get involved with, and students are highly encouraged to join in anytime. The meetings are weekly, and not at a busy time in the day so that more students are able to attend.  

We meet every Monday at 8 pm in upstairs GC,” Philips said. “This is the only time we gather now but as we plan for next year we will incorporate more elements into the ministry.” 

Philips also used to be involved in Men’s Ministry back when he was a student at OBU and was transformed by the experience during that period of his life, as he interacted and grew closer to other students involved.  

“My favorite memory of Men’s Ministry is when I went through Journey as a student, which was the name of Men’s Ministry back then,” Philips said. “We kicked off the semester with a retreat which is where I met Dr. Bandy. I had been praying for direction on where to go on a mission trip and we decided to take a trip to the Amazon jungle together. The relationship with Dr. Bandy and others I formed on that trip were life-changing.” 

 

Hope amid crisis for Jewish people in Oklahoma

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

Though months have passed since the tragic synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, minority communities in America continue to face challenges and, in extreme cases, violence. As America continues to grapple with issues of equality and works towards harmony, The Bison looks back at one of the pivotal news stories of 2018. 

It’s November 16. A placid fall day in downtown Oklahoma City. The leaves are falling, swept by the wind into small rustling piles at various points around the parking lot of Emmanuel Synagogue – a parking lot which is empty. The synagogue’s offices are closed in preparation for the Sabbath.  

The reception area inside is fashionably modern. There are comfortable chairs, a couch and a polished coffee table. A vase sits on top of the table, filled with drooping, dying flowers.  

It’s November 16 – almost three weeks after 11 people died in a Pittsburgh synagogue October 27, shot to death by a man motivated by hate. The flowers on the table were given to Emmanuel by various entities around the Oklahoma City community as an act of support and solidarity. It’s easy to see why they’re left on the table, even past their freshness.   

“They were picked from someone’s garden and left anonymously the next day,” Rabbi Abby Jacobson said.  

Jacobson, leader of the Emmanuel Synagogue and one of the most prominent leaders in the local Jewish community, is the only one in the building. She lives an interesting and busy life. 

In larger cities, where the Jewish population is larger, different Rabbis in the community serve different purposes.

One might preside over funerals, say, while a different Rabbi tutors those preparing for a bar mitzvah. “Here, that’s all me,” Jacobson said.

A large part of her job involves advocacy for the customs of local Jews, customs that are sometimes misunderstood and need clarification. 

This advocacy can take her anywhere from schools to local prisons.  

But not on October 27. 

On October 27, Rabbi Jacobson was in front of her congregation when the reports of the shooting first came in from Pennsylvania. 

“The first thing I thought of was that we have security procedures in place, and our threat level just went up,” she said.  

It’s a fact of life in 2018 America that any place, at any time, could light up with gunfire, but Jacobson and the rest of her community have good reason to be extra cautious.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, messages and acts of anti-Semitism are on the rise in America; in fact, reports of incidents have more than doubled since 2016. 

“Of the bias crimes that there are,” Jacobson said, “anti-Semitism is either the number one or number two highest [percentage].” 

Still, even though the Emmanuel Synagogue immediately put its security measures in place after the Pittsburgh attack, Jacobson realizes that the situation in Oklahoma is not as dire. 

“There’s not a lot of anti-Semitism in Oklahoma because there aren’t a lot of Semites in Oklahoma,” she said. “We’re just not on people’s radar in the same way.”  

Jacobson rejects any and all simplistic approaches to understanding the hate that motivates violent people.

She’s quick to point out that anti-Semitism has a long history, and hate towards Jews can be motivated by anything from religious differences to harmful stereotyping. 

More than anything, perhaps, hatreds towards Jews – and minorities in general – is built out of fear of difference. 

“The inquisition is not directed against Jews and Muslims because there’s something wrong with Jews and Muslims – it’s because we were the two religious minorities in the [American] community,” she said. “For some people, all difference is considered dangerous.”  

Political turbulence, as well as harmful political messaging, can also play a factor in the mobilization of violent people against minority groups.

“Using anti-somebody rhetoric, or normalizing discriminatory rhetoric, also causes people generally to move up the pyramid of violence,” Jacobson said.  

She can talk at length about hatred towards Jews. She can talk about its history, its causes, its effects – but that isn’t what she’s focused on.

On November 16, three weeks after gunfire lit up a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Jacobson is still able to identify positives that came from the attack. Small positives, certainly, compared to such a wasteful loss of life, but positives all the same.  

First of all, she points out the preparedness of the Pittsburgh community.

“Survivors of the Pittsburgh shooting have said they recently had active-shooter training that saved people’s lives,” she said. “They had an active security plan, they activated it. More people could have died. They saved people’s lives.”  

She’s also quick to point out that there are more people dedicated to kindness and love than are dedicated to hate and violence, especially locally.

“I think the Jewish community in Oklahoma is very lucky,” she said.  “Even despite this increase in Anti-Semitism, we have a huge outpouring of love.”  

At a vigil in Oklahoma City after the Pittsburgh attack, about 450 people showed up to show support. 

“At least half of whom were not Jewish,” Jacobson said.  “Random people call,” she said. “They say, ‘I’m so sorry to hear; I just want to tell you that we love you.’”  

And as one who realizes the many intricate factors that go into something like wide-spread hate and bias, Jacobson knows that everyone has a responsibility to stop the harmful thinking that has become so toxic in America. 

It’s everyone job, she says, to be open to examining themselves. 

“We’re not good at hearing that we’re wrong,” she said. “Be willing to be wrong.”  

Jacobson also urges people to engage with other cultures, something that is especially easy in the modern, media-driven world of 2018.

“It is a tremendous gift to bother to learn about other people…to travel to another place, to learn about people who are not like you.”  

“Diversity is a good thing, not a bad thing, other people are not dangerous, you can hate an idea without hating the people, you can dislike an idea without demonizing the people who believe it,” she said.  

This, perhaps, is the great lesson of November 16, three weeks after the Pittsburgh shooting – to take personal responsibility to change the world for the better.

And if enough people do, it could hopefully be a long time before withered flowers sit again on the coffee table at Emmanuel Synagogue.