BY: ASHLEY KLINE
Abandoned, rejected, and lonely are a few words that describe my first semester at Virginia Wesleyan University, then known as Virginia Wesleyan College. Like many college freshmen, I struggled to discover where I belonged and sought refuge in all the wrong people, resulting in even greater loneliness and heartache. When at my lowest point, I was walking around campus with my hoodie pulled up to hide my face when suddenly and unexpectedly I remembered my mom’s voice in my head, urging me to go to the Chaplain’s Office. Before I began college my mom and I discussed that it would be a good idea to make a connection with the on-campus ministry. This is advice I refused to heed until this moment after walking other paths to no avail. I was out of options.
I was in need of a friend and a place of sincere comfort and guidance. I walked into the Chaplain’s Office distressed and thankful to find Greg West more than willing to take a break from whatever he was working on to hear my story and listen to what I was going through. Little did I know this was a fateful meeting that would change the course of my life forever.
I participated in youth group through a local church during high school but was more interested in making friends than hearing the Gospel. I thought of it more as a social club than anything else. I came to college without any real knowledge of who Jesus was except for the fact that he was a man who lived a long time ago, helped the poor, died on a cross, and was in some way associated with God. It wasn’t until I met Greg West that I learned the truth that Jesus is God and that he died on the cross so that we no longer have to bear the heavy burden of our sins. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Greg imparted these truths to me as well as told me I had a friend in God and that we are able to have a personal relationship with Him. Greg then told me that there was a family to be found in the ministry on campus.
As a result of that day I became involved in the on-campus ministry where I found a wonderful support system, and many people who are still my friends to this day. I began exploring faith and came to belief in Jesus. I added a religious studies major to my degree program. I had the pleasure of serving as Greg’s work-study in the Chaplain’s Office for more than 2 years. I graduated from VWU last year with the class of 2019 and am now pursuing a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies from Asbury Theological Seminary. I continue to work with Greg as the web designer for Life in His Name Ministries and am proud to still call Greg my friend and mentor.
If you are reading this and don't call yourself a Christian, I welcome you! Maybe you're seeking truth and considering the Christian faith. To you I say there is no shortage of 'bad examples' of Christians in our world. It seems the media prefers to highlight bad examples of Christians rather than those who are more Christ-like in their words and deeds. In addition to this, there are stereotypes of what the Christian faith is about: "It's just a list of rules," "following God would take all the fun out of life," "they are all hypocrites."
As a non-Christian, you might think, "Why would I want any part of that?" The underlying questions you are likely asking are: "Do I like the Christian faith?" "Do I like the Church?" Well, these questions seem to make sense, but I beg you to reconsider. These are the wrong questions! The question must be: "IS IT TRUE?" You see, the Christian faith is based on claims within human history, claims within a certain culture at a certain time in a certain place, and there is evidence to support these claims.
The central claim of the Christian faith is that the One who created the heavens and the earth, visited us in the form of a human life. Yes, we believe Jesus was the visible image of the invisible God! So, is it true? Did God come? Has God been revealed in a way we can clearly understand? The New Testament of the Bible declares a bold, "YES" to these questions.
So if you're considering, "Is it true?" I urge you to get all the resources you can and dig deep. Find trusted friends who can help you on the journey. I would be happy to provide you with resources so you can properly 'weigh the evidence.' Please reach out to me: Greg@lifeinhisname.net. A couple resources that are easily accessible are,
1) The Privileged Planet (documentary on Youtube)
2) The Case for Christ (movie or book)
3) The New Testament, of course! (eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life ministry, death and resurrection).
The Apostles did not have audio or video technology, but with their voices they proclaimed and with pen and paper they recorded, and they shout to us across the centuries, "God loves you" and"Jesus is Lord of all!"
I came to believe in Jesus as the unique Son of God when I was 22-years-old, and am forever grateful. I did not experience it as 'a blind leap into the dark.' Rather, it was 'a measured step into the light'. The Christian faith is reasonable, but reason alone isn't quite enough. It is a step of faith to believe and receive Jesus as the One who rescues you from your failures, and breathes new life into you, as you commit to following Him.
Our nation and the world have been shaken by the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. Yet, we were still reeling from the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia while he was jogging. There is a pattern. There is a history. There does not seem to be change. My college students of color do not feel safe. They do not feel free in this country that proclaims “Freedom.” The already dangerous divides in our country seem even greater now as we also see divisions in our churches. For all of us who name Jesus as Lord, we must search our hearts and study the Word of God to apply it. A passage I’ve been sharing to clearly show that Jesus is committed to justice on earth is a prophecy of the coming Messiah from Isaiah 42. It’s quoted in Matthew 12 with Jesus as the fulfillment.
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching” Isaiah 42: 1-4 (NRSV).
Three times in these four verses we see the word ‘justice’; clearly Christ is committed to bringing and establishing justice here. Dr. John Oswalt notes that the Hebrew word here for justice is “mishpat.” Here is how he defines “mishpat:” “The life-giving order which exists when the creation is functioning in accordance with the design of its LORD.” So, “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done here on earth as it is in heaven” is a cry for God’s justice, God’s “misphat.” So, if you say you follow Christ, but are not concerned about earthly justice, you've been deceived. When non-Christians see “Christians” who dismiss calls for justice, they want nothing to do with our faith – all because we’ve misrepresented Christ. Clearly, we all have a part to play in bringing justice and mercy into the world.
For the last 10 years I have had the privilege of shepherding college students as the Chaplain of Virginia Wesleyan University. In the last year, there has been a stirring in my spirit about new ministry. Here is my deepest conviction as I step out: God has called me into a different role within the body of Christ. I strongly considered and prayed about serving as a Pastor in a local church again. The guidance seemed very clear to me, that my calling and giftings best fit the role of missionary-evangelist. I am drawn to people who do not yet know Christ’s love. I am energized when I cross lines of culture, race, religion, worldview and language (if it’s Spanish ) in order to share Christ. My greatest joy is to see people experience the love of Jesus and his redeeming power. I do not want to miss this calling!
I will be appointed as a “Conference Evangelist” within the United Methodist Church as of July 1. Last semester, I wrapped up teaching my course: The Wesleyan Revival: Methodism for the fourth time at VWU. I embrace Wesleyan theology and methods but will gladly work with other churches. The Kingdom of God is our longing and pursuit! Evangelists in our culture often have a negative stereotype. Therefore, I want to be clear: I have no interest in big hair, Cadillacs or coercive appeals for money! My examples come from the Scriptures.
In Acts 8:26 – 40, Philip the Evangelist is led by the Holy Spirit to share Christ with the Ethiopian eunuch. The eunuch believes and is baptized, thus the church in Africa begins! In Acts 21:8, Philip is referred to as an evangelist.
This passage from Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus outlines “The Five-Fold Ministry,”five clear leadership roles to equip or train God’s people for ministry.
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).
Paul lays out a grand vision, that we would attain “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ!” Let it be, Lord! The church in this country has an abundance of pastors, the other roles seem lacking in numbers. In my role as evangelist, I will partner with local churches to help them become active, confident and effective in sharing the Good News of Jesus. We know that we must go to the people and share in coffee shops, homes, the marketplace and other settings. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples . . .” Plus, the cultural expectation that people will “go to church” is gone.