Three Truths For College Students to Build Their Life On


When I think back to my time in college, I am often reminded of just how much change took place during those five years (yes, I was one of those special students that finished a four-year degree in five). When I started college, I was living with my grandparents in Springfield, MO. I had few concerns and responsibilities in life and was basically living for the moment. Four years later, I had transferred to Trinity Baptist College in Jacksonville, FL and was about to graduate with a Pastoral Theology degree. I was married, owned a home, had a full-time job and couldn’t wait to start working on a seminary degree.

Even looking back on it now, I get dizzy thinking about how quickly God changed the course of my life. The direction, focus and clarity that came to me during those few short years is something I will never forget. It is one of the reasons that the past nearly ten years of my life has been devoted to helping other college students find that same life focus.

I believe that in God’s providence He allowed me to see some important truths through the words and influence of various mentors and teachers in my life at that time which changed the course of my life. Here are three of the truths that helped me to see life more clearly.  They are just as true for college students today as they were for me as a college freshman eighteen years ago.

  1. God is the only source of ultimate and lasting good.

During my youth, I had experienced some very difficult circumstances. My father suffered permanent disabilities through a tragic accident that I had unintentionally caused when I was fifteen. There were other painful life situations that my family and I had endured. Through all of this, I had come to see first-hand that God was still the only source of goodness.  Even in tragedy and pain, I had felt and seen His guiding hand and I did not see that anyone else had a better solution or alternative for how the tragedies of this life were going to be corrected. God had opened my eyes to the story of redemption through Jesus Christ and everything else paled in comparison to that truth. Sitting through doctrines class at a Christian college gave me the words to articulate what I had experienced in my own life.

  1. Everything you chase to bring fulfillment outside of God disappoints.

I don’t have a testimony of riotous living, but I had experienced enough of sin in my own life to know the end is destruction. Growing up in a pastor’s home gave me a front row seat to the consequences of poor choices and behaviors in the lives of so many people. I came to see that all of humanity, including me, was broken. Even the allure of youth as a college freshman could not overcome the truth that gnawed at my heart; where will all of this lead in twenty years? I know many will argue that Christianity makes sense for someone that has nowhere else to turn, but my life was not on the rocks when I committed to follow Christ. I am so thankful that the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in my life allowed me to see the truth that although my life seemed put together on the outside, I was broken beyond repair in the eyes of God. My only hope was the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

  1. Eternal rewards are not measured on an earthly scale.

This is a lesson that I am continuing to learn. I have little to say about this because I am not satisfied with my own application of this truth. This is merely an acknowledgement that even in the realm of Christianity and spiritual growth there is a tendency to seek the fame and notoriety that are, in substance, the same as what consumes celebrity culture of our modern age.   Particularly as American Christians, we are averse to anything that feels like pain, difficulty or trial because we have bought into the lie that Jesus wants us to always be happy and successful. As a college student, it is important to understand that in God’s economy, the first are often last. The weaknesses in our life allow God the opportunity to show His power and receive glory for Himself. Don’t be afraid to live a life of obscurity and faithfulness in service for God. What is done for him in secret during this lifetime He has promised to reward openly in the eternal life to come.


3 Ways Neglected Maintenance Affects Your Leadership Ability


How many emergencies have been created in your life recently due to neglected maintenance? Maybe you were late for an important meeting because your car wouldn’t start. You knew the battery was well beyond its useful life but instead of taking 30 minutes to purchase and have a new one installed, you kept putting it off because you were too busy.

Perhaps your maintenance emergency was a financial one because for years you put off replacing a $10 air filter and now you have to call out a repairman to work on your home air conditioning system.

Have you ever tried driving a car for multiple thousands of miles without changing the oil? Eventually you will ruin the entire motor by simply putting off routine maintenance that, if completed in a timely manner, would save you thousands of dollars and many hours of frustration.

There are many examples of this in the mechanical world but what about within the sphere of leadership? Does the principle of neglected maintenance apply to our effectiveness as leaders?

I believe that it does. Let’s examine at least three ways that neglected maintenance can negatively impact our personal leadership.

  1. Areas of neglected leadership maintenance never seem important until they do not function. Just like in the example of the car battery, you can be seemingly effective in your leadership until one day you just aren’t because you have neglected to properly maintain essential areas. Some practical examples would be:
  • Maintaining a consistent prayer life
  • Studying, meditating and personally applying Scripture
  • Taking time to rest and restore mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally
  1. Areas of neglected leadership maintenance are not always exciting to work on. Just like changing the oil in your vehicle is not as exciting as getting a custom paint job or installing a great after-market DVD player or stereo, the oil is a far more critical issue. The same is true in leadership. For example, working on things like follow-through and consistent communication are less fun than attending conferences or dreaming about big ideas. While the latter have their place, it is attention to the less exciting maintenance details that actually allow us to move on to greater, healthier places.
  1. Areas of neglected leadership maintenance require discipline and consistency. You don’t change the air filter in your home air conditioning system once every five years. You have to schedule this maintenance detail every three months. This requires attention to detail. Most areas of neglected maintenance within our areas of leadership are not difficult to accomplish, the hard part is simply remembering to do them in the midst of the chaos and busyness that characterizes our daily operations. We simply forget how important these little details are until they have been neglected long enough to create a crisis.

Don’t become a victim of neglected leadership maintenance. Take the time today to evaluate the little things that have been overlooked and may become the big things if they do not receive some attention soon.

How to Be an Effective Leader


Over the past two weeks we have been conducting training for the Resident Assistants (RAs) and other Student Leaders. I am so thankful that these students are committed to their own leadership development and have made the sacrifice to return to campus early in order to prepare for the new college year.

One of the leadership lessons that we have been reviewing is the “three pillars of leadership”.   I was first introduced to this material by our college president, Mac Heavener. He taught this principle to me using the analogy of a three-legged stool. Every individual leg on that stool is extremely important, and if one of them is missing, then the stool is not functional.

The three pillars of leadership function the same way as the legs on a stool. You must have all three in place in order for your leadership to be effective. The three pillars of leadership are instruction, example, and relationship.

Instruction–  You must verbally communicate expectations. An effective leader cannot just know what should be done or think about what should be done; the leader must communicate clearly the appropriate information at the appropriate time. If a leader fails to instruct or teach, then that leader’s effectiveness will be negatively impacted.

Example– Your leadership can only be as effective as you are at modeling your instruction in your own life. A leader that has all the answers and knows what to say but does not demonstrate a consistent effort to live out their own instruction will not be respected or followed for long. Our ability to lead others begins and ends with our ability to lead ourselves.

Relationship– I have always loved the quote from Dr. Howard Hendricks, “You can impress from a distance but you can only impact up close”. These words are a constant reminder in my own life that no matter how great my instruction is or how well I model that instruction in my own life, I can only truly influence others to the degree to which I have worked to cultivate a personal relationship with them. If our relationships with others are only surface relationships, then our leadership influence will be nothing more than surface as well. To truly maximize your leadership you have to take the time to develop relationships with those you are called to lead.

3 Helpful Journaling Tips for College Students


It was during my undergrad years that I was first challenged to keep a journal. At that time, it sounded like a noble idea and I assumed that within a few months I would be able to look back at my progress in this area and reflect on all of the great and wonderful things that God had been doing in my life.

The reality for me was that within a few weeks I had forgotten about the journaling idea completely and it wasn’t until nearly a year later that I came across those few journal entries and was reminded about the commitment I had made to myself and failed to deliver.

Since that time, I have been consistently journaling for about seven years now, and there are at least three helpful tips that I wanted to share with college students, or anyone one else, looking to build this habit into their life.

1. It’s Okay to Fail

When I came back across my failed first attempt at journaling, I was immediately embarrassed by my lack of discipline and focus. Over time, I began to realize that this was okay. At the very least, I had recognized the need for something in my life and was attempting to make an improvement. The truth is, I started journaling a second time and kept up with it for a few months before stopping again.

Over the course of a 3-4 year period, I consistently failed at journaling! Each time I restarted the process I learned something new about myself and was eventually able to make journaling a habit in my life.

2. What You Record Today Will Inspire You Later

One thing I will never forget about those early failed journaling attempts was how inspiring it was to read back over the thoughts and reflections that I had penned down during those short spans of disciplined activity. I read about situations, burdens, joys and other details that had long been forgotten. There were specific answers to prayer in my journals that had escaped my mind and it was like reading about them for the first time. Seeing what I had recorded and being able to put myself back in the stories and scenarios that I was reading made me wish that I had been even more consistent with my journaling. It also inspired me to trust God more, to worry less about the difficulties and frustrations in my current life.

3. Keeping A Journal Enhances Other Spiritual Disciplines

There are many benefits to journaling, but one thing this practice will do is help you become more consistent with other spiritual disciplines, specifically prayer, reading, meditating on Scripture, and personal reflection. Setting aside time in your day to journal will provide a natural opportunity for these other practices and you will find that the more you spend time in prayer and reading God’s word the more you will have to journal about.

My prayer for you, especially college students, is that over the summer you will take the time to slow down and begin to build good habits and routines into your life. If there was anything that I wish I had invested more time doing as a college student, I would definitely say that being more intentional about spiritual disciplines would be on the list. We are often tempted to spend more time pursuing “quick fixes” and chasing down the latest fads and trends, when in reality we would be better served to simply invest time doing the hard work of daily disciplines that, while not as stylish or fun, will carry us much further down the road.

Why We Got Rid of Demerits At TBC

students_02_2016Over the past five years there have been several significant changes made at TBC. The overwhelming majority of these changes were desperately needed. They have been positive in keeping the college sustainable and on a pathway to growth. I could focus on any one of these changes and talk about the rationale for the change and what has been impacted, both positively and negatively by it.

The one change that has perhaps intrigued me the most is the change that we made to our disciplinary system. Like many other Christian colleges, TBC had used a demerit system since its early days.

When current TBC President Mac Heavener arrived on the job he described the demerit system to me as a “gotcha” system. He said that instead of focusing on finding students doing right, it created an environment where college faculty and staff, as well as student leaders (RA’s), focused on trying to “catch” students doing wrong.

The more I thought about this the more his assessment made sense. Over a course of time, we worked together as a team to create a better system, one that more closely mirrored real life and also one that followed a more biblical model.

Our new disciplinary system is focused on the ideas of mentoring, accountability and responsibility.


The idea of mentoring is that we are providing guidance and teaching as opposed to just telling students that they messed up. Even when mistakes are made, we are committed to providing a path of restoration. As long as a student is willing to continue moving forward, then we want to be a part of that journey. We are all growing and we all need mentoring.


At the end of the day, there have to be guidelines in place. As much as we like to think that we are independent free agents, even as mature adults we need accountability in life. We need to know where the boundaries are. There have been many times in our college’s history where we have placed boundaries in areas where the Scriptures were silent, largely based on preference of opinion or tradition. Our efforts in recent days have been focused on providing accountability in a biblical fashion that is both reasonable and in harmony with the realities of the world in which we live. Preferences change, principles seldom do.


Transitioning from adolescence to adulthood is a major hurdle to cross for most young adults. Our role as a college is to assist in this transition by making students aware of the responsibilities that come with being an interdependent adult. I intentionally use the word “interdependent” rather than independent because for our students to be successful in life they need to learn how to be a good teammate. God did not intend for us to be islands unto ourselves. We were built for relationship and community. As students learn that they have a responsibility to God and to others whom God has placed in their life, they will begin to build a successful life.

3 Reasons for a Christian College

2274225022_3f3beac0ef_zWhy does a Christian college exist? What sets a Christian college apart from a secular one? Why would my time be better spent serving students at TBC as opposed to working at a state college or university?  I have tossed these questions around in my mind more times than I care to admit over the past eight years that I have served here at TBC. That may be a surprising admission from someone whose primary vocation is Christian higher education. However, I am asking this question in an attempt to ensure that what I am doing personally and what we are doing institutionally has eternal merit. After much thought, I believe that there are many good answers to these questions and I will share a few of the best ones below.


1. A Christian College Can Give Priority to A Biblical Worldview

This is one definite item that sets apart a Christian college from secular. Perhaps at no other time in American history should this matter more to us as believers; we are facing a culture that is becoming increasingly secular.

One of the primary distinctions of a secular society is that the majority of the population pursues a life completely devoid of any thought outside of the human realm. The questions of the origination of life, the purpose of life and the ultimate destination for life are all answered by looking within, void of any thought of ultimate accountability to a higher being or a purpose to life that is beyond their perceived needs or wants.

A Christian college provides a base of operations for ideas that are counter to a secular culture. It is here that we can communicate clearly and boldly to students that life is not all about them. There is ultimate accountability to the Triune God who is not only Creator of the universe, but also the Creator of them as individuals. As such, He possesses ultimate authority and provides ultimate accountability. This biblical view of the world permeates every aspect of Christian education and is the backdrop that provides meaning and purpose to all of life.

You will not find a biblical worldview being espoused at a secular college. In fact, the goal of many at these institutions will be to disparage and attack the biblical worldview at every opportunity.

2. A Christian College Can Place A Priority Upon the Local Church

There is no statement truer than this.  A healthy, vibrant, New Testament church is the greatest hope for our secular society.  We know that ultimately our hope is in Jesus Christ, but He is using His church to accomplish His work on earth at this present time. All of the Christian colleges in the world cannot replace the church.

This is one thing that I love most about Trinity Baptist College, we are a ministry of a local church. We are partners with Trinity Baptist Church and committed to working alongside the church to accomplish a mission that is bigger than us. One of the greatest things that we as a college can do for our students is to instill in them a love for the church. This is a natural relationship for us. Our students have ample opportunity to connect with, serve in and develop a love for the church.

We have failed to accomplish a major portion of our mission if a student leaves Trinity Baptist College and has not recognized the need for being deeply involved in a local church. If they are not seeing that modeled by our faculty and staff, then we are missing the bigger picture. As a college, we have the privilege of connecting them to the work that God is doing and also demonstrating for them how to be involved directly in that work.

3. A Christian College Can Provide Greater Significance to Education

In essence, I am stating that everything I have articulated to this point provides a depth and substance to the education process that is eternal. Learning is a positive thing. Going to college and earning a degree is a positive thing. However, if the only purpose of my education is to improve my earning capacity or better provide for the physical needs of others, there may be a temporary and earthly benefit, but it is devoid of eternal value.

By providing an education within the context of eternal truths, students are able to take the knowledge and opportunities that come along with a college degree and use all of that to advance the cause of Christ. We recognize that not every TBC graduate will be a pastor, youth pastor, or missionary in a full-time capacity, but all of our students, if they have professed faith in Christ, have been assigned the same biblical mission, to be kingdom multipliers.  As a Christian college, we have the ability to frame the entire educational process within the scope of this larger mission.

Final Thought:

It is truly a blessing to be involved in the work of a Christian college. I am more committed to this task than I have ever been and I am seeing the benefits and opportunities like never before. Please pray for our college that God will continue to use it as we prepare students for life and ministry.

Photo Credit: Prabhu B Doss /  license terms