Ask a college pastor for a selfie and this is what you get! Love Marshall and how he answered these questions:
You’ve done college ministry in Raleigh-Durham and DC. How are they similar? Different?
I would say that one of the main differences is that this context lacks the “cultural Christianity” that is prominent on campuses in the Bible Belt. That’s not to say that ministry is “easier” or “harder” in either context. People who grow up in the South need the gospel too! I simply mean that our conversations about Jesus here have a different starting point because a lot of students are coming in with different assumptions about who he is and what it means to follow him.
One of the major similarities is the passion that college students bring to the table when they’re bought into a vision. In my experience, the majority of college students out there are looking for a place to belong and a purpose to live for. When they find those, they set the standard for all of us in energy, faithfulness, and zeal. And there’s nothing greater, more fulfilling, or more worthy of that devotion than Jesus and his church!
When it comes to this fall at GW, what are you most excited about?
Well, it’s hard to narrow it down to one specific thing that makes me most excited. But, if I had to choose, I would say I’m pumped about how many incoming students we’ve already had the opportunity to connect with. This is the first year we’ve gone into the school year having already met some first year students and filled them in on our vision for our community on campus. So I’m excited to welcome them and I’m praying that they’ll be excited about what we’re doing at GW!
You’re a pretty recent seminary grad. What advice would you give to someone thinking of going to seminary?
Yes! The winding journey of seminary has come to a close for me. I have the sheet of paper to prove it.
Seminary was a key part of my growth over the past few years, both in theological understanding and practical ministry philosophy. My main piece of advice for someone going into or thinking about seminary would be to make participation in a local church a priority. Find a place to serve and a community to be actively involved in during your studies! Seminaries are incredibly valuable for teaching the foundational ideas underneath our ministries, but the local church is where we learn to put those ideas into action for the good of others and the glory of God. Simply put, your education is incomplete if you have the classroom without the local church.
What’s the most impactful mission trip you’ve ever been on and why?
I’m really thankful to have had the opportunity to go on several trips to see how God is building his kingdom in different parts of the world. If I had to pick one of the most impactful, I would pick the trip that I took with some college students to India during my first year of college ministry. We had an amazing time getting to know and serve the team and the local believers, as well as getting to see what life and ministry is like for followers of Jesus in their context.
For me, this was also the first trip where we took a more active role in ministry by getting out and having as many conversations with people about our faith as possible. I shared the gospel more times over those two weeks than I had during my entire life up to that point. That aspect of the trip impacted me in a way that went beyond merely a cultural experience or a glimpse into someone else’s ministry. It challenged and equipped me to bring that kind of intentionality in relationships back into my day-to-day life here in the United States.
What do you do for fun?
My main hobby of choice is basketball. On my ideal off day, you’ll find me playing pick-up at a park or gym nearby (Hit me up if you want to play sometime!). I love catching a good movie too, particularly one that makes me laugh, pulls me in with a compelling story, or gives me a mystery to wrap my mind around. I’m also a big fan of live music, whether that’s in an arena or a coffee shop. I try not to miss my favorite artists in concert when they come through the area.
What podcasts are you listening to these days?
Oh, this is tricky because I’ve been binging a couple different podcasts over the past few months. I’ll share two. First, each week I’ve been listening to the sermons from Renovation Church in Atlanta. Pastor Lèonce Crump and his team do great job preaching God’s Word in a captivating way that helps listeners grow in their understanding of the text and how it applies to our world and our lives here and now.
I’m also a fan of Malcolm Galdwell’s Revisionist History, in which he takes a look at something from the past – an event, a person, an idea – in order to see how it has been overlooked or misunderstood. Gladwell is known for exploring unnoticed or unconventional perspectives, so it’s interesting to hear his thoughts on such a wide range of topics – from how people reading the same intelligence briefings reach radically different conclusions to how the direction of educational philanthropy in America may be misguided to just what makes old school country music songs so sad. I’ve found each episode thought-provoking.
Give us three Scriptures we can be praying for you and your work with college students.
Here are three things I would love prayer for as we enter a new school year of ministry. I’ll also be putting together a 14 Days of Prayer guide as we approach the start of the semester, so feel free to shoot me an email if you would like to pray through that with us.
“And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’”Matthew 4:19
Pray that we would faithfully follow Jesus as he leads us to connect with, invest in, and care for students. Pray especially for our outreach to the campus during the first two weeks of the semester, which is a crucial time to connect with new students.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5
Pray that we would not seek to do anything by our own ability and wisdom, but fully rely on Jesus for our strength, rest, and hope as we strive to make him known.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”Matthew 13:44
Pray that students on campuses in DC and Northern Virginia would see Jesus as more valuable than anything else we could ever achieve, pursue, or devote ourselves to. Pray for a movement of students who live with him as their greatest treasure!