A Brief Thought on Longevity, Fame, and Ministry #collegiateministry

1069420_10151748274956183_2002977921_nLast weekend Sojourn gathered the Providence and Boston teams for a defacto board meeting. Most of our time was spent gleaning wisdom and inspiration from Rick Harper. If I told you all the details, I’d have to kill you. Suffice it to say: we had fun.

Rick Harper is the most unique people you will meet in campus ministry, or perhaps any kind of ministry for that matter.
He dips.
He swears.
He uses bizarre analogies.
He cries a lot.
His heart bleeds for the broken and left out, the marginalized and the hurting.
He’s been doing this for 27 years all at the same campus (Georgia Tech).
He plays up his “hickness” but the dude is brilliant.
He’s humble and arrogant at the same time. He might be the most interesting man in the world.

In the campus ministry world Rick generates strong opinions. Some don’t like him (mostly for the swearing and the dipping). Some love him. I’ll drop a couple of facts here and let you draw your own conclusions:

  1. He’s grown the ministry at Tech from 0 to where they now reach 1000 students on a weekly basis.
  2. His ministry at Tech created and launched Globalscope which is planting college ministries all over the globe.
  3. Having done this for 27 years his discipleship tree is HUGE.
  4. This is my favorite: over 200 marriages performed from kids out of the ministry, and only 3 divorces.

I’m in the camp that loves Rick Harper, primarily because he is so passionate about reaching the “notorious sinner” kids and leading them to Jesus.

But, I am growing to respect something else about Rick, something that feels so fresh and unusual in our current ministry culture.

If anyone should have book deals and speaking gigs it should be Rick.
The man churns out top-quality disciples of Jesus like few other people I’ve ever met.
Yet, he’s never written anything down, let alone written a book.
He doesn’t do traveling speaking gigs. He’s not a keynote speaker at conferences.
He doesn’t have a twitter account, let alone thousands of followers.

What I see happening, all too often, is that we replace the hard work of disciple-making with celebrity.
I’m not the first one to point this out.
And in all honesty, I get tempted by the celebrity minister machine (and here I am writing a blog about it).

But it’s way easier to spend a life tweeting, blogging, writing some books, and doing some gigs than it is to pour yourself out for college students (or anyone) year after year after year.

Do we care more about making our name great or about making disciples?

Rick will tell you all he wants is a well done from Jesus when he goes and a bunch of people to celebrate his life when he’s gone. They are going to have to rent out the Georgie Dome for Harper when his time comes.

And I find that infinitely more interesting and inspiring than 10,000 followers on twitter.

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