READY TO GO: It’s More Than Our Campaign—It’s Our Calling
I love watching heroes-in-the-making.
Of course, I always wanted to be a hero-in-the-making. As a child, I was profoundly unheroic, a glasses-wearing nerdy kid with pencil-thin arms and a paper-thin chest. Do you remember the old TV show Family Matters? I was a white Steve Urkel.
But when Superman swooped into the theaters (the 1978 Christopher Reeve classic), my eight-year-old imagination was captured! I, too, wanted to fly like the Man of Steel, bend iron bars with my bare hands, and watch bullets bounce off my massive Kryptonian chest. Mostly, I wanted pectorals big enough to handle that giant red S. At age eight, my chest could only handle skinny letters like a lowercase l or i.*
Alas, I never became that hero, so instead I watched others become heroic. I tuned in to the TV show Smallville as young Clark Kent gradually came of age and donned the cape. I watched Young Indiana Jones to follow the formation of the future Nazi-fighter and Young Sherlock Holmes to see a teenage stripling slowly become the super sleuth.
Over twelve years and twenty-some films, Marvel Studios told the story of a band of heroes—the Avengers—who battle evil to save the world. But here’s what I kept going to the theater to watch: each hero struggling to become who they were meant to be.
If you’ve seen the movies, you know: Peter Parker grows from tentative teenager to seasoned Spiderman. Black Widow transforms from deceptive spy to loyal leader. Thor starts as arrogant heir to become humbled teammate. Bruce Banner moves from conflicted Jekyll-and-Hyde to integrated Professor Hulk, and Tony Stark matures from selfish playboy into sacrificial protector.
Those movies made over $20 billion, so maybe I’m not the only one who likes watching heroes-in-the-making.
Kingdom Workers Under Construction
Marvel, of course, borrowed their plot from an older, truer tale. The New Testament tells the story of Jesus, but it also tells of a band of heroes—the Apostles—who battle evil to save the world. In Acts 2, we see them filled with supernatural power to begin preaching in Jerusalem, driving back the kingdom of darkness.
Eventually (church tradition tells us) that battle takes Philip to North Africa, Thomas to India, Matthew to Iran, Andrew to “the land of the man-eaters” in Russia, John to Asia Minor, Paul to Greece, and Peter to Rome. They go with the gospel on their lips and the Spirit in their hearts, and ultimately they “turn the world upside down.” (Acts 17:6)
But first, each had his own life turned upside down.
The recent television series The Chosen tells the story of Christ, but part of the series’ power is its portrayal of the apostles’ transformation. The famous followers aren’t yet ready for their world-changing task, so Jesus shepherds and shapes them. We watch as:
- James and John learn to let go of ethnic prejudice to see all races through Jesus’ eyes.
- Simon the Zealot lays aside political fervor to embrace Jesus’ mission.
- Mary Magdalene overcomes past trauma to receive Jesus’ healing.
- Matthew matures from insecure outsider to confident companion of Christ.
- Simon Peter grows from self-trusting survivor to Jesus-trusting martyr.
Jesus spent his three-year ministry refining these future faith leaders, and every time I watch an episode of these kingdom workers under construction, I think of our students at Ozark.
This fall, we again welcomed hundreds of students who want to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Over the last twenty-five years, I’ve watched our students—like the apostles themselves—take the gospel to the globe: Kentucky and Kenya, New York and New Zealand, Boston and Beijing, Alabama and Afghanistan. I’m confident these 2021 freshmen will someday continue that world-changing mission.
But right now, they’re not ready. Like those young Galilean fishermen so long ago, they need taught, encouraged, challenged, healed, and equipped.
Aaron Brockett did.
Before and After Pictures
The Before Picture: Aaron Brockett did not want to be a preacher. A quiet, shy kid, he got Cs and Ds in high school speech, and when his youth minister asked him to pray out loud for the youth group, he refused. Why would he want to talk for a living?
But Aaron had no other plans, so when a friend invited him to Ozark, Aaron shrugged and agreed. Bible college is, as Oswald Chambers said, “where God helps himself to lives,” and during his freshman year, under a conviction from God, Aaron reluctantly accepted an invitation to preach his first sermon at a little church in Arkansas. That Sunday morning, he walked shaking to the pulpit with a 25-page manuscript in hand.
He finished the sermon in eight minutes.
When he sat down afterward, he prayed, “God, that was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. When can I do it again?”
The After Picture: Today, Aaron Brockett is the preacher at Traders Point Christian Church in Indianapolis, and his relevant, straightforward teaching of God’s Word is one reason the church has grown from 2,000 to over 10,000.
Our job at Ozark is to get Great Commission leaders “ready to go,” and one of the great joys of my twenty-five years has been watching “before” pictures develop into “after” pictures: freshmen who didn’t know the name Nicodemus later quoting all of John 3 from memory, cocky teenagers becoming humble servants, timid public speakers becoming powerful preachers, trendy mirror-checking girls becoming selfless missionaries, raw abilities becoming razor-honed gifts, stand-in-the-corner students becoming take-charge-of-the-task leaders, broken lives being healed and then healing others.
When I—often years later—visit these graduates, I see hundreds and thousands of lives changed through their ministries, and I remember back to when they walked in as baby-faced freshmen. My eyes well with tears knowing we got to play a part in preparing them, and my heart swells with gratitude at how God is using them now to save the world.
I love watching heroes-in-the-making.
The Ready to Go Campaign
That’s why we are publicly launching a new three-year capital campaign called “Ready to Go.” The funds raised will help us get more kingdom heroes “ready to go” with the gospel to a lost world. Specifically, the campaign is funding three initiatives:
- Student Grants ($1.7 million) We praise God that OCC is entering its eleventh straight year debt free. But the recent pandemic resulted in two smaller freshmen classes, which will affect our next few yearly budgets. These dollars will give our general fund a little extra help—underwriting international and need-based student grants the next three years—to prepare those students while keeping us debt free.
- Graduate Program Launch ($400,000) We are often contacted by those with a bachelor’s degree in another field but who have now heard God’s call to ministry. They want biblical ministry training, so in fall 2022, we are launching a graduate program to do for them what our undergraduate program does for traditional students: train them for Christian service. These dollars will help with the new program’s initial start-up costs. (Check out occ.edu/masters for more.)
- Dorm Renovation ($3.8 million) Our six dorms—three men’s, three women’s—are over fifty years old, and like me, they’re showing their age. So over the next several summers, these dollars will help our ongoing project of renovating these dorms with things like new plumbing, electric, HVAC, windows, bathrooms, carpet, paint, and room furniture. We want a welcoming place for students to stay as they get ready to go.
The Ready to Go campaign’s total goal is $5.9 million. The good news: by God’s grace, we already have $4.7 million committed!
In the campaign’s advance phase, many generous donors shared their excitement for Ozark’s focused vision—training Great Commission leaders—and shared their resources to move that mission forward.
Now as we launch the campaign’s public phase, it’s your turn. I hope you’ll prayerfully consider being a part.
I never did become Superman. But during my student years at Ozark, I did get my own little taste of the hero-making process. Under teachers like Mark Scott and Wilbur Fields, Jackina Stark and J.K. Jones, Harvey Bacus and Kenny Boles, I was stretched and refined. I came in a naïve, shallow, sometimes-self-righteous kid. Five years later, I walked out with a humbler attitude, sharpened gifts, a deeper faith, and a strong commitment to preach the gospel.
I’m still no hero. But Ozark prepared me to play my little part in saving the world, and Katie and I joined the Ready to Go campaign so Ozark can do that for the next generation.
Will you help prepare more heroes-in-the-making?
*Ortberg, John. The Life You’ve Always Wanted. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997.