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Lunchtime Bible study & prayer help grow university-based church

NORFOLK, Va., (BP)–Every Tuesday around noon, professors at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., gather for a lunchtime of a different sort. Representing a variety of academic disciplines, denominational backgrounds and ethnic origins, the professors share more than a meal. They share the bread of life through the common denominator of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

“We have professors from all over the world and from many different denominations gather for Bible study and prayer,” said Mark Reon, organizer of the luncheon and a church planter supported by the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia through Cooperative Program missions giving.

Librarians, secretaries, campus maintenance personnel and even some students also attend the Bible study that has drawn as many as two dozen evangelical Christians, Reon said.

The SBC of Virginia provides a sack lunch, and Reon invites pastors from local churches to lead in the Bible study. Reon also provides an electronic prayer request forum for the professors via e-mail. Following the Bible study, faculty members conclude the meeting by huddling together in groups of two or three and praying for each other’s requests.

“That’s what this lunch is really about,” said ODU professor Lytton Musselman, “sharing our concerns with each other and then sharing them with the Lord in prayer.”

“The Bible study is one part of an overall strategy to reach this campus for Christ,” said Reon, who, with the help of a few others, planted a church on ODU’s campus last October called Cross Roads Church.

“The historical roots of America’s earliest universities are buried deep in the soil of Judeo-Christian belief and tradition,” Reon said. “What we’re trying to do here is turn some fallow ground on this campus into a place where we can, with God’s blessings, cultivate relationships, win students to Christ, develop disciples and plant a productive church.”

Since planting Cross Roads Church, 30 people have professed faith in Christ, and nine have been baptized, some in their home churches.

Cross Roads averages about 50 in its Sunday worship services, which are geared more toward believers, Reon said. “Sunday is worship time, not seeker time. It’s a time for God’s people to sing praises to God and to get deeply involved in his Word and be strongly discipled.

“But our Monday night service is much more evangelistic and might be better characterized as a seeker-type service. For that we average around 60.”

Reflecting on his initial concept of Cross Roads Church, Reon said he saw it “as a church that ministered exclusively to students. But reaching out to Christians on the faculty and having lunch with them every week has challenged me spiritually and mentally. They have helped me develop strategies to reach students and advised me in ways I never considered before.”

Musselman — who attends Cross Roads and is also the faculty liaison for it — said he is especially pleased to hear the praise chorus, “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High,” ringing through the halls of ODU’s science building on Sundays.

Reon said his goal is for others to “hear it on a daily basis in all the hallways as converts come to know the Lord and walk with him.”

Kempsville Baptist Church of Virginia Beach, Va., where SBCV President Kelly Burris is pastor, co-sponsored Cross Roads with the SBC of Virginia.

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  • Norm Miller