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True Love Waits’ Richard Ross joins Southwestern’s faculty

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–A key architect of the worldwide True Love Waits abstinence campaign is joining the faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Richard Ross, youth ministry consultant for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn., for the past 16 years, will begin teaching in youth ministry at Southwestern in August.

Kenneth S. Hemphill, president of Southwestern Seminary, called Ross’ hiring a coup for the world’s largest seminary.

“Richard Ross is one of the most respected youth leaders in the nation and an incredible visionary,” Hemphill said. “Although he is probably most known for True Love Waits, his vision for the future of youth ministry is even more exciting.”

Hemphill and the seminary’s board of trustees acted quickly to get trustee approval so that Ross could begin teaching in the fall semester. Jim Leftwich, chairman of the trustees’ academic affairs committee, said Ross is the perfect addition to the seminary’s youth department to impact the next generation of youth.

“A lot of us dream, but Ross is a real man of action,” Leftwich said.

“One thing that thrills me about teaching in the classroom is preparing youth ministers who would impact the culture,” Ross told trustees in a meeting July 20. “I’ve always had a heart for a broader ministry to people who minister to young people.”

Henry Webb, director of LifeWay’s pastor-staff leadership department, said, “It’s difficult to measure the tremendous impact Richard has made on the kingdom during his 16 years at LifeWay.

“He has a servant’s heart, is exceptionally creative, a visionary, and he will be greatly missed. We are excited and optimistic about how God can use Richard at the seminary and how he’ll continue to be able to partner with LifeWay,” Webb said.

In the meeting with Southwestern’s trustees, Ross noted many spiritual awakenings have come as a result of youth movements. If students make it out of high school unsaved, Ross said, they have a much smaller chance of accepting Jesus Christ.

“We’ve got to get youth involved to speed up the soul-winning process,” he told trustees.

Ross said he believes his transition to Southwestern Seminary mirrors six fresh movements of God.

First, he hopes it will become normal for Southern Baptist students in high school and college to spend a semester on the mission field.

“I believe God intends for Southern Baptists to call out every student to give a summer, semester or year in missions service before graduating from high school or college,” Ross said. “I want to prepare youth ministers and pastors to issue the call, and I want to champion Southwestern becoming a training and orientation center for students about to depart on their mission.”

He hopes all new parents will start a missions savings account, similar to an education savings account, to help their children go to the mission field. “If most students go, it would total about 160,000 a year,” Ross said. “This would speed up the Great Commission harvest.”

Second, he hopes Southwestern will partner with LifeWay to keep an emphasis on moral purity and intensify that message on the seminary campus.

“I believe God intends to call out a second ‘generation’ of students who will stand strong for moral purity,” he said. “Their older brothers and sisters are now placing wedding bands beside their True Love Waits rings, so it is time for new teenagers to pick up the torch of purity. I want to do all I can in partnership with LifeWay to keep this challenge before students and families.”

Third, Ross said he wants to see Southwestern become a place where young people come for evangelism and missions conferences on weekends. If parents will drive their children to Austin for championship wrestling matches, he believes they’ll bring them to Southwestern for great evangelism and missions training.

“I believe the bold teenagers appearing in most youth groups are beginning to chaff from being called ‘the church of tomorrow,'” Ross said. “They enjoy youth week but increasingly are frustrated the other 51 weeks of the year. Through the seminary classroom, I want to prepare ministers to place teenagers in significant leadership roles and challenging ministries now, not just in the future. Banana splits and lock-ins have their place, but more and more members of this generation would rather help change the world.”

Fourth, Ross said signs are evident that God might be preparing to bring a “sweeping awakening” to America through students.

“Without doubt we now deserve his severest judgment, but perhaps in his mercy he is planning to send revival,” Ross said. “Through the seminary I want to help launch youth ministers who feel awe in knowing they may be ministering with the revival generation.”

Fifth, Ross said he believes it was God’s Holy Spirit at YouthLink 2000 who called 5,000 students into church ministry vocations and another 10,000 students as career missionaries.

“It is God’s progression for me to join the professors who will prepare those very students for the callings they have received,” he added.

Sixth, he believes God is about to move among the parents of teenagers.

“I have spent most of my life at the bottom of a cliff, bandaging bleeding teenagers who have walked off the precipice of life. I now want to go to the top of the cliff and build a strong fence to stop them from falling,” he said.

That fence will be parents who have been inspired and trained to become the primary spiritual leaders in the lives of their children, Ross said.

“That fence will be parents who have been trained to apply biblical principles of parenting that launch spiritually and emotionally healthy young adults. With new flexibility in my travel, I want to be out among those parents, building fences wherever I can,” he continued.

Ross and his wife, LaJuana, have served side by side in local church youth ministry the past 30 years. He calls her a vital part of his ministry.

Ross earned a master of religious education and a Ph.D. in youth ministry from Southwestern Seminary. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene, Texas. Ross taught as an adjunct professor at Southwestern for four years. He has written or compiled 16 books on youth ministry, many of which have been classroom texts in Southern Baptist colleges and seminaries.

Ross is well known for serving as a key architect of the True Love Waits campaign.

“I always use the term ‘spokesperson’ rather than ‘founder,'” Ross says. “God was the founder.”

“Dr. Phil Briggs and Dr. Wes Black are acknowledged pillars in SBC youth ministry,” Ross said. “I am humbled and excited about standing on their shoulders as we impact the next generation of youth ministers.”

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  • David Porter