ESN Update: March 2010

Emerging Scholars Find Connections, Encouragement at Urbana 2009

Thank you for your prayers leading up to Urbana 09! Nearly 16,000 delegates attended this year’s missions conference. Many people testified that students were earnestly seeking God’s will for their lives.

Urbana Exhibit Hall. Click for a larger image.

More than 250 students attended my seminar, “Serving Christ as a Professor: Ten Things You Need to Know.” Throughout the rest of the week, many students thanked me for the encouragement and vision they received toward their academic vocation.

At the end of my seminar, Ken Elzinga, professor of economics at the University of Virginia stood to offer words of encouragement to future professors. Passionate about Jesus, his research, and his students, Ken recently wrote “Being Open About Your Faith Without Turning People Off” for our Faculty Ministry website. Ken will also be the main speaker at our 2010 Midwest Faculty Conference, so it’s fitting that he provided the perfect ending to my seminar.

More than 100 new members joined ESN at our exhibitors booth. We met everyone you could imagine: professors from California, PhD candidates from the Ivy League, freshmen from the Big Ten, and even a philosophy major from Japan!

Mike with a student. Click for larger image.

My InterVarsity colleague Tom Grosh and I hosted a reception for ESN members. (See below for more about Tom.) About 35 students and faculty packed our small suite. David Vosburg, an ESN mentor who teaches chemistry at a leading liberal arts college in Southern California, spoke with a cluster of science students. Meanwhile, students and faculty in fields like music, computer science, and literature connected with one other – a great example of the network part of ESN.

Among the faculty I met at Urbana was an InterVarsity alumna and new education professor here in Greater Cincinnati. Just a couple of weeks after Urbana, she shared the gospel with one of her academic colleagues – during an instant message conversation! This happened because her colleague asked a very natural question – How do you stay encouraged? – and she made the most of every opportunity. Join me in praying for her continued witness and more opportunities for ESN members to be salt and light within the academy.

Pennsylvania Partnerships

Tom at Urbana. Click for the full image.

God has given the Emerging Scholars Network an enormous vision – 20% of America’s professors following Christ by the year 2035. Fortunately, many people within InterVarsity and in other Christian organizations share this vision, and work with ESN in a variety of ways. Let me tell you about two of them in the state of Pennsylvania.

Tom Grosh is an experienced InterVarsity campus minister who spend over 10 years of ministry in Pittsburgh and throughout Pennsylvania. In 2009, Tom launched the Central Pennsylvania Christian Scholars Network, an ESN pilot project that brings together faculty, students, and others from several campuses for quarterly events.

At their most recent event, on February 28, Donald Kraybill, a nationally known expert on the Amish and a faculty member at Elizabethtown College, spoke on “The Sociology of Faith.” The event was even covered in the local paper. What a great quote from Dr. Kraybill:

“Each academic discipline raises different questions for (Christians who are involved in those disciplines),” he explained. “I’ll be talking about some of the issues I’ve struggled with as a Christian and as a sociologist (and about) the ways that I, as a Christian, can teach sociology.”

Tom also helps me write the Emerging Scholars Blog. Praise God for such a great partner in ministry! Pray for God to raise up more visionary staff like Tom to lead ESN projects around the country.

On February 19–21, I travelled to Pittsburgh for Jubilee, an annual student conference put on by the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO). CCO serves students throughout Pennsylvania and surrounding states. Jubilee challenges students to follow Christ with their whole lives, their studies, and their careers. The conference organizers helped me gather current and new ESN members for an early Sunday breakfast. Additionally, one of our more active ESN members – Jimmy Lin, a PhD/MD student at Johns Hopkins – presented a seminar called “Why All Doctors Must Believe in God.” I interviewed Jimmy for an ESN blog post, so that more students could hear his passion and insight. Praise God for the good that has already come from Jubilee, and pray for ESN to have a bigger role at next year’s Jubilee.

Prayer Calendar

Throughout March and April: I have been asked by InterVarsity’s leadership to create a 25-page research document about the next 5 to 10 years of university life and new trends that will impact campus ministry. This document will help guide IVCF’s next 5-year strategic plan. Pray for God to direct my study and writing during this important time.

March 22–25: InterVarsity’s national leadership meetings. Pray for wisdom as we seek God’s will for our lives and our ministry.

March 30: InterVarsity is rebuilding all of its ministry websites, including the two that I oversee (, This is the deadline for proposing our new design. Pray for my leadership of this key project.

April 9–10: Cincinnati Christian University’s Stone-Campbell Conference. The conference brings together hundreds of current and future scholars from Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. Pray for me as I encourage them to become redeeming influences within secular universities.

April 26–30: National meetings for Graduate & Faculty Ministry staff (Chicago). Pray especially for fundraising training I’ll receive on April 26 & 27.

May 11–16: I will be in Georgia for the IVCF Southeast Chapter Camp, helping lead ESN’s new “Getting Ready for Grad School” seminar for juniors and seniors. Pray for God to move powerfully in students’ lives during this week and for this new project to become a standard part of InterVarsity camps.

Thank You!

Thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement.  The next few months will be critical. By June 30, I need to raise at least $18,000 to carry ESN’s ministry into the next academic year. As I mentioned in my last prayer letter, InterVarsity has generously granted me a $4,000 match for all new donations between now and June 30.  Would you consider a gift to support ESN’s work among students and faculty? Donate online by clicking here.

In Christ,


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