Historical leaders cast vision, building on the directors of their past and making their own revelation for the future. The student-led organization, Focus, sponsored by the Baptist Student Ministry, has been built on by many, and new leaders leave their marks behind.
Focus meets every Wednesday at 8:28 p.m. in Manning Chapel. Since August, the ministry has concentrated on a new yearning for the campus. Sophomore theology and philosophy major Joe Giles is the current student coordinator and has been a part of the ministry since his freshman year.
“I got involved with Focus very quickly. In the first two weeks, I was just doing slides, and then, not even halfway through the semester, I was going to the planning meetings.”
Giles has been able to see a change in Focus within the last year— a new thirst for God.
“There has been much more emphasis on prayer, but beyond that, I think the big change is with the hearts of the students coming,” he said.
In the past, students mainly gathered to socialize, but now Giles said their reason for attending has changed the overall feel of worship.
“It’s a different atmosphere than last year. This year there is a hunger, such a hunger that people are meeting before hand to pray,” he said.
The idea of worship has taken a new shape.
“(It) is not a building, speaker or band. Worship is coming fully and submitting yourself fully to God and what God has in store for you,” Giles said.
When Focus first started this year, Giles had a vision.
“My hope and goal is that people come even hungrier, that it doesn’t stop at Focus, that they don’t think worship is once a week, but they bring worship into their daily lives. And they take their worship experience that they have at Focus, and . . . dive deeper into their own churches.”
His prayer is that every Wednesday night, the Focus team and the speakers are able to provide a place of worship and time to focus on one thing: allowing the passions of the students to expand.
“I don’t want it to stay confined in Manning Chapel. I want it to spark hearts and lives to be able to do what God has called them to do here on this campus and further,” Giles said.
Shawn Shannon, the Baptist Student Ministry director, has been a part the Focus ministry and has also seen changes.
“I have seen an increasing student fingerprints on it that students own it,” she said.
She has observed not only a boost in attendance, but also more variety.
“The Focus crowd used to be primarily underclassmen, but now there is a good cross section of freshmen through seniors and even some adults. It does something to have (them) in the same room eager for the same purpose,” she said.
As the semester continues students have developed bonds with people, and Shannon is thankful for what happens after the meeting is over.
“I think there are some pretty important things that happen after Focus when people commune, hanging around and talking to each other,” she said.
In December, the Focus committee made a decision to change the meeting location to the Manning Chapel. Walton Chapel is a multi-use location on campus. Shannon said, “We are tangible creatures, and we respond to a set-apart place . . . The sanctuary helps us visually and acoustically. It surrounds us with (an) environment that’s primary purpose is for worship.”
Junior recreation major Dennis Greeson said attending Focus is a good way to see how God is moving on campus and in lives.
“I think what’s going to happen at Focus is that the brokenness will come to the surface, and I think it already is revealing itself by our thirst. It’s just going to open us to say, God we need you desperately.”
Over Christmas break he felt something absent in his life and in others’.
“I realized that I was missing prayer, saying God I cannot do this. Only you can. Prayer is that declaration of dependence,”he said. Greeson has recently seen that God is stirring in students’ hearts.
“I went to Focus the first day back this semester, and I heard Jason speak, and I was just blown away saying, ‘My gosh He is doing the same thing in me that He is doing in him and in all these people.’ The worship that I experienced in Focus that night was unlike any other I had felt on this campus before.”
He has recently started a time of prayer open to all on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Taylor 6103.
Greeson said, “The intent is not to have . . . (just) another organization or BSM sponsored thing or community group. The intent (is to) want Christ more than anything else and be thirsty after him with other people, be broken and humbled and be desperate with other people.”