David Griffin: Preparing the next generation of church leaders

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David Griffin has been the director of the Baptist Student Ministry at East Texas Baptist University since 2018. From deep in the heart of one Texan, he shares his background and thoughts on church and ministry. To suggest a Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated minister to be featured in this column, or to apply to be featured yourself, click here.

Background

Where else have you served in ministry, and what were your positions there?

I was at Sam Houston State University as the director for seven years and four years at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center before that.

Where did you grow up?

Spring, Texas

How did you come to faith in Christ?

I grew up in the church. All of my family members were Christians. My great-grandparents on one side even moved to the United States to be missionaries to the Bohemian population living near Chicago at that time. After years of hearing the gospel, I began to be gripped by a call from God to surrender my life to him. So, in 8th grade at a youth camp, that is what I did.

Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?

I went to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor for a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in finance. But more than anything, I received a degree in college ministry from Shawn Shannon and George Loutherback. I served as the president of the BSM as a junior and the student body as a senior.

After this, wanting to get a firm grounding in ministry, I pursued theological education at Dallas Theological Seminary. I studied all 66 books of the Bible, looked deeply into both systematic and historical theology, studied the Bible in the original languages, and took courses for ministry preparation. I earned a Master of Theology degree with an emphasis in higher education administration.

Today, I am pursuing a doctoral degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. It is a phenomenal program focused on the study of Scripture.

About ministry

Why do you feel called into campus ministry?

I feel like my calling is to prepare the next generation to become leaders for the church.

What is your favorite aspect of campus ministry? Why?

I love to see college students “get it.” College students are at the perfect age to realize there is more to the Christian life than salvation and sin management. I love to see students get captivated with an understanding that God has called us to be on mission for him.

What priorities or goals guide your ministry?

My priorities are the teaching of Scripture and the offering of service experiences where they can share the gospel.

When students understand how to study Scripture and come to trust in Scripture, they will be set for life. Additionally, when students share the gospel, they walk in concert with the Spirit of God and begin to understand what we are all called to.

What is the most exciting or joyful thing that has happened in your ministry?

You get to stand at the crossroads of life with the next generation of leaders! What could be more exciting than that?

I also love to help students catch a vision for what God wants them to do with their lives. It is always a joy-filled moment when a student I have been working with tells me they are pursuing ministry or are headed to seminary.

What is the most heartbreaking thing that has happened in your ministry?

Well, having had two former students commit suicide is likely the hardest and most heartbreaking thing I have gone through. Today, those events testify to the great need for discipleship and one-on-one ministry. Sometimes a great referral to a counselor is needed.

Based upon what you have observed from campus ministry, what do you think about the future of our country and/or world?

I believe the future of our country is bright. Sure, on the college campus we face great and false counter-claims to the gospel, but our BSM students are grounded in truth and growing more passionate in sharing their faith—far more than I was when I was in college.

Based upon what you have observed from campus ministry, what do you think about the future of the church?

Like many observers today, I see many churches closing their doors. It’s a sad reality, but like every person, every organization has a life-cycle. Churches that fail to plan strategically to become missional will continue to diminish and eventually shut their doors.

This issue will not be solved by catering to every whim and popular belief of society, but rather, it will be solved only by taking the gospel to the people of each community. The gospel is the only antidote for lostness. I fear many in ministry today are more concerned with telling people that God already accepts them than that we are all sinners in desperate need of a Savior.

If you could launch any new ministry, what would it be? Why?

A church. There is no greater tool for outreach than church planting.

About David

Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?

Shawn Shannon and George Loutherback were and are still today the most influential mentors in my life. Both have taught me that the best ministry one could ever do is personal. Unless you are working personally with your people, you really aren’t having full impact.

What is the impact of your ministry on your family?

There is no doubt that ministry, like many other vocations, has a huge impact on our families. Because of that, I work hard to protect my family time, always take vacations and attempt to invest in my three boys.

Name some of your favorite non-biblical books or authors and explain why.

Not sure I can give you all of them, but I am a fairly big fan of Tolkien and Lewis. They wrote grand stories, much like our grand story of being missionaries for the gospel—should you accept it.

Recently, I read through Steal Away Home by Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey. It is a fantastic biography of Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson that highlights how the unlikely pair united and saved one another in their respective time of need.

Other than Jesus, who is your favorite Bible character? Why?

Joseph. God worked in his life in ways he could never explain. If we awake to the reality of what God is doing and stay faithful, God also will lead us to great challenges and opportunities to make his name great.


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