|Baptist Campus Ministry Partners with Future Ministry Leaders
By Margaret Colson
June 19, 2013
ORLANDO (FBC)—On an otherwise ordinary Thursday evening in the spring of 2000, a lifetime of transformation began for a freshman college student who had strayed far from his Christian upbringing.
That night, Jeff McLaughlin, now pastor to young adults at Orlando’s First Baptist Church, responded to an invitation to go to a worship service at The Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) at University of Central Florida. Proudly wearing his fraternity shirt and accompanied by fraternity friends, McLaughlin confessed, “I was trying to find a reason to not like the ministry. I wanted to put up a wall.”
Instead, although his fraternity friends “took off” even before the worship began, the evening “affirmed the love of God for me,” recalled McLaughlin. Several students involved in BCM invited him to dinner after the worship service; McLaughlin went, foregoing a fraternity party that same evening.
“That first night” (at BCM) was huge,” he said.
The next morning, McLaughlin went inactive in his fraternity. Within three weeks, “God cleaned me up” from well-honed smoking and drinking habits, he said.
The young man quickly became immersed in the BCM ministry, serving on the leadership team and soaking in the godly wisdom provided by BCM director Brad Crawford, who had begun serving on the campus in July 1999 and still serves there today.
“It was a great thing to see how the Lord turned Jeff’s life around,” said Crawford, who, even long after McLaughlin’s college graduation, maintains an ongoing relationship with his former student.
In his years with BCM, Crawford has seen such life-changing experiences often.
“BCM is uniquely positioned on college campuses to connect with students at a pivotal time as they are facing and making decisions that will impact the rest of their lives.
“It’s such an encouragement to meet college students, see them grow and mature, and follow their journey as God leads them!” he said.
McLaughlin’s journey led him to intern, while still in college, with a church youth group in the summer of 2001. The temporary position became permanent at summer’s end.
By that October, McLaughlin admitted, “I knew God was calling me into the ministry.”
Just barely out of his teens, McLaughlin, who admittedly had tried “to run from God’s call” turned to Crawford for help in deciphering his ministry call.
McLaughlin discovered that the myriad BCM opportunities “to learn, lead and serve” prepared him well for entering the ministry.
During college and immediately following his graduation, for about 10 years, McLaughlin served in student ministry positions with churches. He joined the First Baptist Orlando staff in November 2011. There, he oversees the ministry to singles and young marrieds.
In his ministry to young adults, many of whom have enjoyed success early in their lives, McLaughlin said that he and his wife try to model the truth that “every position of influence, every blessing is in the hands of God and we will give an account for how we used those things. We point our people toward a culture of generosity.”
In doing so, McLaughlin challenges church members to “leverage their sphere of influence” as they witness and minister to those outside of the Christian faith.
Unafraid to tackle tough issues, McLaughlin also helps both single and married adults deal with “sexual brokenness” in their lives, saying that sexual struggles are “formed habits that have to be replaced with righteous ones.”
“The Drive” is a weekly worship service and Bible study for singles that often attracts unchurched individuals, much like the BCM worship service that turned McLaughlin’s life around as a college student.
In his multi-faceted and always evolving ministry, McLaughlin stated that his overarching desire is “faithfulness to trust God,” a desire that was first sparked in BCM more than a decade ago.