Today I am introducing a new series on my blog. I find people and their stories fascinating. Therefore, I thought it would be fun to conduct brief interviews and share some fruits of those conversations. These will appear periodically on my blog. I am going to begin with Dr. Barry Sproles. So without further ado, here we go.
- Who are you, and what do you do? My name is Barry Sproles, and I am the Florida State University Baptist Collegiate Ministry director. That means that I have the task of making disciples on the campuses of Tallahassee as an extension of Florida Baptist Churches. Within that, I exist to serve the churches of Tallahassee, and we do that through a variety of ways, on-campus and off-campus.
- In your work with college students, what would you say is the greatest spiritual need of college students today? If we are speaking generally, the vast majority of college students are unbelieving, so their greatest need is to hear the Gospel and respond to that gospel message. For Christian college students, it is understanding the vital role the local church plays in their spiritual development. They need to see their campus ministries as an extension of the local church, knowing that there is no such thing as discipleship apart from the local church, and to that end, churches and campus ministries need to come together in more intentional ways to make sure that could be actualized in their life.
- How can the local church be involved in that process? First, for our ministry, it starts with getting together and getting to know one another. As relationships develop, the individual needs that every church has—each one is a little different—become apparent. We can customize our efforts to the need of the local church and they can customize their ministries to the students. More than anything, just being present around the students helps. It is interesting that the more time a pastor spends around college students in the BCM or church, the more the Lord gives clarity of what those ministries should look like.
- Over the last 3-4 months, what are some books you are reading? I recently started reading Cal Newport’s, So Good They Can’t Ignore You. A second book is the biography of Bubba Watson, Up and Down, the golfer from Pensacola who is a believer. I saw someone recommend that on Twitter. I am also reading the book of Jonah as I teach through it. Does that count?
- If you could encourage Christians to read one book, aside from the Bible, what would that be? I’m inclined to try and impress you and give you a puritan title (grins widely), but I won’t do that. Any book on biblical spirituality is a win, but I’m pretty biased, so I would say Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian lifeis a fantastic book. It’s a little more exhaustive than some would prefer, but that’s really the book’s win. Whitney gives you a lot more spiritual disciplines than just the typical ones, which are vital. What makes it worthwhile is his emphasis on the participation in the local church as a spiritual discipline. He also writes pretty extensively on the spiritual discipline of fasting. While there are other resources on fasting that exist, there are not many. You might even say it is the lost discipline. Whitney writes extensively on that. In fact, lately, several of my students have even finished the book, and they considered that chapter exceptionally helpful.
Bonus: How can we pray for your ministry and college students at Florida State? This connects with the 2nd question. Obviously, pray for students to be converted, discipled, and to grow in their walk with Jesus. Pray that they would grow as students of the Word and prayer. Next, ask God how your church can meaningfully disciple college students in the ordinary rhythms of their church life. What does that look like? The truth is that lostness is profound, not just in Tallahassee, but at all of our universities. And the few evangelical ministries and churches engaging them are just not enough. It’s an all-hands-on-deck effort. You are serving well by praying about how you can meaningfully disciple college students.