I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about leadership; our conversation centered around leaders. This gentleman is a little older than I am and quite a bit more experienced. He has pastored in multiple states, served in large churches, and served as a university president. This man knows what it takes to be a strong leader. During our conversation he said, “Jeremy, where are all the leaders?” and that has stuck with me.
There are many opinions on what makes a strong leader. There are many Christian or ministry specific books as well as secular books that seek to influence on the subject. Depending on which camp you fall in, your style of leadership will be marked by the fingerprints of a particular leadership style and influence. For my life and for my call it is important that the fingerprints that mark my leadership style and what type of leader I am to be that of Jesus and those that seek to honor and pursue Him.
It is troubling to find ourselves in this place of seeing a void in strong leaders and leadership. So, when there is an example of someone doing it the right way, I believe it is a cause for honor and celebration. I am entering my eighth year as the campus minister for the University of Arkansas Monticello Baptist Collegiate Ministry (UAM BCM).
When I came on board, one of the first people I was encouraged to link up with was the campus minister at Henderson State University (HSU) BCM. Jared Farley was entering his second year as the director of HSU BCM after a stint as interim after graduating from HSU. I immediately was drawn to Jared, as a person, and as a leader. One of my first opportunities to see him lead was when he agreed to come help me lead a prayer gathering at our BCM. Jared was and is a man dedicated to prayer. Soon after this, Jared and I decided to join our groups together for our spring break missions trip to New Orleans. During that week I was able to see Jared love, serve, and lead his students. Jared led our evangelism training that week. Jared was and is a man dedicated to evangelism. I witnessed how his students lit up whenever he was around them. He inspired them and they followed him. Jared led and continues to lead like Jesus.
While I saw the fingerprints of Jesus on his life, I also saw some things that reminded me of Jared’s campus minister, Neal Nelson. Neal served as the campus minister at HSU BCM for 17 years. I knew Neal through my campus minister, Jeff Noble. Jeff and Neal ministered to college students together here in Arkansas for several years. I was around Jeff more regularly but had the privilege of serving with Neal on a project called “Axis” in Chicago, Illinois, one summer. Jeff and Neal’s way of leading was marked by the fingerprints of Jesus and hundreds of students were impacted by their faithful leadership.
A few of us went on to follow in their footsteps as BCM campus ministers. Current campus ministers Phillip Slaughter at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, and Ben Coulter at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock were discipled by Jeff as well. Neal not only discipled Jared, but also former campus minister at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Tarvoris “Tee” Uzoigwe. Jeff and I have tried multiple times over the years to name those that served under his leadership at UAM that went on to serve in vocational ministry after school but failed to come up with them all. I am sure the same goes for Neal and his time at HSU.
I am thankful for the faithful leadership of Jeff and Neal in the lives of so many. Those fingerprints have marked the life of Jared and me and will hopefully continue to mark young leaders so we will continue to try to lead like Jesus.
Jared just finished his last semester as campus minister at Henderson. Jared, his wife Mary, and their sweet baby girl, Lucy, have headed to Fort Smith, Arkansas, to serve on staff at First Baptist Church in Fort Smith alongside good friend Greg Addison. Jared leaves behind a new legacy of faithful leadership at HSU after following Neal’s model for many years. Kayla Blackburn, a leader developed and discipled under Jared’s leadership will serve as interim director at HSU BCM.
So, when my friend asked, “Jeremy, where are all the leaders?” I can point a finger at my friend Jared, as well as so many in our state and beyond that are marked by the fingerprints of faithful leaders that have led and continue to lead like Jesus.
We are grateful for your faithful service this last decade at HSU, Jared and Mary! I am grateful for leaders like you!