Christian Union Ministry Fellow Leads by Example
by Eileen Scott, Senior Writer
While Christian Union faculty teach rigorous and intellectually rich Bible courses to students at some of the nation's leading universities, they also walk alongside the young adults through troubling times, stressful semesters, and doubts about their faith. Serving as role models and mentors, ministry fellows like Scott Jones open their hearts and lives to students, emulating Christ as they share what it means to live a seeking God lifestyle.
Jones (Cornell '04) holds both a Master of Divinity and Master of Theology from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has been a ministry fellow at Princeton for seven years. He has enjoyed mentoring students and demonstrating what it looks like to be a Christian scholar, a professional, a family man, and, according to one student, "just a cool guy."
"Walking alongside a student for four years, being there for the good and the bad, and watching Christ's formative work up close is one of the greatest joys of my work on campus," said Jones.
For example, for the past four years Jones has mentored two Princeton athletes who have overcome obstacles and now stand ready to lead others.
Blake Thomsen '17 was a shortstop with the Princeton baseball team. He dreamed of being a professional athlete and was enjoying life as an Ivy League student. But two years ago, Thomsen developed a severe hip problem that landed him in a wheelchair and led to two surgeries. His graduation was delayed and his college baseball career was halted. And the dream of playing in the big leagues faded.
With the mentorship and encouragement of Jones, however, Thomsen learned not to be defined by his circumstances, but rather to identify with Christ's suffering.
"Scott was essential in shaping my view of how to suffer," said Thomsen, noting that Jones painted a biblical picture of suffering that reminded him that God uses pain and loss for good.
"I realized that I had a profound opportunity to emulate Jesus in a way that is difficult to do, but was exceptionally powerful," he said.
Thomsen has since recovered and is on his way to playing baseball again.
As Jones points out, the road to redemptive suffering and physical healing was not simple to navigate nor was it lined with optimism.
"I've watched Blake shed tears and admit his anger at times, but he has courageously held fast to Christ through it all," said Jones. "Without question, he's taught me as much about battling idolatry and enduring suffering as I've taught him...Maybe, I've learned more."
The challenge faced by hockey goalie Ryan Benitez '15 wasn't physical, but spiritual, as he faced doubt about who Christ really is.
Benitez said he had faith in God when he entered Princeton, but wasn't convicted about the Lordship of Jesus until his sophomore year.
After admitting his doubts about Christianity to Jones, Benitez became open to discovering discipleship through Jesus Christ. Responding with understanding, rather than judgment, Jones created a safe environment of compassion and guidance in which Benitez could explore his beliefs, helping to usher in a time of honest reflection and healing.
"Walking alongside a student for four years, being there for the good and the bad, and watching Christ's formative work up close is one of the greatest joys of my work on campus." -- Scott Jones, Christian Union Ministry Fellow
Jones said, "Ryan cares deeply about pleasing God and seeks to walk daily in a manner worthy of the Gospel." Further, he added, Benitez seeks to understand the deep and practical questions of faith in order to live rightly.
Living a righteous life in the sight of God is the mark of a true disciple; according to Jones, these two scholar athletes stand ready to share their own lives to impact their classmates.
"Both Blake and Ryan are incredibly trusted voices on their teams and among their peers. Each of them has intentionally taken younger guys under their wings to help them follow Christ at Princeton," said Jones.