Originally published at Western Recorder – www.westernrecorder.org
Morehead—Gene Parr, campus missionary to Morehead State University, is retiring after 34 years. The legacy he leaves behind on the campus is one of discipleship.
“Gene has established on a national level the best discipleship ministry at probably any Baptist campus in the nation,” Jon Barron, campus missionary for University of Kentucky, said.
“Gene is dedicated to study the word on a daily basis,” Barron added. “He is one of the most fun people to spend time with, and he has a heart and a passion to truly, like the Great Commission says, go make disciples.
“To be underneath his tutelage and learning how to truly disciple students was impactful for me, and I have learned a lot from him,” Barron said, explaining that he worked for two years with Parr as the associate campus missionary at Morehead.
Parr noted that the basis of Morehead BCM’s discipleship program was derived from LifeWay’s collegiate ministries discipleship department. The format is for the students to have daily quiet time and a weekly group experience to share what God taught them during the week. The campus missionary was there to “help them get more out of that experience than they would have on their own,” he said.
“I was on the mission field with the opportunity to do life with students Monday through Friday,” Parr said. “What commended itself was to take a four-year college experience and allow students to be discipled as Jesus did with the 12 for three years.”
Campus missionaries are disciples sent out to bear fruit that lasts, he believes. “It just seems that you have more assurance of good fruit by discipleship rather than preaching alone. I think Henry Blackaby would affirm this (in Experiencing God),” he continued.
Morehead’s BCM has a particular focus on outreach. “College students are attracted by fun, and they are kept by meaning,” Parr said. “So if a program is not fun, then they are not going to show up, and if it doesn’t have a deeper meaning, then they are not going to stick around. They are not going to show up for deeper meaning.”
Parr continued, “So, we just had a fun group of students who also really wanted to be disciples. And, since students do a better job of reaching students than anybody else, it was a contagious ministry.”
In addition to mission trips to places like Ecuador and South Africa, Parr has lead Morehead’s BCM groups to be involved in Beach Reach, and working with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, among other ministries.
Each week, for the campus, the BCM hosts “Tuesday Night Live,” a time of live music, comedy and gospel messages. Greek life, sports teams and even ROTC get involved.
Morehead’s BCM has more than once been recognized as the top student organization at Morehead State University, according to Keith Inman, former director of collegiate ministry and young adults with the Kentucky Baptist Convention who now is lead pastor at First Baptist Church of Murray.
“A lot of it was because of the very intentional bridges that Gene led the BCM to build into the student community. Whether it was to athletes or to Greeks or to different ethnic groups, Gene was very intentional about building bridges into the community at Morehead State.” Inman said, sharing stories of how a student revival broke out across the nation in 1995 and was very apparent on the campus of Morehead State.
Additionally, Parr took the time to reach out to the faculty at Morehead by being part of a reading group, where he would bring Christian titles. “He was incredibly respected at Morehead State,” Inman said.
“What God used to change my life was a Christian college experience, so I wanted students at the state university where I was sent as a missionary to have that kind of experience,” Parr said.
“After I had been there a while, I realized that every campus was different, and if you could learn the campus and continue to learn the campus, then the longevity would spread generation to generation,” he added. “I think that college students are looking for a certain amount of security and continuity. It just really commended itself to stay and seem to be fruitful.
“In other words, I never wanted to be more than just a campus missionary. There wasn’t anything above that that I aspired to be,” he said.
Although his retirement party was March 5, Parr said he will officially retire “whenever they find someone to take my place.” He then plans to spend a lot of time with his four grandchildren and one on the way.
“I just appreciate the opportunity that Kentucky Baptists have given me, and how they have taken care of my family. I’ve had the privilege of being their missionary at a state university,” he said. (WR)